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Does Gender Affect  Leadership?


Does Gender Affect  Leadership?


Peter Costa offers his perspective on gender and leadership.

There are mountains of research on the importance of diversity in building high-performing organizations. There is at least as much insight on the nature of leadership, including that there is no one “right” leadership style. The most effective leaders are true to themselves, their strengths, and their values. At the same time, different situations call for different leadership styles. Are these conflicting ideas? Perhaps, but if the current situation shows us anything, it’s this – the women are getting it right.

Just my unscientific opinion, but female political leaders are performing far better than their male counterparts. Not to say that all the women are getting it right or that all the men are getting it wrong, but consider these facts:

72% of Germans approve of how Angela Merkel’s government is handling this pandemic (DW News).  

88% of New Zealanders trusted the government (led by 39-year-old Jacinda Arden) to make the right decisions about addressing COVID-19 (The Atlantic).  

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s approval rating is 68.5%, up from a nadir of 24.3% just over a year ago (Nikei Asian Review).

If you want to see what effective leadership in a crisis looks like, watch this:

All of these women moved decisively AND effectively; the results speak for themselves. Taiwan has had just 6 known coronavirus deaths in a country of 35 million. Germany has seen a far lower coronavirus death rate than most other developed countries and seems to be well past peak new infections. New Zealand has good reason to believe it has stopped community transitions. All three countries are starting to reopen their economies. (Business Insider, US News and World Report, The Economist).

These leaders are succeeding because they are very effectively drawing on what is traditionally considered to be “feminine” leadership traits: empathy, collaboration, and even humility – the humility to admit they don’t have all the answers and to draw on the people who do.

These traits are extraordinarily powerful in situations like today’s. Most of us have never faced anything remotely similar. We’re scared and unsure. The playbook, if it even exists, hasn’t been tested.

So what’s a man to do?

Well, for this one – a former naval officer, (American) football player, chainsaw-owner, and climber of the corporate ladder – it’s about realizing that gender-based leadership traits are cultural artifacts, not biological realities. There are many, many male leaders out there effectively using the same traits and having equally impressive results. Their willingness and ability to deploy so-called “feminine” leadership styles are literally saving lives.

Key points include:

  • Empathy
  • Collaboration 
  • Humility

Read the full article, Gender and Leadership – One Man’s Perspective, on