These gender stereotypes has been widely held throughout our society, and we shouldn’t be surprised. Men have traditionally held most of the leadership roles all the way up to the president of the United States. It has been a cultural norm for men to take leadership roles in many circumstances. As a result, an assumption has emerged that men are natural leaders and women were born to be followers. Some “experts” have built on this myth by claiming that…
- Women are not as ambitious as men.
- Women are not risk takers, so they don’t make good leaders.
- Women tend to avoid confrontation and keep the peace because of their hormones. (All of the men reading this are laughing and thinking, Wow! You have obviously never met my woman!”)
- Women are not as motivated as men.
- Women go against their own feminine nature when they try to lead.
- Women are too introverted to lead.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
– John Quincy Adams
Many of the alleged evidences of certain gender stereotypes actually contradict each other. For example, gender stereotypes assert that women are too introverted, acquiescing, and apathetic to be leaders. They just aren’t as assertive as men. Yet according to another gender stereotypes, women are assertive in conflict, and men retreat to their caves. And we wonder why people are confused about gender issues!
Look at the bulleted list above. Each item is attributable to social style, not gender. Let’s take a look at each one.
Ambition. Drivers and Expressives are naturally ambitious. Analyticals and Amiables tend to value stability and security. Risk taking. This aspect of leadership follows ambition. Most people who are ambitious are willing to take risks. The risk taking social styles are the Drivers and Expressives. Analyticals and Amiables tend to gravitate toward safety, not risk.
Confrontation. These gender stereotypes about women has to be the biggest joke of them all. The idea that women can’t excel in leadership positions because they don’t like to deal with conflict is laughable. Yes, some women hate conflict (as do plenty of men), but this is not a gender issue-it’s a social-style issue.
The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.
– Robert Greenleaf
Amiables and Analyticals avoid conflict. It makes them feel uncomfortable, and they would rather not deal with it. Amiables will give in to keep the peace, and Analyticals will withdraw to save face. You can easily see this tendency in both men and women who fall into these social style categories. Drivers and Expressives do not mind confrontation. In fact, sometimes they look for it. They are assertive and opinionated, and they do not have a problem telling people what they think.
Motivation. People with differing social styles are motivated by different things and in different degrees. Drivers and Expressives are motivated to get things done quickly and may even make occasional rash decisions. Analyticals and Amiables are more methodical and tend to take longer to get things done. Drivers are often highly motivated, they are usually the most productive of the four social styles, and they are the most likely to become workaholics.
Nature. The idea that women who lead are at odds with their own feminine nature is absurd. If a woman is born a Driver or an Expressive, she will naturally lead in many situations. She may have reasons not to take on a leadership role, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t desire to lead. Introversion. People who are highly introverted and asocial do not generally excel in leadership roles. Therefore, people who believe that women are more introverted than men often believe that women are less likely to be effective leaders. But those who embrace the idea that women are introverted evidently haven’t considered the countless Expressive and Driver women in the world.
Assertiveness, extroversion, and introversion are all attributable to social style, not gender. Plenty of introverted men do not do as well in social situations or certain leadership roles as social and extroverted women. Drivers and Expressives are the extroverts, and Amiables and Analyticals are the introverts. It’s not about gender, it’s about social style.
So does this mean Analyticals and Amiables can’t be great leaders?
Not at all. Many of the qualities of great leaders can be attributable to behaviors. Even with the natural traits you inherited with your social style, you are still free to choose your behavior. All four social styles can excel as leaders, and each style brings different traits to the table.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
A 1987 book, Breaking the Glass Ceiling. Can Women Reach the Top of America’s Largest Corporations?
Revealed the results of a three-year study on female executives in 25 different companies from various industries. It identified significant characteristics that more than 60 percent of these successful leaders shared, including these: ability to manage subordinates track record of achievement willingness to take career risks ability to be tough, decisive, and demanding These traits are usually attributed to male leaders. Once you strip away the gender stereotypes, you can see that female leaders possess some of these same traits. If you look even closer, you will see that female leaders and male leaders who have the same social style also possess some of the same leadership traits and behaviors.
