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Women better suited for leading teams, study shows

Friday, March 30, 2012  
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Top-ranking women demonstrate a higher proficiency than their male counterparts in a number of the key skills required to lead in a "matrix work environment," according to new research from Hay Group, a global management consultancy.

"High levels of emotional intelligence are critical in matrix work environments, where individuals are required to lead by influence, rather than lead through direct authority,” said Ruth Malloy, global managing director for leadership and talent at Hay Group. "Women often face barriers throughout their careers that require them to develop these skills to excel and advance in their organizations, in effect better preparing them for the challenges and complexities of leading in a matrix.”

Leadership traits like empathy, conflict-management, self-awareness and influence – skills more prevalent in executive-level women in general manager roles than in male executives -- were consistently tied to successful business outcomes within matrixed organizations, Hay Group determined. The consultancy based its findings on a series of in-depth interviews with dozens of executives and managers experienced with leading matrix teamsand areview ofthe Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory database, which includes information on the emotional intelligence of more than 17,000 individuals worldwide.

Hay Group found empathy was a strength for 33 percent of women in the database, compared to just 15 percent of men. Conflict management was seen as a strength in 51 percent of women, but just 29 percent of men.

Influence was a strength for 32 percent of women, compared to 21 percent of men. The study also found self-awareness strongly evident in 19 percent of women, but just 4 percent of men.

Among women and men below the executive level, gender disparities were less pronounced. However, the competencies required to effectively lead in a matrix environment proved to be scarce across the board. In Hay Group’s database, fewer than one quarter of those taking the inventory (22 percent) demonstrated a strong sense of empathy. Less than one third (31 percent) of individuals were found to hold strong conflict-management skills. Only 20 percent were found to have a strong sense of influence and just 9 percent of employees exhibit a strong sense of self-awareness.

"In traditional, hierarchical organizations, skills associated with individual achievement are required to lead, so it is no surprise that many of today’s leaders still need to develop and hone their more collaborative traits,” said Malloy. "As organizations become more global and the matrix environment becomes more common, their success will hinge on their leaders’ ability to leverage collaborative approaches. Organizations can help managers develop these skills by assisting them in understanding their own leadership styles, seeing how they mesh with the requirements of matrix leadership and adapting them to achieve successful business outcomes within the matrix environment.”



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