Is the pandemic changing the perception of female leadership?
With the possibility of a vaccine being available very soon, many observers are starting to look at how our leaders handled the most significant crisis of our time in 2020. Female leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been praised for taking early and decisive action to impact the COVID-19 infection curve in their countries.
Are female leaders better at handling a crisis than male leaders?
An article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper asked this question in April 2020. A study in August suggested that female-led countries handled the pandemic better than those led by men. The researchers hoped the study would “serve as a starting point to illuminate the discussion on the influence of national leaders in explaining the differences in country COVID-outcomes”.
This article explores whether women lead differently during a crisis, and suggests that women show three major leadership attributes that are crucial in crisis – risk awareness, prioritizing safety and looking at the whole picture. Brain research shows us that women view challenges in an ‘interconnected’ way, while men tend to be more targeted in their approach to solving an issue. This interconnected approach seems particularly crucial when managing the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 and the changes this forced on the way we live.
Does this explain why female leaders became more confident as in the last year?
The results of the 2020 Worldcom Confidence Index found that confidence level of female leaders increased by seven percent from 2019 to 2020, while male leaders experienced a seven percent decrease in their confidence. What had been a confidence gap of 16% between the genders 12 months ago, has almost closed completely.
What could this mean for your organisation?
The Worldcom research, along with the various neuroscience studies, could have some interesting implications for building high performing leadership teams. The research doesn’t prove that women are better than men or vice versa. Instead it suggests that women may be suited to solving different types of leadership challenges. Understanding what the right blend looks like based on the challenges your organisation is likely to face, and then resourcing to deliver that blend, could have an amazingly positive impact on the performance of your organisation in 2021 and beyond.
In a world that is thought to have changed forever, it makes sense to change the way you think about leadership. And it makes sense to make sure you have the right combination of ‘interconnected’ and ‘targeted’ thinking to ensure you succeed.