As a whole, women lead differently than men do, and this is good news for the future of business. Since the start of capitalism, business cultures have been designed according to male norms – understandably, because, until the 1960s, women were not seen in positions other than the secretary, teacher, and nurse. Since then, several modern phenomena[1] have converged to open the door to the possibility of women’s equal participation in business and all other professions. It is imperative for women in leadership to understand different leadership styles, which ones come more naturally to women, and choose the right style for the situation. In this way, we will influence the organizations we run to be more humane, more effective, and produce better results.

Business Meeting

Types of Leadership Styles

Different types of leadership styles create the culture or personality of the organization, which in turn affects the profitability and effectiveness of the company[2]. A high-performance culture that is both caring of and empowering to employees has been shown to produce better financial results. The tenets of Conscious Capitalism acknowledge that “Conscious Leadership” is one of four building blocks of a conscious organization[3]. The other three tenets are a higher purpose, stakeholder integration, and conscious culture. Furthermore, McKinsey’s Women Matter report[4], produced annually by the global management consultancy, identifies nine leadership behaviors that contribute to an organization’s success and financial results. Of the nine, five are utilized more often by female leaders. Leadership behavior affects both culture and the effectiveness of the company.

Do you want to want to build the culture and financial success of your company? Read on to learn about the nine leadership behaviors that will help you do that.

McKinsey’s 9 Effective Leadership Behaviors

The following are the nine McKinsey leadership behaviors that improve organizational performance, listed in order of frequency used. Read through the list and rate the frequency with which you use each behavior.

McKinsey Leadership Behavior table

Significantly, the first five leadership behaviors are more commonly used by women than by men.

What stands out about this list is the inclusion of two decidedly different decision-making styles: both participative and individualistic decision-making. Participative is listed first as the most effective decision-making style, but individualistic also makes the cut. That indicates that both styles are effective but must be used in the right circumstance. As a general rule, participative decision making is most effective in building a positive work environment, but it demands more consultation and time than unilaterally making a decision. In some situations, you don’t have time to seek participation or can’t encourage it because of the sensitive nature of the decision.  Emergency situations demand an individualistic decision-making behavior, but strategic and procedural issues are good candidates for inviting participation.

Woman in charge, boss lady, woman in conference room

Interestingly, men demonstrate both individualistic decision-making and control and corrective action behaviors more often than do women. Combined, these characteristics create the traditional command-and-control management environment, in which employees are expected to obey the rules created by the boss and can expect punishment if they don’t. Notice that the McKinsey report doesn’t discourage these behaviors but encourages them in moderation and in appropriate situations. Women leaders need to understand that always being “nice,” avoiding confrontation, and not holding employees accountable are not effective approaches to building a high-performance team. Again, knowing when to use each leadership style is the key to high performance as a boss.


Women managers – learn to choose a leadership style that suits the situation and experiment with styles that are uncomfortable to you. Embrace your natural leadership strengths!

Feminine Power

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[1] Including the availability of the birth control pill, the civil rights and equal rights movements, and governmental legislation.

[2] Kotter & Heskett

[3] Mackey & Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism.

[4] McKinsey, Women Matter 2007.


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