Does leadership style matter?

The demand for humble leaders is increasing because they produce results and develop successful teams. Why are so many famous leaders arrogant?

Mark Zuckerberg (1)
Martyn Williams/IDGNS

Humble leaders produce results and develop successful teams because they inspire close teamwork and rapid learning. They understand their own weaknesses, recognize the strengths of others, and focus beyond themselves. They share the credit with their teams, which increases collaboration and loyalty. Companies are beginning to actively screen for humble leaders because they drive success – this implies that humility is a character trait, but is it valued equally for men and women?

Humility is a quality found more often in women leaders than in their male counterparts

Women build collaboration by communicating their vision and empowering others to contribute. Part of the difference is that women and men collaborate differently; women focus on helping others to accomplish the teams’ goals, while men are task oriented, concerned with playing their role well. Women devote more time and effort to team achievement. They may end up shouldering a more significant portion of the work, while men focus on their deliverables and the importance of their contribution. The way woman and men message their achievements and view their worth reflects this difference. Women see achievement as team success while men tend to look at their personal deliverable.

The term Servant Leaders refers to leaders with similar characteristics, developing their team, listening actively and showing they care. This philosophy provides a recipe for leaders to use to create collaboration and teamwork. It is a process to build humility. We need inclusive leadership now more than ever to handle the disruptive change, the rapid rate of technological advancement and the need for innovation. 

If humble leaders produce results, why are so many famous leaders arrogant?

Unfortunately, we base our view of good leadership on perception rather than results. We admire leaders who take-charge and provide answers.  We see them as winners. Flamboyant leaders with big egos are revered for being bold – they make the headlines. But arrogance and overconfidence are often confused with leadership skills. These leaders can ruin companies, because they take on too much responsibility, fail to ask for advice and have a false sense of their ability, all of which may lead to riskier decisions which put their companies at jeopardy. Men are more likely to overestimate their abilities (Dunning–Kruger effect shows that on average men rate their performance to be 30 percent better than it is).

Who are better decision makers in stressful situations?

Studies have found that under pressure men are more apt to take risks, they become focused on rewards (when their heart rates and cortisol levels are high). In similar situations women react differently; They weigh contingencies and are more interested in smaller guaranteed rewards. Studies have found that as they got closer to stressful situations, women’s decision making improved while men’s got worse.  Their reaction under stress is why women are often brought into organizations to lead in times of crisis.

I was a humble leader

I shared credit, inspired collaboration, delivered results and then waited to be recognized.  But, I used the pronoun WE too often when I should have said ‘ME’ and made my achievements known.  You see, I did not recognize the importance of taking credit for my accomplishments and contributions. Leaders, even humble leaders need to be vocal, claim credit, and ask for what they want for themselves and their teams. I learned too late that if you don’t share your story, someone else will take the credit.

Women need to be aware of the effect of unconscious bias and command the respect they deserve. Research shows that if a team solves a problem both men and women typically assume that a man was the leader. People expect men to make visible critical decisions, even when women make all the behind-the-scenes decisions. It is essential to distinguish between leaders who exude confidence and those that demonstrate competence. For women, it is critical that your managers recognize and appreciate the value you bring to the table. Be proud of your ambition, your accomplishments and be visible! 

Use your empathy, compassion, and team-building to be successful. Women’s leadership style is different from men. Women are more willing than men to reinvent the rules, create/sell their visions. They have the determination to turn challenges into opportunities and listen to the advice of others. Humble leaders are in demand and women bring these qualities to the table – capitalize on this quality to be a better leader.

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