The Leadership Double Duty: Being woman, becoming CEO

By Rebekah Peterson

Beyoncé knows “who run the world? Girls!”

Well, if Beyoncé declared it, then why hasn’t the business world caught on yet?

Only 14.2% of the top leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women.

What’s worse? Out of those 500 companies, there are only 24 female CEOs.

The good news? Companies that sustain a high representation of women board members significantly outperform companies with few or no women board members, according to a 2011 Catalyst analysis.

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Point: Having women in leadership pays off. Literally.

In fact, there is research that proves women’s leadership is more effective than men’s. In a 2003 analysis of existing research, van Engen, Eagly, and Johannesen-Schmidt found that transformational leadership is the most effective for managing. This type of leadership inspires employees to go beyond the call of duty, foster creative solutions, serve as mentors, and articulate plans for achieving a vision. As shown in the analyses, women exceed men on overall transformational leadership, which leads to more effective styles.

In 2011 those same researchers teamed up with Claartje Vinkenburg to analyze questionnaire responses from 271 men and women participants who had considerable management experience and assessed their beliefs about leadership. They found that people perceive women as having effective leadership.

AKA, women demonstrate effective leadership, get stuff done, and people know it. So, why aren’t they reaching the highest level of management?

Well, in the second part of Vinkenburg et al’s study, they analyzed questionnaire results from 514 men and women participants who had considerable management experience to assess how they believe men or women should lead. They found “inspirational motivation” style, which is when one rallies optimism and excitement about goals or future states, was deemed a less important “should” for women.

Here is where the damage is done: While we don’t look to women for inspirational motivation,  Inspirational motivation is most correlated with promotions to senior level management, especially CEO.

Tricky how that works. Right?

Inspirational motivation was perceived as the most important for a male manager to receive a promotion to senior management. So, if a male manager is seeking a higher level promotion he should adopt this style to increase his chance.

…Women have to do double duty:

The research suggests that women managers who want higher level promotions must combine inspiration motivation and a style called “individualized consideration”—a leadership style that emphasizes developing and mentoring followers and attending to individual needs.

Why?

Women must show their leadership style is congruent with senior level management (AKA inspirational), but must also use individualized consideration because this is congruent with female gender roles as caretakers. In other words, women must combine leadership styles that correlate with the most common white male CEO, but also display leadership style that fits the stereotype of female roles to mitigate backlash.

Although reaching the top is not easy for anyone, or fair for women, knowing what leadership styles to combine can help get you that promotion. Be your team and employee’s motivator, while also reaching out as a mentor to them.whorunthe

Now get out there and prove Beyoncé right.

We can run the world… Next stop: CEO

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