Emerging women leaders are more likely to be collaborative, helpful, intuitive and structured than their male counterparts.
However, emerging male leaders are more inclined to blue sky thinking, focus on data, and be results-driven, dominant and direct.
The findings come from recently released research conducted by talent management firm Hudson which involved surveying through a personality questionnaire 100 senior managers working in multinational firms across New Zealand and Australia who were identified as future leaders by their CEOs. These results were compared to 60,000 professionals from Hudson’s global database.
Respondents were assessed on five factors that determine leadership potential: how they managed complex and changing environments; their mental flexibility in terms of learning; how strong their personal drive was to achieve; their leadership nous; and their relational and cultural sensitivity - how good they were at identifying and accounting for what was important to others.
While women outstripped men when it came to personal drive, relational and cultural sensitivity, men rated more highly when it came to managing complexity, change, mental flexibility and leadership.
Wendy Courtney, a senior consultant with Hudson Talent Management in Auckland, says the researchers were keen to unearth the gender differences exhibited among emerging leaders to help them drill down into why the leadership pipeline narrows so markedly for women, with just 19% making it to senior leadership levels.
So what are the factors driving the differences?
Women surveyed showed a stronger inclination than men to be autonomous and leave their mark on situations, says Caroline Schischka, a consultant with Hudson Talent Management, leading to their higher personal drive.
Emerging women leaders were also more socially confident and helpful than their male counterparts, says Schischka, accounting for their collectively higher relational and cultural sensitivity scores.
“But in terms of managing complexity and change, men reported a stronger preference than women for innovation and stress resistance,” she says.
“Men at that emerging leader level also came through with stronger preferences on all three leadership aspects - being motivating, persuasive and decisive. It means that they’re going to be more confident and assertive communicators.”
While research suggests female executives don’t lack ambition, Schischka says a lack of confidence can hold women back.
“They may be less confident in themselves or even that their company can actually support their rise to the top. It does appear that individual mindsets and the culture of the company are significant in respect to women’s confidence to achieve those goals.”
Courtney says given the research’s findings, emerging female talent may benefit from targeted training to help them become more assertive, decisive and persuasive in their arguments.
“We need to be mindful we’ve got people coming through that pipeline and to support them through mentoring and coaching,” she says. “The arguments for diversity are well made - if you want organisations that are more innovative and creative with enhanced decision making and problem solving, then you need to have people from a range of backgrounds that bring different perspectives.”