Studies on Women and Leadership
Some studies have allegedly shown that female leaders tend to collaborate, and male leaders tend be more assertive; women are more empathetic, and men are more autocratic; women socialize, and men systemize; men excel under stress (fight), and women cave under pressure (flight). But I would be interested in analyzing the data according to social style. I would bet money that the responses would show that the traits had more to do with social style than with gender.
We have done almost everything in pairs since Noah, except govern. And the world has suffered for it.
– Bella Abzug
Another study compared male leaders with females in administrative positions. The study found that the men were assertive and ambitious, and the women were more passive and uninterested in promotion. Again, I would like to see the individuals in the two groups categorized by social style. The traits that were attributed to the men or to the women are likely to be based on their social style, not their gender. I conducted a similar informal study on a much smaller scale. I found an organization that had six women in top leadership positions. I interviewed the women as well as some of their subordinates.
The subordinates (both male and female) used these words to describe four of the women:
One leader was also described as ruthless. The subordinates described a fifth female leader with these words:
The subordinates described the sixth leader this way:
Not all of these descriptions matched up to the gender stereotypes of females. Only the fifth and sixth leaders resembled the gender stereotypes of a woman’s leadership style. The first four leaders exhibited traits normally attributable to a man’s leadership style. Of course, some experts would dismiss this as a role reversal. In other words, four of the six women are taking on these traits and behaviors because they have to in order to survive in a man’s leadership world.
The fifth and sixth were just being themselves. Before determining the social style of each leader, I wrote down what I suspected each one would be. After thoroughly interviewing the subordinates on some of the behavior patterns of each leader, I had a pretty good idea of their respective social styles. I assumed that the first four leaders were either Drivers or Expressives, the fifth leader was an Analytical, and the sixth was an Amiable. After meeting with the leaders individually and conducting a social style analysis on each one, my assumptions proved to be correct. Three of the first four females were Expressives, and one was a Driver. (She was the one accused of being ruthless.) The fifth leader turned out to be an Analytical with a secondary social style of Driver (which explains the sarcasm). The sixth leader emerged as an Amiable.
Blessed is the leader who seeks the best for those he serves.
The leadership traits and behaviors these leaders exhibited had nothing to do with gender or the positions they held. They had everything to do with social style. This doesn’t mean that people who end up in positions of power don’t adapt their social styles, because they do. For example, Amiables who hate conflict may very well step up to discipline employees, but they hate the process, and they hate having to deal with it.
A Driver wouldn’t think twice about it. So yes, we must learn to adapt our behavior as needed, but when you get down to what comes naturally to us, you will see that our social styles dictate our natural tendencies in leadership more than our gender does. Plenty of studies dispute the idea that men are natural leaders and women are natural followers. Some studies have shown that men and women respond the same way to stress if the circumstances are the same. Other studies have shown women excelling in systemizing. Still other studies have proven that women are just as capable of strong leadership skills and abilities as men.
Comparisons based on gender can always be somewhat substantiated because some women are more empathizing (Amiables) and some men are more autocratic (Drivers). But of course, some women are more systemizing (Analyticals) and some men are more social (Expressives). So the debate can continue forever, or we can start to focus on social style and call a cease-fire from the war of the genders.
In my gender survey, I asked people if they tend to lead or follow. More men than women said they tend to lead. If we left it there, we could just reaffirm that men are natural leaders and women are natural followers. But once again, we need to dig deeper into the social style of the respondents. As I mentioned earlier, more Drivers and Expressives filled out the survey than Amiables or Analyticals. Additionally, I heard back from more male Drivers and Expressives than female.
The vast majority of people who said they tend to lead were Drivers and Expressives, regardless of gender. The majority of those who said they tend to follow turned out to be Amiables or Analyticals. You will find all four social styles in leadership positions, but Drivers and Expressives naturally tend to want to take the lead while Analyticals and Amiables don’t mind surrendering the lead to others. Most of the respondents who fell outside the norm had a secondary social style of Driver or Expressive. For example, when Analyticals answered that they tend to lead, their secondary social styles were usually either Driver or Expressive, not Amiable.
