4 female leadership styles to learn from

The secrets of female CEOs revealed. What women at all levels can learn from the four female leadership styles that dominate the corporate world today.

Women’s issues are gaining prominence around the world, but when it comes to running teams and heading up boardrooms, female leaders are still a minority.

The majority of large companies are led by male-dominated management teams that promote an alpha male culture. This makes it all the more difficult for women to break through middle management and lead inclusive teams.

Leadership experts Ana Marinovic and Steve Tappin spoke to 150 of the world’s top female CEOs and uncovered new barriers for gender progress in the corporate world.

Most women they surveyed are reluctant to talk about corporate culture and the difference in leadership styles between men and women.

Marinovic and Tappin have compiled their research in a new book, Secrets of Female CEOs – 150 Female CEOs on business life and leadership. The biggest insight gleaned from their research remains that not enough women at the top are talking about the inherent differences between the way men and women lead, out of concern that this may suggest that they’re not on equal ground.

Marinovic is an international consultant and advocate for female leaders, and co-author, Tappin, is a CEO expert and host of BBC CEO Guru. They have summarized four different types of female leadership that currently dominate the corporate world, as a way to encourage and inspire women in business.

Female pioneers

Female pioneers are generally late “Generation X” and “Baby Boomers”, generally having joined the workforce in the 1970s and 80s when the glass ceiling was an almost insurmountable reality. These leaders made it to the top after decades of having to play down their innate leadership styles and tend to act more in the manner of alpha male leaders.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, gender stereotypes were a matter of course and taken as truths. Women were seen as incapable of leading unless they displayed ‘masculine’ behavior, and being ‘one of the boys’.

These women are often female power dressers, like Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel, but underlying this is that they have consistently faced being labeled as the ‘token woman’.

Female pioneers are generally forthright and no-nonsense and are used to backing up their decisions with hard facts and data. In the Arab world, examples include Morocco’s Amina Benkhadhry. Read more about her journey here.

Feminine leaders

These women are generally “Generation X” executives who joined the workforce in the liberal 90s. They have been exposed to more equality in the workplace, within reason, following the footsteps of the female pioneers before them.

“When there is a woman in the room things get talked about more.”

They inject their own personality into their leadership style and generally play up ‘feminine’ qualities at work.  

In the book, these leaders explain: “When there is a woman in the room things get talked about more,” which is why they openly display qualities associated with women, such as being caring, nurturing and better listeners. An example in the Arab world is Jordan’s Queen Rania, who embraces her feminine strengths to influence and inspire women in the region and beyond.

The integrated woman

These women are generally from all generations, either having evolved their leadership styles over the years or newer entrants in the workforce. They have gained strong influence at work through their ambition and drive to succeed on their own personality rather than what is expected of women at work.

These women have generally integrated their personal experiences in the way they lead and are very good at collaborating, empowering, connecting and collaborating with both men and women. An example is Algeria’s Sonia Ziamni, who heads up the Algiers Medina Project to revitalize the nation’s business infrastructure. Read more about her journey here.

Women of inspiration

Women of inspiration are the women of today. These women are from all generations and generally display all of the other female leadership types. They are driven by a higher, global purpose of furthering female representation at all levels.

They are often globally recognized, socially savvy, and are vocal about the dearth of women in roles of influence. Their leadership goals are to create a chain reaction to embolden young women to reach the top. There are a number of inspirational examples in the Arab world today. Read more about the 26 Arab women of influence here.

Check out our infographic on the four most inspirational female leadership styles for more.

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