Harvard Business Review published a controversial article in March 2012 titled, “Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?” in which the answer was a resounding yes. The fascinating part about the report and the research on which it is based (conducted by Zenger Folkman) is that while some stereotypes hold true, there are some major surprises that caused quite a stir among HBR’s readers. As expected, women proved to be more understanding and supportive because of their nurturing tendencies. But surprisingly, women scored higher than men in Driving Results, Taking Initiative, and Practicing Self-Development, qualities that are stereotypically masculine.
However, it is important to ask whether being a good leader translates to being a good strategist. One of the few areas men scored higher than women was in Developing a Strategic Perspective. But there’s more to this statement than meets the eye. The skill of Developing a Strategic Perspective is often limited to executives in top management, since it is not a function performed by managers at lower levels. Since only 22 percent of all top executives are women, they are naturally limited in demonstrating this skill. When comparing only men and women in the top levels of leadership, both groups scored approximately the same scores. Also, in Championing Change, Establishing Stretch Goals, Solving Problems, and Innovating, women scored higher than men across the board. Interestingly, these are all foundational components to successful strategy development. Makes one think, doesn’t it?
So are women weaker than men? Not at all. There is a strong case that suggests that women are currently out-performing men in some of the most important competencies for success in Corporate America. The researchers who conducted the survey explain that when interviewed, women often said that the reason they work so hard is because as women, they have to do twice the work to get the recognition they deserve and make way fewer mistakes in order to keep their jobs, let alone get promoted. Women are outperforming men right now because they have to. If this drive to excel continues to grow, we will continue to see women in key leadership roles, especially in companies where a major turn-around is necessary. Women like Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard and eBay, Virginia “Ginny” Rometty of IBM, and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo are prime examples of successful Strategistas that have used their advantage as women to lead a company to a better future. These women are leading the way for a new generation of Strategistas to make their own place in the enchanting world of strategy, leadership, and corporate growth.
All hail the new Wonder Woman, the Woman Strategist, the Strategista.
Like this post? Check out more at Strategistas.com