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Female Leadership in the 21st Century: An Examination of the Management Style of Female Leadership as a Competitive Edge for the Future


23 November 2022

Stephanie Taylor

Leadership plays a vital role in the growth and success of organizations. Hence, the study of leaders, their behaviors, and leadership styles is central in the literature on organizations. The present article aims to show the differences and similarities between the leadership styles that tend to be adopted by men and by women.

Women in leadership roles has been a highly debated and studied issue, given that women remain underrepresented in leadership roles, but why?

The main reason for this, presented by several authors, is related to the belief that women are less competent to occupy leadership positions insofar as they are masculine. This is the manifestation of behaviors of power and control, which are often considered traits of a good leader.

Authors Smith, Rosenstein, & Nikolov (2018) defend that people have similar beliefs about what it means to “be a leader” and “be a man” but different beliefs about “being a leader” and “being a woman.” Women are traditionally seen as caring, people-oriented, warm, and pleasant. In contrast, leaders are usually seen as assertive, resistant, self-reliant, and results-oriented. This creates an incompatibility situation, which results in a more negative evaluation of women as leaders.

In recent times, women have been gaining more and more space in organizations where they did not have the opportunity before, playing a relevant and respected role concerning men’s work in the growth of the economically active population. Unfortunately, they still encounter many challenges and difficulties that persist to this day about women knowing how to deal with home and family but still focusing on their growth at work while still celebrating all achievements.

Recent research suggests that women may use a different conceptual model than has traditionally been employed in large organizations in mediating between these two, sometimes conflicting, goals. In particular, women may adopt a more relational approach in interactions with employees and clients. Females in top-ranking positions provide an opportunity to examine women’s management styles. In their own companies, women are unencumbered by the cultural influences and behavioral expectations regarding appropriate management and interpersonal types in organizations managed by men.

The findings provide insight into the subjects’ choices about managing relationships with employees and clients. This insight illuminates the ethical perspective driving female CEOs’ decisions concerning their businesses. The following section will present background about the gendered nature of organizations. Then, the literature on women’s leadership style and an overview of management skills and strategies used by women leading a global organization in the LNG industry.

Historically, there has been a separation of work and family spheres where men predominate in business and government, the public sphere. In contrast, women dominate at home, the private sphere. Over time, the private and public domains have become gendered spheres, with masculine values and skills governing the public and feminine skills and values in the private sphere. Thus, men have defined the nature of organizations and work in terms of their experience (Acker, 1992).

Because males developed and built organizations, their cultures reflect male values and development. Recent economic changes include

  • a more diverse and highly educated U.S. workforce,
  • an accelerating rate of change, and
  • growing reliance on work teams to address increasingly complex business issues.

In this context, the traditional command and control management style is no longer effective in many organizational settings. More recently, skills utilized predominantly in the private domain (primarily by women) are effective in the workplace (Fletcher, 1998).

Previous research on women’s leadership style has shown that while men and women lead similarly, there are differences in style by gender. Women are transformational as opposed to transactional (Bass, 1991) and more participative and democratic in their leadership style than many men. Women also tend to have more highly developed interpersonal skills. For example, Rosener (1995) describes women’s leadership style as interactive, emphasizing consensus building, being comfortable with ambiguity, and sharing power and information. She has found that women leaders tend to encourage multidirectional feedback, develop reward systems that value group and individual contributions, and foster empowerment of employees at all levels.

Bancroft (1995) reported that women adopt a holistic, process-oriented approach that is inclusive and collaborative. Calas and Smircich (1992) posit that while women have been compared to men, women’s experience and alternative ways of thinking, hence women’s voice, have been largely ignored in organizational research. Organizations created and built by women may reflect their values and socialization.

This leadership style is relatively new to the modern world despite the increasing numbers of female managers in industrialized nations. It emphasizes motivation and engagement, along with creating a shared vision. There is also an emphasis on individualized consideration and providing a role model for high ethical behavior that encourages respect and trust throughout the organization. In the full range of this discussed leadership model, transformational leaders inspire employees to go beyond the call of duty, foster creative solutions to problems, serve as mentors, create a vision, and articulate plans for achieving this vision.

Another aspect that defers women’s management and leadership style to that of men is employing and giving more professional opportunities to women. Studies have shown that having more women in the workplace positively affects employee engagement and retention.

Kathy Eberwein, CEO of The Global Edge Group, is an example of a female leader who created and built an organization that reflects her values and socialization methods. Her leadership style adopts a holistic, process-oriented approach that is inclusive and collaborative, encourages multidirectional feedback, and fosters empowerment of employees at all levels.

Coming from an engineering background in which she served for many years as an employee, she noticed that with time passing, the businesses Eberwein worked for were turned over to new groups of executives. The common theme she experienced was that the driver became one that was solely on financial objectives. While financial objectives are always crucial in driving businesses, especially those led by men, she observed that some of the things that contributed to the growth and success of these companies became less important: the connection with people and the goal to put people first.

This inspiration to redirect connections got Kathy to begin thinking that there must be a way to grow a company while preserving the fundamentals that built these businesses in the first place. As simple as it sounds, her vision became clear she wanted to build a global business and drive it forward at high levels while maintaining what she always believed in: “Our Passion, our People.”

Being a global company leader in a predominately masculine industry is not an easy role to carry as a woman in a world full of stereotypes in which women are still believed to be less capable than men. However, as they say, with great power comes significant responsibilities. It is by Kathy embracing those that the Global Edge Consultants is today a proud WBENC and WEConnect organization that supplies diversity and develops and maintains a passion for “people first” politics regarding contractors and clients.

Women do not care about the level of hierarchy and management; they know how to be good leaders because they have competence, emotional balance, improvisation, and self-determination. Their determination has proven to be fundamental to good leadership, the reason why the world now has more female leaders than the past has seen.

Female leadership is a very challenging topic, shown through studies of how vital the presence of women is within companies and in the workplace. This way, women have all the weapons in their hands to become good leaders and stand out in this role, which, little by little, is becoming a reality.

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