It’s a well-accepted fact, isn’t it? Male leaders are bolder than women. And it follows that in business, male leaders are prepared to take bigger risks than female leaders.
Well, maybe it doesn’t follow.
Leadership development consultancy, Zenger Folkman, undertook an analysis of their database of 360-degree assessments from 75,000 leaders around the world. Using a ‘boldness index’ of seven behavioural characteristics that they regularly assess, they discovered that, on average, women ranked in the 52nd percentile of boldness while men only made the 49th percentile. Now, that may not seem like much of a difference but as Zenger and Folkman themselves have commented: “it stood out to us because ‘men take more risks’ is so ingrained in social science”.
And what conclusion did they draw from this? That whilst women in the general population are probably not bolder than men, women in leadership positions, especially in male-dominated fields, often are – probably because they have to be.