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The many colours of leadership

Source | www.livemint.com

Leadership literature has long been dominated by representations of the ideal leader as an individual who demonstrates strong traits, and is, ideally, male. Women leaders face multiple challenges, including getting stereotyped, bias in performance assessment and lack of guidance from other women leaders, which need to be addressed to create a space for equal narratives to emerge, according to a anew research by leadership development company OD Alternatives.

Key Findings

Some of the key findings of the report include:

Stereotype threat: Stereotype threat is a situational predicament in which people feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group, especially if they are in a minority in a given group. The stress arising out of this can undermine the actual performance in the setting. As the women’s leadership pipeline shrinks at senior levels, the very fact that they may be the only woman in the room can cause anxiety. The process of trying to suppress the anxiety, then takes up needed cognitive resources, which ultimately weakens performance on the task-at-hand.

Single template of leadership: The scope of organizational and/or institutional problems is huge and complex, but the definition of the leadership needed to solve all these problems, seems to come from a single template. Leaders are expected to be bold, ambitious, aggressive and risk-taking with very little space for qualities like humility, capability to listen, collaborative etc. Our study reveals that most organizations hold leaders up to leadership behaviours which are largely agentic and stereotypically masculine in nature. This poses a challenge for women leaders because if they come across as agentic and tough, they come across as “not woman enough” and if they are more democratic and nurturing, they are “not leader enough”.

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