Covid-19 Women and leadership

Current Articles of Interest to WIFT members

April 15, 2020
By Susan Brinton

Women and leadership

There have been exceptional articles published in April that are focusing the debate on women and leadership, not just in North America but the world.

The Coronavirus epidemic has brought a comparison of leadership qualities to the forefront, and in many cases male leadership is failing the world during this crisis. The Forbes article, “What do Countries with the Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders” (April 13, 2020), illustrates that the countries with the best coronavirus responses so far have been led by women.

The Forbes piece also references another article, from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled “7 Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn from Women” (April1, 2020). In a nutshell, this article argues that gender differences in leadership effectiveness (what it takes to perform well) are out of sync with gender differences in leadership emergence (what it takes to make it to the top). In other words, while women rank higher in leadership effectiveness, men predominantly perform better in leadership emergence. This results in ineffective leadership and prevents both competent men and women from rising to the top. As a result, we need to learn more about leadership from women.

To help men learn some lessons from women’s leadership style, the HBR article lists seven lessons:

  1. Don’t lean in when you’ve got nothing to lean in about.
  2. Know your own limitations. 
  3. Motivate through transformation.
  4. Put your people ahead of yourself.
  5. Don’t command; empathize.
  6. Focus on elevating others.
  7. Don’t say you’re “humbled.” Be humble.

The best part is at the end of this article and it is worth quoting in its entirety. It ends on a very powerful call to action for women.

Final paragraphs of HBR article:

Does reading this upset you?

Ask yourself why. If you’re a man, does this make you feel that there’s a campaign against white males and toxic masculinity and that angry feminism is on the rise? That reaction is getting in the way of your learning from women what you can do to make yourself more successful. If you’re a woman — and/or a feminist — do you reject the idea that women are generally more likely to display feminine traits than men are? That’s exactly the reason the average woman has more potential for leadership than the average man.

At the end of the day, the only controversial aspect of our views is the notion that increasing female representation in leadership would augment rather than reduce meritocracy. The best gender equality intervention is to focus on equality of talent and potential — and that only happens when we have gender-equal leadership to enable men to learn different leadership approaches from women as much as women have always been told to learn leadership approaches from men. This article is a short cut. Men, these lessons accelerate your leadership development. Women, these are the reasons why you should have been leaders already and why you should demand what you deserve now.

Links to articles:

Forbes Magazine. What do Countries with the Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders. April 13, 2020.

Harvard Business Review. 7 Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn from Women. April 1, 2020.