Drawing on the literature on gender, management and leadership, critically discuss how gender affects perceptions of leadership and management, using the example of one male and one female leader from the world of business or work.
You can choose any two leaders (one male, one female) to discuss for this essay as long as they are from the world of work or business (i.e. leaders within work organisations, corporations, trade unions etc). You will not be assessed on your choice of leaders, but rather on how well you discuss each leader’s perceived attributes with reference to concepts of gendered
How Gender Affects Perceptions of Leadership and Management
In the workplace, whether it is a business organization or in politics, it is evident that the number of women involved has on the rise. The number of female presidential candidates and presidents is at an all time high, however, despite this, the number of women in the high levels of management remains to be quite low (Schreiber, 2012). This should not be misinterpreted to mean that men are more effective as leaders and better at work, but rather, as is going to be discussed in this paper that, it is more of an issue of perception, where men are perceived to make better leaders than their female counterparts. Traditional gender roles have created an expectation in us that leadership is generally supposed to be masculine, and this result in women tending to be under more scrutiny when they ascend to power.
Women tend to be under-evaluated in leadership matters and their true worth is not recognized due to the prejudices being propagated toward women that they have characteristics that would not be suitable for leadership. This is despite findings that suggest that women are well suited for the modern workplace, and would consequently make better leaders under the current circumstances (Brown, 2009). This has been attributed to the gender difference in leadership styles, where women are said to be more likely to adopt an empowering style which is more collective, whereas men tend to be commanding and controlling. The Problem is therefore a matter perception; the larger population does not seem to contextualize leadership. This can be compared to the way the workplace was contextualized and seen to be fit enough for both women and men to work in tandem and also with similar capabilities (Beaman, Duflo, Pande & Topalova, 2012). So we see that as an effective leader, it is paramount that one uses the appropriate characteristics of his or her respective gender to be able to lead and hence meet the organizational goals set beforehand, rather than allow one to be seen as a man or woman whose flaws would hinder leadership.
Steve Jobs, former Apple chief executive officer (C.E.O.), given his success and fame, he would be a good fit for this study. He was quite the authoritarian, who valued the company more than he did the relationships with fellow workers (Isaacson, 2012). From an ethical point of view, many would argue against this, but these traits ensured that he was respected and that people would work at their best. This resulted in from Apple’s success and growth, his hands on approach ensured that the market got the best possible products from the company. This is the kind of aggression people would expect from a male leader, and he did use it to his advantage (and also to that of the company). Steve Jobs was quite a confident person, highly believing in his own abilities as a leader (Isaacson, 2012). Despite being unwell, he only stepped down as CEO slightly reducing his roles in the firm, but still remained on the board of directors as chairman. Isaacson, (2012) continues to mention that Steve Jobs was determined and cognitive, and this is quite evident given his delivery of cutting edge technology, a reputation he worked hard to maintain.
Michelle Obama, the American first lady is another leader of great repute. She has stood out from predecessors as one who is not merely seen, but also heard (Lightfoot, 2009). She has been touted as a moral leader, as she has spoken to groups of people who have previously been neglected, like the families of those in military service. She is being perceived as a great female leader and has gone against what people would have expected of a woman. She has used the opportunity and her position as the president’s wife. Michelle Obama’s situation could however, be helped by the fact that her job is seen as a preserve of women, and given that there is a certain expectation for women for this job, she gets to be fairly praised as there is a balance for the responsibilities of this job and the gender roles, something highlighted by Lightfoot, 2009).This has resulted in less pressure and more focus on the job, rather than on her gender. So as to be able to get a better picture of how gender affects leadership and management, it would be best if studies focused on more aspects of leadership, and not just the high levels of management alone, as women are not fairly represented. The studies would additionally need to be more contextualized, as we cannot view all workplaces to be the same and hence the different dynamics will have an effect on the conclusions drawn. For instance, some workplaces may be female dominated, and hence, it would be imperative that women leaders would be more effective than for such places.
Beaman, L., Duflo, E., Pande, R., & Topalova, P. (2012). Female leadership raises aspirations and educational attainment for girls: A policy experiment in India. science, 335(6068), 582-586.
Brown, W. (2009). The evolution of the modern workplace. Cambridge University Press.
Isaacson, W. (2012). The real leadership lessons of Steve Jobs. Harvard business review, 90(4), 92-102.
Schreiber, R. (2012). Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics, with a New Epilogue. Oxford University Press.