The answer, based on new research is YES. This week I was working on an abstract for a leadership conference presentation on this topic. I told my wife and business partner, Lynnda about the abstract. She quickly found numerous studies going back decades. The first article she found was written by Kevin Kruse published in Forbes in March of this year. He stated, “In 2023, for the first time in history, women CEOs lead about 10% of Fortune 500 companies. It also underscores the need for more women at all levels of leadership. This is not just about representation. Women leaders are good for business.”
As a freshman at WVU my first calculus professor had a mantra, “Secretaries run the world. You can’t get in to see the Department Chair. You see his secretary. If she likes you, you get what you want.” I learned he was right. The secretaries who had risen to working for the Department Chair were masters of influence (Leaders). When our Department Chair left for a week to attend a conference we never knew he was gone. His secretary kept things running smoothly. Leadership expert John Maxwell defines leadership as the ability to influence and develop people regardless of title or position.
One of the things I did early on when I became a regional manager was to promote my secretary, Charlene, to office manager putting her on the all-male leadership team. This took encouraging because she doubted her ability. The men didn’t like it at first and fought me on the idea. Charlene gave the leadership team a different perspective especially after she felt comfortable speaking her mind. We became more people oriented. I believe, Charlene’s input helped moral, safety and profitbility. We became one of the company’s top performers.
In Forbes, Mr. Kruse quoted the Ready-Now Leaders report from the Conference Board showing organizations with at least 30% women in leadership roles are 12% more likely to be in the top 20% for financial performance. Krause said research from Leadership Circle based on assessments with over 84,000+ leaders and 1.5 million raters, shows female leaders are more effective than their male counterparts across every management level and age level. Women scored higher on creative competencies of relating, self-awareness, authenticity, systems awareness and achieving. Women more often lead from a “play for all to win perspective” instead of a “play not to lose” perspective typical of most men. Women build and cultivate caring connections, mentoring, developing others and exhibiting care for community.
Studies by Pew Research, Harvard Business School, Psychology Today, the Swiss School of Business Management and others show similar results. Women give value to relationships. They love direct communication and diversity. Women prefer to lead from the center rather than the top. They are more loyal and committed. Women have a broader picture of the work they do because they are more interested and ask questions.
The majority of plant managers in the West Virginia Chemical Industry Council are now women. In conversations with women plant managers I notice they tend to talk more about their people. A female plant manager in the Kanawha Valley told me about one of my former high school soccer players who is working for her as an engineer. I didn’t know he worked there. Male plant managers talk more about things. Focusing on people is essential because people take care of things and create success.
The Executive Director of a major West Virginia trade association has a track record of success. I asked her how she leads. She doesn’t want to be the center of attention. She wants to make her Board of Directors successful. She doesn’t command. She collaborates with others inside and outside the organization. She sincerely cares about the organization and the people it serves. She is a leader. I can add, she has excellent communication skills. She is comfortable talking to individuals, small groups or hundreds from the platform.
Collaboration is a powerful skill all leaders can develop. In Learned Leadership LLC workshops, we do a team building exercise with teams of 4 or 5 people. They build a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows as high as they can in 10 minutes. We have worked with high school and college students, teams from business, industry and volunteer organizations. Surprising to me, teams of engineers are the worst. However, diversified teams with one engineer do very well. The tallest tower ever, was built by a group of 5 women in the oil and gas industry. The tower was so sturdy they carried it around the ballroom showing their friends. I asked the women, “Who was in charge?” they looked surprised then said, “We collaborated.”
Many male leaders use command and control because that is how they were managed. They don’t understand the power of real leadership that influences and develops rather than commands and regulates. People don’t like to be told what to do or micromanaged. These managers wonder why people leave their organization. The answer may be in the mirror. They may have forgotten to check their ego, stifling their people’s creativity. People may try to deliver what they think the manager wants rather than creatively doing what is best for the organization.
At Shale Crescent USA, we are blessed with leaders who care about people and our mission. I believe, that is the reason for our success. Companies need to take advantage of the natural leadership skills of the women in their organizations by moving capable women into positions of leadership and working to develop other women like I did with Charlene. Skills of collaboration, focusing on people, developing people, stepping back letting people shine and effective communication can be learned. It starts with sincere caring about people and the organization. As a whole, I believe women are better leaders. We can learn from their leadership styles to have more profitable and enjoyable to places to work.
Greg Kozera, [email protected] is Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Gregis a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.