Men and Women in Leadership – What’s the difference?

November 30th, 2011 by Kelly Kienzle

How many articles have you read recently that show a correlation between the few number of women leaders and the lack of the traditional leadership strengths, such as confidence, tough-mindedness and self-promotion?

Yet there is also a growing number of studies that show women possess the very traits that are missing from achieving a balanced leadership group, such as compassion, empathy and adaptability. These messages are in conflict with each other. What are we to believe as we ping-pong from one recommendation to another?

I suggest that we shut out the chatter and focus on our authentic selves. To become a leader, one must understand oneself well enough to lead with passion, to live by one’s values and to set a vision that is in parallel to one’s own personal dream. It should not matter whether we have a requisite number of “male traits” or “female traits”. That is only a superficial attempt at reducing the art of leadership to a counting game. Achieving great leadership does not mean simply checking off items from a prescribed list of necessary characteristics. It means building your leadership brand that is uniquely and wholly you.

Yet let me be clear – – there are necessary characteristics for effective leadership. The key is finding which ones are already part of your repertoire of natural skills and then deepening those skills. So how to find those skills amidst the cacophony of voices telling us to follow their recipe for creating leadership? Here are some simple, though not easy, steps to follow:

1. Think of a leader you knew personally. What values did he/she exemplify that most impressed you? What actions did he/she take that inspired you? What caused you to follow him/her?

2. Think of a time when you believed you exhibited great leadership. What were the values you held highest? What was your motivation? In the name of what, were you acting?

3. Find the common themes between these two scenarios. What values were present in both? What was the underlying motivator? What makes you proud and happy about these two instances?

4. Holding those values in mind, what do you most want to achieve in your professional life? How does that align with the mission and strategy of your organization? What kind of mark do you want to leave on your work?

Your answers to these questions are the building blocks for what your unique leadership style will be. When you find your own voice of leadership, you will speak with a confidence and a trueness that will inspire others and yourself.

If you wish to have help in uncovering your true leadership brand, please let me know. I would be inspired to be part of the discovery. 

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

2 Responses to “Men and Women in Leadership – What’s the difference?”

  1. November 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm, Sharon Keys Seal said:

    Well said, Kelly. I like your approach to discover and deepen one’s leadership skills. I also concur that getting clear on the values that one holds most dear is key to becoming a great leader. Thanks for the thought-provoking blog post.


  2. December 01, 2011 at 8:44 pm, Maryanne Honeycutt said:

    Always inspirational to read work which challenges leaders to be true to who they are.


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