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Gender and Leadership

Before starting to discuss how gender differences influence leadership, it is important to first define leadership. In an essence, leadership is a quality exhibited by individuals which has the ability to influence other persons to complete an organizational mission, objective or goal in order for the organization to become successful. Leadership can be only seen in individuals who have the necessary leadership traits like beliefs, values, character, knowledge, skills etc.

A leader is different from a manager since the manager influences others through the power of his position but a leader inspires and instills the feeling that makes the coworkers want to achieve the goals and objectives set by the organization. Thus, leadership can be called an ability to affect or influence human behavior in order to accomplish a specified a goal (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1993). Gender and leadership debate has been an ongoing topic since centuries and numerous researches have been done to bring various conclusions on this debate.

There are different leadership styles due to differences in gender. However, the debate is more focused on do leadership traits exhibit masculinity or feminism. The following section provides some background and general idea on influence of gender differences on leadership. BACKGROUND It has been believed through ages that leadership is essentially a masculine quality or characteristic. This belief has been supported through past researches and experiments. Gender bias has always existed and is still seen to exist in many parts of the world.

Men and women have different leadership styles due to which women are less perceived as leaders even if both of them are having similar leadership traits. Moreover, the studies have demonstrated that leadership is not influenced by the gender itself but by the masculine and feminine traits. Leaders are more likely to have masculine characteristics and women become leaders if they possess the required masculine characteristics. Thus, it can be said that masculinity is positively correlated to the leader emergence on an individual and group basis.

Historical studies have concluded that the females who had strong masculine traits were actually the ones who became the leaders while the majority was males. Biological sex is not a determinant of the leadership but instead it’s the traits which cause leadership styles to be different (Kolb, 1997). Talking about the leadership stereotypes, they have always been embedded with men. It is a stereotypical belief that men are the leaders and this belief is seen being embedded in organizations.

Researches of 1970 and 1980 show that successful leaders are always identified as males and not as females. Women do not a fit a leadership stereotype which is why they are kept away from promotions and career development opportunities. Because of these stereotypes women are not looked as positively in leadership positions. Research done by Eagly and Klonsky shows that female leaders are evaluated in a negative manner than the male leaders (Eagly and Klonsky, 1992). There seems to exist a glass ceiling between the men and women which causes such stereotypes to persist over centuries.

Some studies done by Eagly and Johnson in 1990 proved that women have got an interpersonally oriented style being more democratic and participative in their work whereas men have got a task oriented style exhibiting autocracy and direction. There are basically two types of leadership: transformational leadership and transactional leadership. The former promotes motivation among the followers while the latter focuses on the exchanges with the followers and their need fulfillment. Historical studies have further shown that women exhibit a more transformational style of leadership whereas men perform in a transactional manner.

These studies and researches point out that there are gender differences do exist in leadership styles. The style of leadership determines where it is effective or not for the success of the organization (Maher, 1997). As discussed previously a glass ceiling exists between men and women which have built up barriers for women in leadership. Firstly, the attitudes of humans have been against women in leadership positions. There has always existed a negative attitude towards women in military or leadership positions due to which there has been bias towards them at every point in time.

A second barrier for women in leadership positions is the masculine culture which prevents the women from climbing up the ladder. It has been intolerable to men to see women stand above them in leadership positions. A male oriented culture in societies today is responsible for women bias in organizations. And the final barrier to women achieving leadership positions is stereotyping which limits a woman’s progress. The most prevalent mindset among masses is that leadership roles are better suited for men than for women (Silvestri, 2003).

Time has led many to change their views on gender influences in leadership styles and recent researches are the witness to this change in thinking. When comparing effectives, researchers found both males and females to be equally effective in their leadership styles for the organization. Men have been rated higher on the business-oriented skills and women have been rated higher on people-oriented skills both of which are equally important for the individual to be considered as an effective leader. Some studies have even founded women to be more effective than women in certain cases.

Therefore, modern research shows that though men and women have different managerial and leadership styles but both are equally effective for the organizations. Results of such studies and researches have led to change the prolonged mindset of individuals throughout the world about gender and leadership. But the debate still continues and researches are being done to further verify the results (Carli and Eagly, 2002). To conclude, it is obvious that even today in the modern times men are believed to lead and women to follow though they deserve and qualify to be the leaders.

Everyone accepts this common belief and does not think of refuting it. In the phase I of the research paper, we have discussed the definition of leadership and their traits exhibiting masculinity or feminism. The next part discusses how gender differences influence leadership effectiveness. It was mentioned that the differences don’t arise due to biological sex but due to the masculine or feminine characteristics exhibited by the sexes. Past researches and studies have also been discussed to reveal the findings on the discussion which relate to the different leadership styles exhibited by them.

Women are proved to exhibit the transformational type of leadership while men exhibit transactional leadership style. Later, the barriers to women achieving leadership positions have been explained. The paper consists of both historical and modern views of leadership. The modern views state that leadership styles of both men and women are effective for the organization in general. I believe women are still lagging behind in many parts of the world due to the stereotypical thinking of the men which exists as the most important barrier to the success of women in the corporate world.

REFERENCES Carli, L and Eagly, A (2002). Journal of Social Issues, Gender, Hierarchy, and Leadership. Wiley-Blackwell. Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy (1993). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. USA: Richard D. Irwin, Inc. Kolb, J. A (1997). Are we still stereotyping leadership. SMALL GROUP RESEARCH. 28:3, 370-388. Maher, K. J (1997). Gender-related stereotypes of Transformational and Transactional leadership. Sex Roles. 37:3/4, 209-214. Silvestri, M (2003). Women in Charge: Policing, Gender and Leadership. UK: Willan Publishing.

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