Though people generally tend to think of “boldness” as a masculine trait, a new study published by the Harvard Business Review finds that, on average, women are bolder leaders than men. Quartz reports researchers found that bold behavior increased for women in male-dominated sectors, and it was especially strong among younger women.
In the study, researchers examined the behavior of 75,000 leaders from around the world, assessing their boldness in terms of seven key behaviors. The observed women leaders:
- Challenged standard approaches
- Created an atmosphere of continual improvement
- Did everything possible to achieve goals
- Got others to go beyond what they originally thought possible
- Energized others to take on challenging goals
- Quickly recognized situations where change is needed
- Had the courage to make needed changes
These findings tie in with what my Leading Women co-author, Dr. Lois Frankel, writes, “If there was a time in history that cried out for women to lead, that time is now.”
For centuries women have unwittingly honed the quintessential qualities that are necessary for successful leadership. Whether acquired through nature or nurture, women are adept in building relationships, encouraging and motivating others, carefully crafting communications, and building environments of trust and safety. It is these qualities that qualify women as outstanding, and yes, bold leaders.
Dr. Frankel also points out that women have a great track record of leadership. The Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, the PTA and United Way were all founded by women wanting to make a difference. In Colonial times, women tackled a host of issues like moral reform, care of widows, children and the mentally ill, conditions for women prisoners, aid for soldiers, temperance, abolition of slavery, suffrage, libraries, the environment, culture, health issues, and more. All of these actions further demonstrating that women are indeed bold.
To position more women to act boldly and take the leadership positions, we need to look at the barriers that may be holding women back – the existing societal and institutional structure – along with women’s own attitudes. Women are often reluctant to negotiate and advocate for themselves. They fear being perceived as unfeminine, and worry – with good reason – that their success makes them less likeable. It is the attitudes and fear of personal power that my co-author Gloria Feldt believes are holding women back. Recognizing these barriers, and working together to remove them, will advance us all.
We, as women, all need to embrace our power and act boldly now. We must take our seat at the table and make our voices heard. When we all work together and take active steps to create opportunity, and recognize and support the full potential of women, we are opening the door for all women to follow. It is time to be bold, join hands with our sisters and unite our voices, our actions, and our strength. That’s how change happens, and how together we can achieve full equality and change the world.