I have to admit that I am a sucker for a blog post titled, “Are Women Better Leaders than Men?” There is no way I am not going to read that post. So, moments ago, I read Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman’s post on the Harvard Business Review blog from last week, March 15, 2012. It was conveniently tweeted to me from Nicholas Kristof. I love social media!
And even more than that, I love their 2011 study’s conclusions: “at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts- and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows…at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree- taking initiative and driving for results – have long been thought of as particularly male strength.” Zenger and Folkman found the only management competence where men scored higher than women was “Develops Strategic Perspective.”
I do not believe that I have been the recipient of significant overt discrimination in my legal and consulting career. But I also decided to take the risk and start my own business because in both government and private industry, I felt there were significant obstacles to the career path that I wanted. Neither were directly related to gender, but in both cases I felt the sentiment expressed by some of the survey participants: “We feel the constant pressure to never make a mistake, and to continually prove our value to the organization.” On my own, that is not an issue and I try to make my employees feel that it is not an issue either. It is my goal to have everyone who works here know that they are valued and an important part of the team. Not because of any gender-based focus on nurturing but because that is how I think we do our best job for our clients. And doing the best job we can for our clients is how we grow and thrive.
When I look at the people who work here I see people who excel at all of the 16 top competencies of leadership that Zenger and Folkman used in their study. Many, though not all, of us are women. To greater and lesser degrees, depending on the particular competency, my employees all: take initiative, practice self-development, display high integrity and honesty, drive for results, develop others, inspire and motivate others, build relationships, collaborate and work as a team, establish stretch goals, champion change, solve problems and analyze issues, communicate powerfully and prolifically, connect the group to the outside world, innovate, have technical and professional expertise and, yes, even develop strategic perspectives. Oh, and they laugh a lot.
Starting a business felt like a big risk at the time and I guess it was. But it was good for me professionally and I think it allows me to create a work environment that lets others thrive as well. And, this blog post helped me to feel pretty good about that today.