More women leaders? Or more feminine leadership? Of course, it isn’t really an either/or question at all. We need both. But posing the question, as leadership consultant Amel Murphy did in a recent article, serves as an important reminder that we shouldn’t become so focused on the statistics – what percentage of FTSE 100 board members are women? – that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
And what is the bigger picture? Put bluntly, it is that, from a societal point view, we won’t gain much if women believe they have to ape the behaviour of men in order to attain and hold on to leadership positions. Surely what is called for is not simply more women in leadership positions but a new way of thinking about what sort of leadership is required to solve the problems the world is facing.
And that seems to be a very widely-held view. It is now over two years since John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio published The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future. Based on a survey of some 64,000 people across 13 nations, Gerzema and D’Antonio discovered that two thirds of the respondents believed the world would be a better place if leaders displayed more of the traits typically associated with women – from co-operation to communication.
In her article, Murphy also cites the third annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor published last year which revealed, as she says, that “in five out of seven metrics of effective leadership, female leaders out-did their male counterparts”.
Of course we should be doing everything we can to remove all the barriers and obstacles that are currently hindering the progress of individual women. But we shouldn’t forget that there’s a bigger prize to be won than simple gender parity.