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Annie Hayes

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Women ‘better leaders’

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Women are more likely to have the leadership characteristics essential for high performance in today’s workplace, a new study suggests.

The research, from leadership consultants the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD), suggests that while men believe they are more competent than women, the reverse is true.

Chris Parry, CHPD chief executive, said: “Today’s fast-changing and dynamic working environment requires leadership characteristics such as understanding complexity, building relationships, getting buy-in from others, having clarity and vision and focusing on results.

“Our research among almost 1,500 managers and leaders has shown that women possess these characteristics to a greater degree than men, particularly in the earlier stages of their career. You could therefore argue that women are better equipped than men to be successful leaders in today’s business environment.”

The study’s findings are not reflected in reality in the business world. According to the Female FTSE Report on the number of women in British boardrooms, in 2004 only 17% of new board appointments were women and a third of companies were still operating without a single women on the board.

According to Chris Parry, there are a number of reasons why, despite their abilities, women are not being appointed to the most senior positions in UK businesses.

“Men communicate up the hierarchy of any organisation much more actively than women. They are much more visible and familiar to leaders and so are more likely to be noticed and considered for top positions.

“Furthermore, the natural communication style for men – direct and absolute – is valued in male dominated environments and this means men are often credited with being confident and having more ‘gravitas’ than women. Finally, women tend to dislike ‘office politics’, which are an essential ingredient for success, and while not all men are politically astute, most politically astute individuals are men.”

The findings were unveiled today at a ‘Women in Leadership’ conference given by CHPD at the Institute of Directors.

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Annie Hayes

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