When it comes to 21st-century leadership, it’s a woman’s world. New research shows that women outperform men in key leadership traits—and corporate America is getting the hint. Here are some of the skills that help women demonstrate leadership and advance their careers.
Communication: Over 3,000 male and female managers surveyed for Apollo Research Institute’s new book, Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders, rated communication as the most important 21st-century leadership skill. They also described women as better communicators than men. This trait will help women leaders cultivate team members, assign tasks based on people’s working style, and set engaging goals for personal growth.
Lifelong learning: The surveyed managers also ranked continuous learning as the top activity for effective leaders. Women have a strong advantage here too. They currently earn 57% of all college degrees, and obtain slightly more master’s degrees and doctorates than men, which prepares them for advancement, starting businesses, or to change careers repeatedly over work lives that can now span 50 years or more.
Soft leadership skills: An IBM survey cited in Women Lead found that 81% of CEOs said people skills would be their top priority over the next five years. These leadership traits will be needed as team-based, collaborative management replaces rigid, top-down corporate hierarchies of the past—and women are ready to provide them. Managers in Apollo Research Institute’s leadership survey rated female leaders higher than male leaders on “soft” leadership qualities like empathy, collaboration, and acting ethically. The public agrees; in a Pew Research study, they described leadership traits like compassion, creativity, and honesty as more apparent in women than in men.
Entrepreneurial mindset: As independent workers and business creators, women entrepreneurs generated $1.3 trillion in revenue and employed almost 7.7 million people in 2011. Working for themselves grants many women career satisfaction work-life flexibility, but full-time employees can also embrace the entrepreneurial spirit through self-advocacy. For instance, according to Women Lead, women who regularly negotiate their salaries can raise their lifetime earnings by $1 million or more.
Tech savvy: Today’s project-oriented workplace runs on the Internet, mobile technology, and social networks. Defying the men-only stereotype, women are enthusiastic early adopters of home and business technology, participating in 89% of all buying decisions for consumer electronics. All industries value tech-literate workers; one in five managers surveyed in Women Lead called technology proficiency a top-three skill for effective leadership. And because the primary breadwinners in over half of U.S. households are now women, mastering the tech needed for telecommuting can help them balance the demands of family with their careers, no matter where they set up their laptops.