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Gender, Coping, and Leadership

· Leadership,Active Coping,Gender,Leadership Styles

By Leslie S. Pratch

In research my colleague Jordan Jacobowitz and I conducted into the personality predictors of effective leadership among already high achieving leaders, we found that women leaders need to be even better at active coping than men to be seen as effective in their roles[i] because a female leader faces certain higher barriers to reaching any goal than a male leader does, and active coping is about overcoming barriers to goals. Specifically, a woman will have a harder time getting and keeping followers than a man will.

Here's why: A woman's followers will have mixed thoughts about her when she is strong and directive, and mixed thoughts about her when she is collaborative and interested in others. A man's followers, on the other hand, will laud him for being strong and directive, and give him a pass when he is collaborative and interested in others. It's not fair, but it's reality.

A female leader trying to achieve the same goal from the same starting point as a male leader has a harder task, simply because of this tangle of attitudes, which stem from typical expectations about men, women, and leaders. As a result, a female leader needs to be a better active coper than her male counterpart would.

 

[i] Pratch and Jacobowitz (1996)

Leslie S. Pratch is the founder and CEO of Pratch & Company. A clinical psychologist and MBA, she advises private equity investors and management committees and Boards of Directors of public and privately held companies whether the executives being considered to lead companies possess the psychological resources and personality strengths needed to succeed. In her recently published book, Looks Good on Paper? (Columbia University Press, 2014), she shares insights from more than twenty years of executive evaluations and offers an empirically based approach to identify executives who will be effective within organizations—and to flag those who will ultimately very likely fail—by evaluating aspects of personality and character that are hidden beneath the surface.

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