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The Female Advantage
As the textbook notes, women are still underrepresented as managers of businesses, yet some people, such as Sally Helgesen see women as the business leaders of the future. Why? Because their style of management is more democratic and flexible, and therefore able to adjust more easily to the fast-changing, dynamic business environment, or thrive in a company where educated young professionals expect to be treated as individuals.
In a recent article summing up their book, Megatrends for Women, Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt describe women leaders as having these strengths relative to men:
· women encourage more participation
· women share more power and information
· women more effectively enhance other people’s self-worth
· women get workers more excited about their work
While these qualities all sound “nice,” the authors warn that this would be an oversimplification. “Caring about people and supporting them always must be balanced with objectivity. . . . Anyone who thinks ‘supporting people’ and being ‘nice’ alone cut it in the business world is in need of a serious reality check.” (p. 46)
One thing that helps women, according to Judith Hall, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, is that women traditionally are better at interpreting body language and other non-verbal cues. They also are able to tolerate ambiguity and to juggle many things at once.
Men, however, who see job performance “as a series of transactions–rewards for services rendered or punishment for inadequate performance,” (Ibid) might misinterpret women’s management style. A female manager’s willingness to empower employees by asking them for help, might, for example, look like ignorance, and as though she truly doesn’t know what she is doing. Also, other employees might feel freer to criticize a woman, or to challenge her authority.
Aburdene, Patricia and John Naisbitt. Megatrends for Women. New York: Villard Books, 1992.
1. Characterize women’s management style according to the two leadership roles and three leadership styles discussed in the text. Do you agree with the claim that the two sexes have distinct leadership styles?
2. How do more creative jobs differ from more routine jobs in terms of the type of leadership that works best?
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