Breaking the Mold
Many couples feel as if they don’t fit the mold. If they go to counseling, they may be told that they are experiencing a role reversal. If they read books on relationships, they might be told the shift in culture and gender roles is playing a part in the way they are responding to each other. Few experts are explaining that social style is the main contributor to the behaviors they are experiencing. Chuck and Tracey agreed to fill out the gender survey. Tracey sent me an e-mail after completing the survey to give me some insight on how they are often viewed. My husband and I don’t fit many of the typical gender stereotypes. I am the leader; he is the follower. I am practical; my husband is romantic-he loves to cuddle (I just want to go to sleep). I am much more independent, and I talk a lot more than he does!
We have been married for twenty years, and this works for us. It might sound as though I am putting him down, but I love him the way he is. He just can’t handle the stress of worrying about finances or paying the bills. I have always done it, and it doesn’t bother me. He has no idea when the kids’ doctor appointments are, or his own for that matter. I keep track of everything. It sure sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, but my husband does more things for me than I can tell you. He is taxi to the kids and takes them everywhere. Last week when my sweet little dog died, my husband was up all hours burying her for me because I couldn’t. When I’m not feeling well, he doesn’t leave my side.
Please tell me what man would be fine with having his mother-in-law move in permanently? That’s my husband, a wonderful guy. He’s kind, sensitive, caring, and romantic. As we dissect Tracey’s e-mail, we see many areas where she and Chuck do not fit the gender stereotypes, including leadership, romance, nurturing, independence, and reaction to stress. Yet Tracey says she talks the most, so that would fit the gender stereotypes that women talk more than men. If we examine Tracey’s and Chuck’s social styles, her description of their relationship starts to make sense. Tracey’s primary social style emerged as Expressive, and her secondary style is Driver (split very close to the middle, meaning she shows lots of traits of both styles). Chuck’s primary social style is Amiable, and his secondary style is Expressive. Tracey naturally gravitates toward taking the lead because as an Expressive and a Driver, she wants things done now. The Driver side of her is independent and practical. She can handle large amounts of stress and doesn’t mind taking on a lot of responsibility.
We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.
– Margaret Atwood
Chuck’s Amiable and Expressive combination makes for a very relationship-oriented person. He is not the stereotypical male. He is romantic and sensitive to other people’s feelings. He is accommodating and doesn’t care for conflict. He would prefer to avoid high levels of stress and appreciates that his wife takes on the things that stress him out. I have countless other stories and interviews just like Chuck and Tracey’s.
Plenty of women are natural leaders. That doesn’t mean they become CEOs of every organization they work in. Some aren’t even in the workforce. Some are business owners, some are stay-at-home moms, some are single, and some are married. Regardless of their situations, these women have a natural tendency to take the lead with their friends, at work, in conversations, and with their significant others. They may relinquish leadership roles in certain situations for various reasons, but that doesn’t stop their innate desire to take the bull by the horns. They are just made that way. When you start to examine behavior through the paradigm of social style, you begin to see trends in specific behavior. Because of the gender stereotypes that exist, men often feel put down or less macho if they are not pushing themselves into leadership roles or taking inordinate amount of risks in their lives.
Women often feel judged or put down if they take the lead and make things happen. “It’s not ladylike.” Assertiveness and the desire to lead comes from social style, not gender. Additionally, your style as a leader (whether passive or assertive, strict or lenient) also comes from social style, not gender. Let’s take a look at the four social styles from the perspective of leadership.
The Analytical as a Leader
Analytical leaders are often professional and self-disciplined. They can make decisions logically and carefully. They excel in establishing policies, schedules, routines, and procedures. They can handle large amounts of details simultaneously regardless of whether they are male or female.
