Female leadership: Is it different?

August 4, 2012

Gregg R. Murray, Ph.D., has an interesting blog on www.psychologytoday called “Caveman Politics: How evolution impacts politics.” His latest post is: “Where are the female candidates?

He notes that in the 2012 election season we have a paucity of female candidates. None for president, of course, but also no gubernatorial candidates. Around the world only 1% of government national leaders are female. He then cites statistics on other types of executive leadership in the business world, where there are few female CEOs. He even goes back to look at the number of female Egyptian pharoahs and royalty around the world over the centuries. Also few females.

This is interesting (and, as a female, disheartening), but makes me recall this fact: For years primate researchers only studied the obvious “leadership” of the male non-human primates. They only noticed the tree-shaking rages and rampages, the overt power and sexual dominance. Fortunately, some researchers are now noting that females also exert leadership, but it is not as obvious to human observers (who may be mostly male?). We now know that female apes and chimps use their social skills to influence, persuade, calm, cajole and nurture. They may not shake trees and scream, but they lead all the same. In humans we now call this Emotional Intelligence (thank you, Daniel Goleman). Good leaders use all forms of emotional communication, not just aggression, dominance and violence. (Which I discuss in my book “Pack Leader Psychology.”) Perhaps we need to look at not just the socially noticeable forms of leadership (CEO, president, etc.) and note that women really do lead, just in a different way.  Makes me think of: “Behind every successful man is a good woman.” Let’s recognize and honor all the ways humans lead (and should lead), not just the male-approved versions.