Q&A: How Can Women Identify and Express Their Unique Leadership Style?

CoachHub · 5 May 2022 · 4 min read

When many people think of a strong leader, they often automatically consider commandeering or controlling leaders they’ve encountered in the past. But women who have broken the glass ceiling have proven there’s more than one style of leadership that works. In fact, research into leadership differences between genders has shown both men and women have similar tendencies when it comes to leading teams, but that when they differ, the unique leadership approach women take is more likely to be effective. 

What are these differences between how men and women approach leadership tasks, and how can we encourage women to lean into their own leadership styles? We caught up with Mélanie Gatti, Human Resources Training and Development Manager at Nexity, to learn more about what women in leadership bring to the table. Gatti is a Training Manager for Nexity – Private Property Services. She is in charge of the career management and development of over 4000 employees.

Expert Analysis: Women Have a Unique Leadership Style

CoachHub: Is there a distinctive female leadership style which stands out from a male leadership style?

Gatti: In my view, the main difference lies in the way leadership is expressed and supported. Men and women don’t express their leadership in the same way and consequently they don’t need the same things in order to get on.

In terms of behavior, I find that women are more focused on people and on other people’s feelings and experiences. They take the time to get to know the people they’re dealing with better and to identify the ways they work. They display a good ability to listen and a willingness to understand the other person. This flair for active listening makes them better able to adapt and communicate, which is a real advantage when managing a team. Finally, I’ve noted that women also often display more kindness, cooperation and empathy.

 

CoachHub: What is preventing women from developing as leaders and expressing themselves in today’s work environment?

Gatti: I think they’re held back by the way women are viewed. They have to prove themselves before they’re taken seriously, while men are often taken seriously from the outset. People are used to seeing men in leadership roles, and this is less often the case for women, who have to compensate by constantly demonstrating their skills. Some people possess natural leadership skills but in most cases it’s something that has to be learned and which you acquire over time. 

At the start of their careers, women don’t have the same opportunities to develop their unique leadership skills, which means they need to demonstrate their legitimacy and professionalism, whereas a man will be naturally and directly taken seriously.

 

CoachHub: During your career, have you encountered any specific difficulties as a woman? If so, what are your methods for overcoming them?

Gatti: Yes, I encountered difficulties at the start of my career when I found myself in typically masculine environments. For example, in the factories, on the assembly lines, 90% of the people working there are men. I could feel that they were suspicious of me and that I needed to demonstrate my legitimacy. My method was to assert myself, to confront them and to dare to look them in the eye. This made it possible to instill respect and subsequently a good working relationship. Ultimately, these sometimes-difficult moments helped me to grow as a person and gave me a massive boost. I’m much better able to handle things today because I faced uncomfortable situations when I was very young.

 

CoachHub: How can the company help women to release their full potential and express their unique leadership qualities?

Gatti: By ensuring that it treats all of its staff equally. This means a relationship

based on trust and confidence and recognizing the talents of all employees.

In terms of training, the HR departments can propose a wide range of solutions. I’m a big believer in mentoring female leaders to help talented young female staff who are highly competent but need support to gain self-confidence. Personalized coaching or co-development can also be highly effective in helping women to overcome their hesitations, obstacles and beliefs.

I think it’s also important to make people aware of the key data showing that despite the progress being made, there’s still a long way to go before we achieve equality between men and women in the workplace. It’s important to demonstrate this objectively, with statistics, feedback and personal accounts during conferences or discussions.

Finally, the management committees of companies need to set an example, both by ensuring that women are sufficiently represented and also in ensuring they are positively portrayed. We  need to change things at the highest level and from the inside, to set off a “butterfly effect.”

Moving Forward

To hear what other female leaders had to say about supporting women in the workplace, access our eBook, “Women in leadership: Creating supportive workspaces.” We’re always here to help you assess the best options for digital coaching opportunities for women in your organization. Schedule a time to connect so we can discuss how to rethink your people development strategy.

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