July 5, 2020 //

Women in Leadership During Covid-19 – PART 3

As I continue to continue to dive into the subject of women in leadership (in preparation for our upcoming Agile Women Leaders Certificate Program), the next logical step (given that COVID-19 impacts virtually every narrative on the planet) was to examine whether women leaders are out-shining male leaders during this epidemic.  As such, this article constitutes Part 3 of my Blog Series:  Women in Leadership during COVID-19.

In Part 1 (released June 7, 2020) of this Women in Leadership during COVID-19 series, I provided the history and data that strongly supports the theory that women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Part 2 (released June 21, 2020) of this Women in Leadership during COVID-19 series, I explored the “Emotional Intelligence Paradox” that women face every day in the workplace, and how that contributes to the leadership gender gap, but which may also be one of the reasons behind why women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.

Now, in this Part 3 of the Women in Leadership during COVID-19 series, I am presenting another reason why I believe women leaders have outshined male leaders during the COVID-19 crisis — humility.

Female leaders do not suffer from overconfidence—they seek input and listen.

Several years ago the New Yorker Magazine published a cartoon depicting a man and a woman having dinner, where the man says, “Let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence.” It resonated with all of my Boss-Lady friends—and it turns out that it’s also borne out in research. Men are, in fact, overconfident, and it creates blind spots in how they lead. They are also much more likely to lead by what a McKinsey Global Institute study calls “control and corrective action.”

“In one study,” explains Therese Houston, author of How Women Decide, “71% of men reported that they thought they were smarter than the average American, with only 57% of women saying the same; and there is plenty of research to show men are more likely to trust their own judgement and instincts when making decisions.” In yet another study, men express confidence in their ability to excel as leaders, even when they change sectors and their resume isn’t aligned with the new industry.

Conversely, according to Bobbi Thomason, an Assistant Professor of Applied Behavioral Science at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School “women are more likely to cultivate a diverse set of advisors and a wide network to help them succeed.”  Likewise,  Dr. Abbie Griffith Oliver, assistant professor at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State states “University Women are more likely to pay top-dollar for advice and to follow it.”

BUT, several experts emphasized that we should not take such research findings to mean women are necessarily more other-directed or lacking in confidence than men.  It’s more a function of the fact that female leaders are more likely to be blamed if decisions are unpopular or ineffective. They are also questioned and second-guessed much more frequently. For these reasons, I think it’s a safe assumption that female leaders know they need more “cover” than men.

This resonated with me: The instinct to seek advice and listen isn’t entirely because of the need for input, it’s also because people are more likely to accept decisions from women when they don’t stand alone. “I bet if you looked at the pictures of women making announcements right now, they have more people behind them,” speculates Oliver.

Regardless of the reason, the ability to know what you don’t know and to listen to people with expert knowledge has clearly served women well during this pandemic. Several trailblazing women have indeed explicitly mentioned listening to experts now and as they manage the next phase. They recognize that only way to save lives is to skillfully act upon the advice of those who truly know the evolving science.

Stay tuned for the final blog this series, where I will break down additional female qualities that I would argue are integral to the assertion that women leaders have outshined male leaders during the pandemic.  Namely, I will address the roles that risk management and vision-setting play in the success of women in leadership, particularly during a crisis.

And if you’re interested in taking a closer look at topics related to women in leadership, make sure to check out my recent blogs:: Women in Leadership during Covid 19 – Part 1, Women in Leadership during COVID 19 – Part 2, and Emotional Intellignce – Just the Facts Ma’am.

Or for an even deeper dive, you might consider our 1-hour (virtual) class Women in Leadership – The Emotional Intelligence Paradox, our 4-hour (8-person) Women’s Leadesrship Support Forum, or our 12-hour (virtual) Agile Women Leaders Certificate Program.

In the meantime, comment below:  Do you agree with the basic premise of this 4-Part Blog series?  And if so (and even if NOT), why do YOU think women leaders have excelled during the COVID-19 crisis?  We’d love to hear from all of you!

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