Are Women Better Leaders than Men?

Editor’s Note: Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman, who run the leadership development consultancy Zenger | Folkman, have a post at Harvard Business Review highlighting a gender-based study they conducted on business leadership. The data indicates although there are many more men than women in business leadership positions, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterpart. In fact, Zenger & Folkman found women rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.

We’ve all heard the claims, the theories, and the speculation about the ways leadership styles vary between women and men. Our latest survey data puts some hard numbers into the mix.

Our data come from 360 evaluations, so what they are tracking is the judgment of a leader’s peers, bosses, and direct reports. We ask these individuals to rate each leader’s effectiveness overall and also to judge how strong he or she is on the 16 competencies that our 30 years of research shows are most important to overall leadership effectiveness. We ask, for instance, how good a leader is at taking the initiative, developing others, inspiring and motivating, and pursuing their own development.

Our latest survey of 7,280 leaders, which our organization evaluated in 2011, confirms some seemingly eternal truths about men and women leaders in the workplace but also holds some surprises…

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