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I am manager, hear me roar! Comparing managerial styles of male and female managers

Posted by Deb Muoio

Mar 3, 2014 9:48:00 AM


Gender comparisons are always a hot topic. Who is the better driver, negotiator, or more skilled at handling money? Or today’s question: Who makes a better manager? Stereotypes tend to run amuck when comparing male and female managers/bosses. Common opinions are that female managers don’t take charge as well as men do. Or that they overcompensate, take charge a little too forcefully, and become mean and vindictive. Clearly, the only conclusion that can be drawn from anecdotal evidence is that there is no real consensus. As one anonymous pundit so cleverly put it, “My best boss was a woman….my worst boss was also a woman.”

In our research on managerial styles, we attempted to answer not so much who was better at managing, but rather, what made men and women’s management styles different. Data collected from MANSSA – Ab (Management Skills and Styles Assessment – Abridged) reveals that while men outscored women on skills and traits related to the business side of management (Managerial Courage – 78 vs. 73 on a scale from 0 to 100; Nose for Opportunity – 74 vs. 71; Comfort with Risk-taking – 65 vs. 62), women scored higher on scales related to employee relations and development, including Recruitment and Hiring (72 vs. 67), Giving Praise (85 vs. 79), Rewarding Performance (77 vs. 72), and Building Effective Teams (76 vs. 72). Women were also more likely to have clear ethical standards about their behavior as a manager and the organization as a whole, and were more comfortable delegating, considering it an essential aspect of empowering employees. Female managers’ excelled in the more personable side of management as well, showing stronger social skills, empathy, and insight.

It seems, based on our data, that it’s not so much that one gender is more skilled than the other. On average, male and female managers just have different approaches and strengths. Female managers seem to have a more “nurturing” managerial approach, but the fact that they also excel in the HR aspect of management makes them well-rounded leaders. They can recruit, hire, train, and develop their staff quite competently. Excelling as a manager means that a person needs to be able to juggle multiple roles, and our data show that women are very good at this.

Gender aside, which traits characterize good managers in general? Comparing test-takers whose performance was rated as “Good” vs. those who were only “Satisfactory,” our data indicate that the former group proved to be, among other things, more adaptable (77 vs. 71), more ethical (78 vs. 71), better at resolving conflict with employees (71 vs. 64), and showed better self-control (73 vs. 66). In terms of managerial level, low-level managers were outscored by mid-level and top-level managers in Managerial Courage (which includes issues like confronting unproductive employees, firing, giving poor performance reviews), Charisma, Passion, Motivating, and Authoritativeness. Top-level and mid-level managers also had what we dubbed “a nose for opportunity” which consists of strong business sense and the ability to find and take advantage of business opportunities.

So why is this important? The fact is, hiring a manager is arguably one of the most difficult yet crucial tasks, and isn’t something that should be rushed or done haphazardly. Many studies have clearly demonstrated that the majority of people who quit their job do so for a reason that is related to managerial competencies (or rather lack thereof). Yet, it is a common practice to promote a well-performing employee with excellent technical skills into a managerial position without a second thought about whether the person has what it takes to lead others. What’s the result? A very expensive mistake. Not only have you moved a great specialist into an admin position, you have also spoiled the team dynamics, made it more likely for them to leave, and decreased productivity of the entire team. Then you have to spend time and money on recruiting replacements, dealing with conflict and doing other damage control.

Companies looking for a good manager need to put aside gender stereotypes and instead, take a serious look at what their organization needs. If the goal is to empower staff and help them reach their full potential, a manager with strong mentoring and coaching skills is a good option. If company operations are in need of a complete overhaul, a manager with a more strategic approach may be a better fit during the planning stage, and one with a tough skin and better tactical skills for implementation. The manager needs to fit the environment, atmosphere, dynamic - not the other way around.

If you’re interested in using MANSSA – Ab (Management Skills and Styles Assessment – Abridged) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial for ARCH Profile here

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Topics: HR Tips, Recruitment, Hiring, Management Skills

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