Are Leadership Skills Different for Men and Women?

iStock_000020735379XSmallI am interested in reading different takes on what it means to be a good and effective leader. Today I found an article entitled 12 Ways to Become a More Courageous Leader. I didn’t look to see who the author was, my eyes jumped down to the numbered tips, but as I read them I began to form an opinion about the writer.

As soon as I finished reading the last tip, I looked for the author’s name and nodded when I read Dan McCarthy.

First let me say, the tips are solid. I think the article is a good one and the information provided by Dan is valuable and useful. But as I was reading, I felt like the tips were….manly. Okay – wait before you start yelling. What I mean by that is that compassion and empathy seemed to be missing. Particularly in tip # 9:

9. Remember that leadership is not a popularity contest.
Leaders don’t manage by polls or surveys and strive to make everyone happy. In fact, if you haven’t ticked anyone off in the last year, you might be giving in too much instead of sticking to your convictions (see #1).

I am not suggesting that leadership should be a popularity contest,but there is a strong argument for consensus, team buy-in and two-way management. So that got me wondering – is leadership different between the genders? Should it be?

Ronald Riggio, Ph.D of Psychology Today wrote an article entitled Do Men and Women Lead Differently.  He didn’t really answer the question but said the following:

You get a somewhat different picture if you ask followers and leaders about male and female leaders. They notice differences that are in line with stereotypes about men and women, reporting that female leaders are more nurturing, emphatic, and responsive than male leaders, but they will also report the negative side (e.g., moody). Male leaders, on the other hand, are perceived to be more action-oriented and more focused on tasks.

I have to be honest – but I totally disagree with that assessment. Although yes, women are nurturing and emphatic, they are also focused, driven and make great leaders. It is almost as if the perception of women leaders is from several decades ago.

What do you think? Are there different skills between gender? Should there be? When you think about the best boss you’ve ever worked for, man or woman, what were some of the leadership traits they exhibited that made them successful?