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What academic researchers are saying about gender and leadership


Heard in the ivory tower: What academic researchers are saying about
gender and leadership.

Good news and bad news were shared by two very interesting researchers at the Academy of Management meetings in Denver, CO.

Alice Eagly gave us the good news. She did a statistical analysis of 162 research studies addressing similarities and differences in the leadership styles of men and women. She and her collaborators found that when you compare transformational leadership behaviors to transactional leadership behaviors, women tend to be more transformational and men more transactional. Transformational leadership has been demonstrated to be a more effective leadership style than transactional leadership.Eagly decided that since women managers are living with a double standard they have to be better leaders to even be in leadership positions, and so they are.

Transactional Leadership
Transactional leaders motivate people towards established goals, clarify roles and tasks, and provide resources for the implementation of those goals. An effective transactional leader recognizes that we are working for a reason, that we want something from work, and therefore tries to ensure that we get what we want from work if/when our performance merits it.
Transactional leaders motivate through the active management of work for rewards.

Transformational Leadership
Transformational leaders motivate people to transcend self-interest
and self-imposed limits for a greater collective vision. The transformational leader raises the level of awareness, level of follower consciousness about the significance and value of designated outcomes, and increases follower’s sense of there being viable ways of reaching shared goals. Transformational leaders get people to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the team, the organization or society. They are called transformational leaders because, by focusing on follower needs and input, they empower followers to become leaders themselves – in short they transform followers into leaders. Transactional and Transformational Leadership are terms developed by Bass and D’Avolio in their Multi-factor leadership model.

The bad news was shared by Virginia Schein. She did a cross cultural study of gender and management with both students and managerial leaders in corporations. She found out that men do not see women as leadermanagerial
material. When men think manager-leader, they think male. They do not think female. Women see both men and women as potential leaders. Schein’s conclusion:

“Think manager, think male” is the single most challenging barrier for women managers. Together these studies represent an important new direction for gender research. In both cases the research was collaborative and cross-cultural. While we may be somewhat disappointed that there are still barriers, we can also be optimistic that people are beginning to recognize
women can be as effective as their male counterparts, if/when they actually get to lead.

Alice Eagly’s research is on sex differences in attitudes on social and political issues, with special attention to understanding what variables may account for these differences. She continues to work on gender and leadership, with special interest in the leadership styles of women and men. Author of "Working from the Margins: Voices of Mothers in Poverty (1995), Virginia Schein is recognized internationally for her research on sex role stereotypes and requisite management characteristics, on the issues of enhancing women's opportunities in the workplace and on organizational change.

Learn more about Dr. Robin Johnson at



Thanks for this important posting.
I will read more about "transformational" leadership.
Will also immediately visit the KnowledgeCrush site.

Ms. Maria-Sara Jijon
Quito, Ecuador
Mobile: +593.8.706-1211

It is interesting to note that leadership has become a gender based word, when in fact, it is merit and quality based. This is an issue I am facing in my work at the moment. It is interesting to note that in a country where gender equity has been practiced for the last 20-30 years, we still associate leadership with gender. What does this say for developing countries who are just beginning to deal with such issues. Did the research team come up with any solutions to changing the views of leadership as a male based term vs. quality? What can female leaders do to combat such racist stereotypes?

Kagwii's picture

What can we do?

Thank you for this informative post.
Just to echo my sisters, how long can we continue to work twice as hard so as to merit the managerial leaders and can we just concentrate on our strengths in transformational leadership and do our thing like women as opposed to trying to be like men? The question then is how relevant shall we be in a world that continues to promote the transactional leader?

cpleiva09's picture


transformational leadership. all for it. however, leadership role for transformational leadership are few..and at time resented by senior workers. leadership is shaped by variables of race, nationality, and gender. the international development sector it seems to be one example of resistance to it. leadership and our voices shapes our knowledge!

Claudia Patricia Leiva

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