More and more women are rising up the ranks to lead countries and global organizations worldwide. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, published in 2015 and updated in 2017, since 2005, the number of world leaders who are women has more than doubled. A fact that is not surprising since women possess certain traits that make them better global leaders.
Having said that, a lot of work still needs to be done. In the U.S., women hold less than 5 percent of the C-suite top spots. And, in regions like Latin America or Asia, women leading large organizations is pretty uncommon.
But, in my work helping women around the world develop advancement strategies, I’ve noticed traits, unique to women, that set them up to be influential leaders–particularly in a global environment.
Here are the top five traits women possess that make them strong global leaders:
1. Women empathize.
Being able to wear other people’s shoes is very important when leading in a global environment. Leaders need to try to understand different perspectives and empathize to be effective.
While I’m always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it’s hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:
Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts.
“These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,” said Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.
2. Women communicate.
Communication is key to effective leadership, particularly when it comes to communicating across cultures, write Deborah Blagg and Susan Young in an article for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Working Knowledge. And, according to HBS professor Nitin Nohria, author of Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management, communication is the real work of leadership. “Great leaders, he notes, “spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.”
Multiple studies over the years have consistently indicated that women are better communicators than men. Some suggest that women use many more words than men (anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words a day to a man’s 5,000 to 10,000). One study, by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, attributes this to female brains possessing more of the “language protein.”
3. Women listen.
The female leaders I’ve worked with seem to have an innate skill for listening. When one woman is sharing a problem or challenge, the others seem to give their undivided attention instantly. They listen, ask some questions, and then share their thoughts.
Listening is a skill that’s necessary and appreciated across all cultures and particularly useful when leading teams of people from different backgrounds.
4. Women collaborate.
When managing cross-cultural teams, leaders need to understand that team members work, assess problems and come up with solutions differently.
Women seem to genuinely enjoy working with others. They enjoy learning new perspectives and coming up with solutions together. The women in my workshops always ensure each person in the room has a voice and is a part of the conversation. This means that everyone’s opinion and skills are included, allowing for stronger and more creative outcomes.
5. Women learn.
As I mentioned, women enjoy learning about other’s perspectives. They’re also very interested in discovering new ways to improve upon themselves and sharpen their skills. This focus on development makes women self-aware–crucial for both improving leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence.
McKinsey and Catalyst found that more gender balance at the top produces better financial results than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. However, there are still many challenges that keep women from leading global teams and companies. But as we continue to chip away at these barriers, both internally and externally, our organizations will only become stronger.
Do you need help creating gender balance on your team? Or, are you a woman who is hoping for a leadership position in your organization? I can help. Contact me.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.
Photo Credit: Elwynn/123RF