Followers often complain that the systematic thoroughness of the Analytical can turn into picky perfectionism (being nitpicky is an issue for Analytical men and women). This trait of the Analytical also shows up in the decision-making process-the Analytical would rather make no decision than a bad decision. Analyticals are great at preserving the traditions of an organization but can be resistant to change. They are orderly and organized leaders.
The Driver as a Leader
Drivers are the most productive leaders you could hope to meet. They excel in making decisions and getting things done. Drivers would rather make a bad decision than no decision. They are visionaries who inspire people to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. Drivers are great change agents but can become human tornados when things are not going as they would like them to. They can be bossy, stubborn, and demanding (regardless of whether they are male or female).
Drivers are great at starting big, complicated projects, but they don’t like to maintain them. They will pass the maintenance on to someone else. They live and breathe the big picture but chafe under details. Drivers can be cold and unfeeling leaders. They can be tough, sarcastic, and impatient. Drivers despise laziness and frivolity on the job. They have very little patience for perceived incompetence. Drivers expect others to be productive and work at very high levels as they do.
The Amiable as a Leader
Amiables don’t always like to be in leadership roles, but when they are, they excel in getting along with others and making them feel comfortable. They are friendly and cooperative in their contact with employees, administrative staff, vendors, and just about everyone else they come into contact with. Amiables are usually ready to help others and be team players. Followers appreciate these leaders’ supportive, easygoing nature.
Being in power is a lot like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
– Margaret Thatcher
They shy away from conflict and will often avoid disciplining subordinates. Amiable leaders especially have a difficult time terminating employees, even when the employees become burdens to the organizations. Amiables will put off dealing with conflict as long as possible and may delay decisions that could offend others. Amiables are great mediators as leaders. They excel in bringing people together and trying to help people get along. They are diplomatic and will go to great extremes to keep the peace.
The Expressive as a Leader
Expressive leaders like to have fun and create excitement in the organization. They are usually upbeat, and most people enjoy being around them. They are optimistic and playful leaders. Expressives are also spontaneous, talkative, and personable. They have the persuasive power to stimulate action and get people to join in. They could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Their charisma and charm make them great at selling their ideas and their vision.
Expressive leaders can also be loud, obnoxious, and downright insulting. If they are displeased with something, everyone within earshot will know about it. They can also be highly emotional, impulsive, and excitable. They sometimes show up late for meetings and forget important appointments. They hate routine, rules, and boredom. Expressives want to have fun at their jobs, and they usually bring fun into the work environment with them.
It’s More About Social Style
As you can see, leadership is not about gender, it’s about social style. People with any of the four styles can be leaders, and they each have unique strengths and weaknesses. Some of the traits that have been attributed to women appear in the different social styles and can show up in males as well. Conversely, some of the traits that have been attributed to men can be found in the different social styles in both men and women. So as you can see, your style of leadership is not dictated by your gender-it’s dictated by your social style. And even then, you can choose behavior that does not come naturally to you. It just takes a little practice.. .or maybe a lot of practice. See figure 3A for a summary of the social style leadership attributes.
The Leadership Power Struggle The gender wars in leadership circles could be easily solved with one very effective leadership model: servant leadership. In fact, most of the power struggles that exist in leadership regardless of gender could be solved with this model. Servant leadership begins with a desire to serve others and be a role model of the behavior you expect. If you want others to treat you with courtesy and respect, set the example. The first step to leadership is servanthood. – John Maxwell
The concept of servant leadership was formalized in a book by Robert Greenleaf in 1977 called Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. However, the concept of being a servant to others, even as a leader, dates back thousands of years.
The best role model of servant leadership is the most well-known and widely followed leader in history, the only leader who ever split time in half: Jesus Christ. He washed the feet of His followers to demonstrate what leadership really looked like. He didn’t demand His own way, and His entire leadership philosophy centered on doing what was best for others, not Himself When you think of leadership in terms of serving others, you can set aside power struggles and seek to improve the lives of those around you. When you do, your own life will be improved in the process.