Female Leaders Who Behave Like Men Are Seen As Bossy
We've got another thing to add to the long list of things keeping competent women from climbing the corporate ladder: The more we mimic men's leadership styles the less likely we are to be perceived as effective by other employees, new research shows.
In a new report published by Skyline Group International, researchers found that women who exert their leadership by behaving like men are seen as "bossy," and less effective than male counterparts who behave the exact same way.
How so? Female leaders were studied across seven leadership competencies — including self-confidence, emotional control, and entrepreneurship — then rated by employees. The research shows that women were seen as less effective leaders when they act like men for 57 percent of those traits.
What's worse, it's not just men who are turned off by strong women — female employees don't dig directive and structured female leaders, the research shows.
In fact, for 43 percent of the competencies in which women come off like men, only women rated other women as less effective. (What?!) Here, according to the research, are the seven competencies — and why women are at a disadvantage when they act assertively.
While a man can command respect from his employees, women who do the same are seen as bossy. (Eye roll.) According to the research, "employees are more receptive to women in leadership who present themselves with poise and authenticity."
It takes serious confidence to be a leader. But, "women who show their confidence by talking about their accomplishments are seen as bossy braggarts," the report states. "However, women who show their confidence through their actions, not words, are seen as effective leaders."
Women just can't win. No one wants to see a woman cry at her desk, but "when women hold in all their emotions at the office, they’re viewed as stoic and cold," the report says. Instead, employees want women to live somewhere in the middle, not allowing their emotions to overtake them while being able to empathize with the team.
Big risks often lead to big rewards — for men, it would seem. Men who take chances are A-OK with their employees, but women can't afford to risk it all in their employees' eyes. "Women are seen as more effective when they plan out different scenarios and choose a less risky option that can lead to success in multiple ways," the report states.
Coaching and mentoring
According to the report, "when women create specific development plans, employees think they’re bossy." Who knew that setting goals was such a bad thing?! Instead, "they prefer when women leaders involve them in the planning process and approach development through exploration and challenging assumptions," the report says.
Being in the know, apparently, is equivalent to being bossy. "Women who check detailed progress every day are seen as micromanaging and bossy," the report states. "But when women use regular check-ins to look at larger goals and overall performance, versus the nitty gritty details, they’re seen as effective."
Planning and organizing
According to the report, "Men tend to take an analytic approach, making many small decisions to yield a larger plan, but when women use the same strategy, they’re seen as bossy." Employees want to see flexible female leaders, "are open to changing plans in the light of new information and feedback," the report says.
Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with the traits employees want to see in female leaders. What's so disturbing about this report is that men aren't held to the same standard — and that strong, assertive women can't be seen for the awesome leaders they likely are.
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