Does Leadership have a Gender?

Sumant Joshi | Blog Author
Sumant Joshi June 17, 2020

‘Leadership is not a rank or a position, but an attribute to the position, and one's age, gender or any other criteria have little to do with leadership.’

In our recent podcast with Anita Chhabria, Deputy General Manager, International HR at Gulf Oil, we explored why leadership is gender agnostic and how the world is slowly moving away from gender and towards capability when it comes to defining a leader. Today, we delve deeper into some of the key points we discussed and some incredible insights shared by Anita from her experience.

Creating effective leadership in organizations is by no means a new topic, but it has become increasingly important given the frequent disruptions in how business is done globally. The role of leadership in improving the business outcomes, processes, and effectiveness will certainly become more vital in the near future, and HR pros will become more instrumental in ensuring effective leadership development.

However, a more important question to answer in this regard is – the role of gender in leadership? Or if there is one indeed?

Anita explains, “Whether it’s age or gender or any other demographic, it absolutely has no linkage to leadership. It’s completely gender agnostic.”  But, doubt still lingers in whether it’s safe to say that we have come a long way from defining gender roles in the leadership context. Agreed that history is full with many successful women leaders, let us also agree that when speaking of leadership the role is often considered as a ‘male’.

As per a Pew Research Center survey on women in leadership, women possess similar abilities to men when it comes to being great leaders, be it in business or politics. Most respondents felt women are indistinguishable from their male counterparts in leadership roles, displaying traits like emotional intelligence, innovation, communication and more. And, this has been somewhat evident where women have taken up leadership roles.

Anita adds, “Businesses were quick to realize that having women in their workforce in different capacities will help them build their brand and also gain substantial competitive advantage. So they have been quick in making it a part of their agenda even at the topmost level. We have so many different high potential programs that encourage women to come up that groom them to take up executive positions. And there are a lot of forward looking organizations where L&D is being used as a robust tool to create the awareness and help change people’s mindsets.”

Speaking of characteristics aligned specifically with business leadership, men and women are almost indistinguishable, while for those who do go down that route, women still come out as winners in key business areas; women leaders are thought to be better at making tough compromises than men, while women also have an edge over their male counterparts in characteristics like honesty and ethics. So, while research and stats point towards advantages of having women in leadership, the reality still remains somewhat skewed.

As Anita explains, gender should not be a defining criteria for leadership, as an individual’s leadership abilities depend on the strengths, skills and traits displayed by the individual. We discuss this and more in our full podcast ‘Does Leadership have a Gender?’

For more podcasts about leadership, visit Leadership Spotlight.


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