Women Outrank Men in Leadership Traits - Executive Recruiters

      Women Outrank Males in Key Leadership Traits

      Pew Research Center recently released a study regarding women in leadership roles, finding that women have led 7.4% of Fortune 500 companies and held nearly 30% of board member roles.

      Although those statistics indicate that women still fell well below male leadership rankings, they do show substantial progress. As relatively recently as 1995, not a single Fortune 500 company was led by a female CEO.   

      Several studies suggest that women possess greater traits that make them more influential leaders than men. As such, companies that do not embrace or promote women into leadership roles may miss out on some vital benefits.

      Female Leaders Have Creative Leadership Styles

      An in-depth study by the Leadership Circle of over 84,000 leaders found that women tend to be more creative than reactive. People who hold creative traits, or a combination thereof, tend to be better suited for developing relationships and mentoring others, and they’re also more community-minded.

      In contrast, people with traits that are more reactive than creative traits might find it challenging to get the support of their team. Men with these reactive characteristics tend to lead from a script and stick to the rules. They’re less likely to see the shades of gray between black and white and fall into the habit of micromanaging as a result. 

      Creative Versus Reactive Traits

      Creative leaders tend to lead with their internal values as opposed to basing their leadership on external sources. According to the Leadership Circle study, the five dimensions of the creative leadership style are as follows:

      • Relating: In which the leader can identify with others and bring out their best traits as a result
      • Self-Awareness: When the leader is aware of their limitations and thus commits to professional and personal development
      • Authenticity: A leader’s ability to be genuine and act with integrity
      • Systems Awareness: Through which the leader focuses on system improvement and community welfare
      • Achieving: Refers to a leader’s ability to provide a vision and set performance standards to achieve it

      People that maintain a creative leadership style can navigate complexities by listening to both sides of the story. They’re less likely to rely on others for external validation of their actions. In contrast, people that exhibit reactive leadership styles typically have ingrained behaviors learned in childhood that influence their current actions, as well as specific assumptions and underlying beliefs they turn to when making critical decisions. 

      The three dimensions of the reactive leadership style include the following:

      • Controlling: Through which the individual’s sense of personal worth comes from their accomplishments and achievements
      • Complying: The individual’s self-worth comes from acting per others’ expectations
      • Protecting: The individual protects themselves by way of distancing and withdrawal, often coming across aloof and finding themselves superior

      People who display reactive leadership traits tend to limit the effectiveness of their leadership skills.

      Advantages that Female Leaders Have over Men

      Women hold three specific advantages over men when it comes to leadership: 

      First, women score higher across all five creative leadership traits. In general, they can relate to their colleagues and staff in a greater manner than their male counterparts. Their relationships tend to be more authentic and genuine, and they can contribute to the organization’s greater good past their actual sphere of influence. 

      Second, building off of that first point, women can create and maintain strong connections with others. They can relate to others from differing backgrounds and build relationships with them, and they are more often community-oriented compared to males.

      Finally, women try to find a way for everyone to win. They’re not in leadership only for themselves; they want their team members to feel valued and supported. They work toward their goals and form natural partnerships with people and other entities who can help them meet their objectives, whereas males lean toward a “play not to lose” leadership strategy. They’ll work toward objectives, but they don’t want to experience personal failure. If they believe the goals in place won’t benefit them personally, they may work against them.

      Of course, everyone is different. The three advantages women possess can apply just as well to men, and not all women have creative dispositions, with some possessing more reactive traits than others. The advantages presented in the Leadership Council study are generalizations developed from the research conducted. 

      Bringing More Women into Leadership Roles

      Organizations can benefit from female leadership, but they must find ways to support and encourage women to take up leadership roles. The solution is not simply to hire more women; companies must embrace their development early and give them the experience needed for future management roles.

      There are a few ways that organizations can prepare women for leadership positions:

      Give Them Training on Self-Advocacy

      Women aren’t as likely to advocate for themselves as men are. They may underestimate their skills and take on more work than males in similar positions as a result. In contrast, men may overemphasize their abilities and influence in the organization.

      Therefore, companies that offer leadership training to women that encourages them to recognize their skills and the value they bring to the table can empower them to understand what they have to offer. 

      Encourage Peer Mentorship Among Women

      Women already in leadership roles can prepare the next generation by offering mentorship or peer learning opportunities. Generally, women feel more comfortable expressing their concerns and needs with other women they admire. Peer mentorship can be ongoing, whereas training usually occurs over a specific period.

      Offer Executive Coaching 

      Women who demonstrate the characteristics of a good leader can often benefit from executive coaching. In a coaching relationship, women receive personalized support from their mentors. You can outsource your executive coaching program to a company specializing in it or develop an internal one.

      Don’t Ignore the Leadership Benefits Women Can Provide

      According to research from the Harvard Business Review, women outrank men in 17 of 19 different leadership capabilities. You can harness the leadership potential of women by encouraging the development of their skills in their early and mid-careers.

      Consider implementing a peer mentorship program or offering executive coaching. 

      When given the right tools, women can advocate for themselves authentically and help you achieve your company’s strategic vision.

      Top Executive Search Firm for All C-Suite Needs

      Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, ESOPs, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000 companies that have assets in the billions.


      Successful placements span the entire C-Suite and include CEOsChief Operating OfficersChief Financial Officers, Chief Sales Officers, Chief Marketing Officer, vice presidents sales, human resources, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. Through our proven retained executive search process, we find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for positions across the C-suite. Our process works for all initiatives (including diversity recruiting), as well as all industries, including (but not limited to) technologyhealthcare, hospital, manufacturingretailreal estatefinancial serviceprivate equity, and more.

      Check out our industry-leading resources to see why Cowen Partners is a leader among the best executive search firms in New York CityAnchorage, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Richmond, Nashville, Louisville, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

      Get in Touch.

      Fill out the email request form to learn more about our approach.

        [honeypot website]