An NBC news story posited a good question recently: Do women lead differently during a crisis? It’s worth considering, especially now, as we continue to face challenges inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.
OpEd writers Jessica N. Grounds and Kristin Haffert, founders of Mine the Gap, say that there is evidence to suggest that “having more women in leadership positions does make a difference in improving outcomes‑ meaning, we all might be better off during this pandemic.”
The writers contend that women exhibit a collaborative leadership style, whereas “men more often use a command and control approach.” Garnering knowledge from researcher Alice Eagly, Grounds and Haffert report that women often are transformational leaders who “foster good human relationships, invest in their teams, develop the skills of followers, and motive others to reach beyond the scope of their job descriptions.”
We can all benefit from this kind of leadership.
Women are More Progressive
So, while men tend to get the glory during peacetime, “women are more likely than men to be offered a leadership role when there’s a crisis happening,” says Grace Judson, a leadership expert and author of The Five Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics. “The reasons are myriad and often theoretical, spanning everything from the opportunity for an organization to look progressive while simultaneously having someone to blame if she fails, to a recognition that women’s leadership styles tend to be more collaborative, which is a benefit in a crisis. It’s worth understanding the innate qualities that make women good leaders, especially in times of crisis. Then you can develop those strengths, point them out to your manager, and be fully prepared to lead through hard times as well as good.”
Women Talk the Talk
One of six full university professors at Georgetown University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Deborah Tannen is the author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships. In her Harvard Business Review article, Tannen writes that women “have often learned different styles of speaking than men, which can make them seem less competent and self-assured than they are.”
Women are all about the “we,” not the “I.” Ultimately, that’s what matters. Writes Tannen, “Whatever the motivation, women are less likely than men to have learned to blow their own horn. And they are more likely than men to believe that if they do so, they won’t be liked.”
As the world focuses on and attempts to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, strength, compassion, and collaboration are critical during times like these. Women bring these qualities to the table. And yet while women inspire teamwork, they also pay a price for it.
Women Understand Teamwork
“Many have argued that the growing trend of assigning work to teams may be especially congenial to women, but it may also create complications for performance evaluation,” writes Tannen. “When ideas are generated and work is accomplished in the privacy of the team, the outcome of the team’s effort may become associated with the person most vocal about reporting results. There are many women and men—but probably relatively more women—who are reluctant to put themselves forward in this way and who consequently risk not getting credit for their contributions.