Workplace Rights

Weekly (4/16/12)

Topic of the Week  Men v. Women Leaders

Men v. Women Leaders:

  • Women make up more of the best leaders.
  • Men make up more of the worst leaders.
  • Women are rated higher in 12 of 15 leadership roles.
  • Leadership keys: expanding skills, tough assignments and support.


Men v. Women: Battle of the Sexes, Leadership Edition

Who makes a better boss, a man or a woman? If you're like me, you had that conversation/argument a time or two during your career. According to a nationwide poll by Gallup, both men and women prefer a male boss. Which reminds me of three guys who were recently arrested in New Mexico. They were charged of suspicion of larceny of livestock, conspiracy, lack of a bill of sale and exporting livestock. What was the evidence? A 220-pound calf was sitting in the back seat of their Honda Civic.

Unfortunately it's no different at work in terms of leadership of most organizations. The none-to-bright guys are driving and the women are sitting in the back seat. Think I'm exaggerating? However a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review by Zengler and Folkman should make us all think twice about who makes the better leader. This study is especially credible because it doesn't focus on people's attitudes, it used 360 reviews of real bosses by real employees. And women kicked our butts.

Women make up more of the best leaders. According to 360 evaluations of the top ten percent of leaders, women made up almost 20% more of the most effective leaders (11.5% for women to 9.2% of men). I'm not sure why studies continue to show that men and women would prefer to work for a man, clearly women are significantly better leaders by this measure.

Men make up more of the worst leaders. Men led the way when it comes to the bottom of the leadership scale. Of the bottom ten percent of leaders, men comprised approximately 20% more (10.7% of men to only 8.7% of women). This was not an easy paragraph for me to write. Clearly men are not getting the leadership job done.

Women are rated higher in 12 of 15 leadership roles. When it comes to sales, marketing, operations, HR, general management, finance, product development, legal, engineering, IT, research and development and quality management, women scored higher. Ironically, women were rated higher in many areas that most people assume men are more effective: operations, finance and sales. Men rated higher in customer support, facilities management and administrative and clerical. Yep, you read that correctly, administrative and clerical. These results were shocking to me, clearly my thoughts about where men and women excel need to be updated by the facts and I'm probably not alone here.

Leadership keys: expanding skills, tough assignments and support. According to Zengler and Folkman these are the keys to becoming an effective leader. It is very important to be constantly expanding your skill base. A great way to do this is by accepting tough assignments that force you to grow and develop. And finally mentors play a huge role in a leaders effectiveness.

I didn't write this to give anyone a cow. But clearly our understanding of the differences between male and female leadership clearly needs to be reevaluated based on real data.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

""To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.""

–Eleanor Roosevelt

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Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Gallup

    Man or Woman Boss?

    • Man or Woman Boss? Men say: 26% men, 16% woman
    • Man or Woman Boss? Women say: 34% man, 27% woman


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