Norwegian research questions traditional management hierarchy

A study into the leadership qualities of 2,900 managers by academics at BI Norwegian Business School suggests women are more highly suited than men to leadership roles.

Hierarchy illustrated by pyramid of pins
Women performed better on most key leadership behaviours than their male counterparts according to research by Oslo-based Professor Øyvind L Martinsen, head of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour, and his colleague, Professor Lars Glasø.

Survey into female and male leadership

They surveyed the personality traits of over 2,900 managers – more than 900 women, more than 900 in senior management and nearly 900 from the public sector – and found female leaders score higher than men in four of the five categories measured.

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According to the analysis, women rank higher on initiative and clear communication, openness and ability to innovate, sociability and supportiveness, as well as methodical management and goal setting.“Our results indicate that women naturally rank higher, in general, than men in their abilities to innovate and lead with clarity and impact,” explained Professor Martinsen, adding. “These findings pose a legitimate question about the construction of management hierarchy and the current dispensation of women in these roles.”

Productivity implications of fewer female leaders

Women fared comparatively less well on ability to withstand job-related pressure and stress. “The survey suggests that female leaders may falter through their stronger tendency to worry,” observed Professor Glasø.“However, this does not negate the fact that they are decidedly more suited to management positions than their male counterparts. If decision-makers ignore this truth, they could effectively be employing less qualified leaders and impairing productivity.”

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