HBR Blog Network (Feb 2011): What Women Want in Their Leaders :
“…despite high profile female leaders, the number of women in leadership remains stagnant. What is the disconnect?
As it turns out, the assumption that women favor female leaders may not be true. We conducted a survey of 92 mid-career women across three higher education organizations in order to find out what women really want in their leadership…
…What did we discover? Overall, mid-career women did not show any preference for female leaders. In some instances, they identified leadership practices of women that they believed were not helpful, and others that were useful but commonly identified with male leaders. Gender plays no role. Instead, it’s the style of leadership and the actions leaders take that help women move up in their organization…
…From our findings, here are five specific things leaders — both men and women — can do to deliver the best leadership and support to aspiring women:
2) Take decisive action, fast. Women seek leadership that is decisive and action-orientated. A consultative and tentative approach to decision-making is less effective. One mid-career woman observed, “From my perspective men are a bit more direct — this is how things will be done regardless — whereas, I think women may think, this is the way we should do this, but there may be this and this and this that we should take into account.” Mid-career women are multitasking, under tight deadlines, and task-focused; the most effective leadership is that which takes action quickly, and in doing so, enables them to get on with the job.
4) Balance emotional labor. Women reported that they felt more judged by female leaders. Some of the comments about personal judgment indicated that women can be catty, jealous, and unsupportive. Female leaders can get personal and emotional. However, the respondents also noted that male leaders can be too strategic and unemotional. Having emotional intelligence and knowing how to apply it counters emotional labor and increases the sense of support.