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Do you have to act like a man to succeed in business?

17 June 2011 Royal Holloway, University of London

While more and more women are assuming roles as managers a new study reveals that rather than using what should come more easily to them like empathy and compassion, these women are increasingly turning to the stereotypically more ‘male’ traits, such as aggression, to get results.

The study by Professor Paula Nicolson, from the Department of Health and Social Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, says that instead of fighting their ‘natural instincts’ women should embrace them because displaying emotional intelligence is the key to being a better leader.

Professor Nicolson’s study of leadership predominately concentrated on managing in the NHS, although the academic says the results can be applied to any leaders whether in politics, CEOs of international banks or even football managers.

Professor Nicolson said: “It’s almost like women feel that they must ‘act like a man’ and overly develop traits often more associated with power-hungry city traders.

This notion drives women away from a healthy assertiveness into emulating more aggressive male models.”

She added: “One woman I interviewed, while declaring that women and men were equal in senior posts and gender was no barrier, appeared to believe that leadership meant being like a man. This is understandable up to a point because previously leaders have been male, but women’s leadership style, potentially more emotionally able, ought to come into its own when dealing with people and displaying skills in communication, judgement, sensitivity, psychological insight – all traits needed to be a good leader.”

Professor Nicolson says the study found that many managers were able to distribute leadership functions by delegating specific tasks and others were able to persuade staff of the best way to do things. However they were given vivid examples where the leaders failed often because of their inability to recognise that by ignoring the experience and knowledge of the more junior staff or colleagues, their efforts were undermined.

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