I was invited as a guest speaker at the third Women's Business Management Contest to talk about the role of Shared Leadership as a management tool in order to give students who, one day, might be the future leaders in companies, politics and society a broad overview of the topic.
Women and Shared Leadership
When talking about some of the advice, Peace, Manz & Sims offer to practitioners who want to foster Shared Leadership, I realized that some of this advice sounded like it was directed more at men, than at women. Things like: "Keep Egos in check" or: "Be respectfull and listen".
My girlfriend would probably add "... and remeber, too!" to this.
In this presentation however, I did not have the time to adress that research points towards the posibility that women are more likely to engange in forms of Shared Leadership than men are. For example, Miriam Muethel, Sarah Gehrlein and Martin Hoegl did a study with 96 teams from 36 companies with a total of 337 team members found that teams with a higher percentage of women demonstrated higher levels of shared leadership. They attribute this to a female tendency for participative and cooperative behaviors as compared to more authoritative leadership styles exhibited by men.
In addition to this Anne Konu and Elina Viitanen tested the occurence of Shared Leadership in the Finish social service with 433 employees. They found that shared leadership was more practiced by women than by men. This is especially intersting, since this effect was also more pronounced if the participants were nurses rather than medical doctors. So women at lower or middle managment levels were more likely to show shared leadership compared to men overall and other women at higher organizational levels.
So it seems women are generally more willing to have others participating in leadership then men are, so maybe the advice for women should be accordingly different and focus more on the interaction between mixed-gender teams in order to encourage all genders to participate equally.
This seems especially important since Shared Leadership by itself does not cause women to have equal influence within teams, as Maria Mendez and colleagues found. Their research showed that even in commitees mostly made up of college educated women, men showed stronger influence on the proceedings even if leadership was shared accross team members and was not focused. So while women tend to show more shared leadership, shared leadership is not the solution to empowering women, it seems.
The gender interaction in the shared leadership process is quite interesting, though, to my knowledge, there is no research about it to date. Luckily for the women attending my presentation, there is lots of advice by Pearce and colleagues that also also valuable to them.
So I enjoyed that talk and next time I'll have a pure female audience, I'll tailor the advice more specifically to them.
- Pearce, C. L., Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (Eds.). (2014). Share, don't take the lead. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
- Muethel, M., Gehrlein, S., & Hoegl, M. (2012). Socio-demographic factors and shared leadership behaviors in dispersed teams: Implications for human resource management. Human Resource Management, 51(4), 525–548. doi:10.1002/hrm.21488
- Konu, A., & Viitanen, E. (2008). Shared leadership in Finnish social and health care. Leadership in Health Services, 21(1), 28–40. doi:10.1108/17511870810845888
- Mendez, M. J., Busenbark J. R. (2013). Shared leadership and gender: All members are equal... but some more than others. Leadership & Organization Development Journal 36(1), 17-34. doi: 10.1108/lodj-11-2012-0147