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Women Are Better Than Men When It Comes to Leadership During a Crisis, According to Study

More competent and effective.
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When it comes to leadership, it looks like women are more competent and effective than men, especially when there’s a crisis. This is the conclusion of the latest study diving into management and gender by U.S. researchers and businessmen Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, as mentioned in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

According to the study which surveyed 820 business leaders (454 men and 366 women), women trumped men on almost all of the leadership competencies measured in the study’s Extraordinary Leader 360-degree assessment. Out of the 19 competencies, women rated better in 18. Of those 18, they rated “significantly” better than men in 13 competencies. Men scored better on only one front: technical and professional expertise, yet it was a close call and the researchers deemed the difference “not statistically significant."

In terms of leadership, women apparently lead the way in:

  • Taking initiative
  • Learning agility
  • Inspiring and motivating others
  • Developing others
  • Building relationships
  • Displaying high integrity and honesty
  • Communicating powerfully and prolifically
  • Collaborating and working in a team
  • Championing change
  • Making decisions
  • Innovating
  • Solving problems
  • Focusing on customers
  • Driving for results
  • Valuing diversity
  • Establishing goals
  • Developing strategic perspectives
  • Taking risks

Now that’s a lot.

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The study also zeroed in on the engagement level of leaders during the pandemic, and unsurprisingly, women performed better than men in this area too, scoring 55.2 against 49.2. Overall, it appears women were more considerate and conscious of their employees during the first phase of COVID-19 (March to June). They were found to be more aware of the fears and worries of employees, expressed more concern as to their wellbeing, as well as confidence in the company’s plans to overcome the crisis.

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The data presented was based on U.S.-only business leaders, but it’s safe to assume that the same applies to many countries around the world as well. A number of countries, like New Zealand, Taiwan, and Germany, have managed to successfully control the virus within their borders and lower infection and death rates, all of which are feats credited largely to the exemplary leadership of its female heads of state: Jacinda Adern, prime minister of New Zealand; Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan; and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.

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The data doesn’t necessarily point out that all women are better at men than leading—it’s a case to case basis, really. But it does point out that women tend to exhibit more traits and behaviors that are necessary in order to overcome crisis. COVID-19 changed the face of work forever, and this research now implies what it is exactly that people are valuing during, and after, the pandemic.  

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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