Myth Buster no. 2 Women are too soft
“The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff." - Roger Enrico Vice Chairman, Pepsico
Another myth about women who lead is that they can be too soft and as a result can’t make the tough decisions necessary to become effective leaders. Often when compared to male leaders, colleagues will make the usual stereotypical comments that women tend to be more nurturing, empathetic or on the downside moody and emotional. Whereas men are described as being action –orientated and more task focused. A recent study, featured in Psychology today, concluded that within the workplace peoples perceptions were that “female leaders take care of, while male leaders take charge of”.
These stereotypical views have led to numerous books and articles been written about how women can act more like men or becoming more ‘manlike’ in their leadership approach. Women just need to be themselves and focus on what needs to be done, avoiding distractions such as these, which will stop them reaching their goals.
In no way should the research be ignored, unconscious bias exists, and we all harbour preconceived ideas about one another. Being educated and informed can help us understand more and strengthen our leadership style.
Solution to: “female leaders take care of, while male leaders take charge of”.
‘Taking care of’ or ‘nurturing’ can be associated with the servant leadership style which is also related to transformational leadership, reported as being one of the most effective leadership styles.
Servant leaders focus primarily on the needs of others, in the case of school leaders, this would mean putting the needs of students, teachers and parents first. The servant leader shares power and is empowering; they help people develop and grow so that they perform as highly as possible. They shape people and achieve results through their investment in others as opposed to the use of coercion, money or force. They seek to serve others so that they are impactful rather than providing rewards and punishments to obtain compliance.
Famous servant leaders have been Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. The reason they are servant leaders is that they put the needs of their people, before their own and took the “harder” path towards achieving their goals. (Brown 2013)