The vast majority of political leaders and nearly all Fortune 500 CEOs are men. Moreover, in the industries that make our economy run, such as finance, manufacturing, technology, and agriculture, men are in the super majority of leadership positions. So, if most of our leaders are male, and if the U.S. is the dominant super power and the world’s largest economy, how can I claim that we would be better off if women leaders were the majority?
It’s simple. Most of our leaders fail. As I’ve noted earlier, estimates of leader incompetence and failure range from one half to two-thirds. CEO tenure is very short, and most are fired for poor performance. Ethical debacles? Can you name a woman who was involved? Companies are often successful in spite of their poor leadership, because of circumstances (e.g., oil companies discovering vast new oil fields will succeed regardless of poor leadership), the strong performance of U.S. workers because of high levels of education and drive, and government regulations that make businesses highly profitable.The top scholar on gender and leadership, Dr. Alice Eagly, recently stated that her studies show that women are more likely than men to possess the leadership qualities that are associated with success. That is, women are more transformational than men – they care more about developing their followers, they listen to them and stimulate them to think “outside the box,” they are more inspirational, AND they are more ethical. Dr. Bernard Bass, who developed the current theory of transformational leadership, predicts that in the future women leaders will dominate simply because they are better suited to 21st century leadership/management than are men.
So, why do men dominate leadership positions, and why can’t highly qualified women get to the top? As Dr. Eagly puts it, women have to overcome obstacles to attain leadership positions, while men are offered a “free pass.” Our image of a leader is “male,” and so we more often select or promote men. Men control the hiring and favor men over women. We are simply reluctant to change the status quo. (When pollsters ask, “Is the U.S. ready for a woman President?” the majority answer “No.”).
So, consider this: What would our world look like with more women leaders? The research suggests that for organizations, industries, and for workers, it would be a better place.