Advice for Women: Think Bold, Take Credit

Last Updated Nov 11, 2008 9:14 AM EST

Do women lead differently then men?

In my career I've reported to more women than men -- seven females, four males -- and here is my observation: People's leadership skills are more a function of intelligence (emotional and intellectual), personality, and inner belief than genetic makeup. I've had "tough" female bosses and "soft" male bosses. I don't prefer one sex over the other.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article on this subject, and turned to Harvard Business School leadership expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter for her take. Here are several highlights.

  • On Leadership Style "There's no one single set of characteristics. Good leadership is good whether it's exercised by a man or a woman. The 21st century model of the good leader is a leader who is a little more humble, not arrogant the way they were in the 90s. [It's] a leader who surrounds himself or herself with people who are smarter than they are, at least about certain things; a leader who is inclusive, listens to many points of view, and is collaborative. "
  • On Stereotypes "The issue is not that women were different from men in their leadership, but that we had a lot of assumptions about social roles that didn't give women a chance to show what they could do as leaders."
  • On Why There Aren't More Women Thought Leaders in Business "One of the last places for groups that have been excluded to be taken seriously is around the power of their ideas.... The question of who we listen to, whose ideas, whose voice is considered authoritative, who's the authority figure, I think that's a little harder. To get attention for one's ideas also means being willing to speak up, take risks, and work on big ideas. And so I can't answer the question really, but all I can say is that that's what I encourage women to do in every field: have bold ideas and try to get credit for them. That's what will make the change."
What do you think it will take to have more women as business and thought leaders?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.