Effective Women Leadership: Imitating or Being Authentic?

by Tatiana Bessmertnaya

Have you ever met these types of business women who copy paste men’s style?

In our business lives we see many examples of how former subordinates begin to imitate their former boss’ style taking them as a role model for successful and effective management. Or business women demonstrate men’s styles, acting in a certain way to meet the norms set by others within a male-dominated business culture.

What is the reason behind the choice to imitate men’s styles? Is “copy paste” just the easiest way? Is it the thinking of being less competent than men? Is it lack of self-confidence to express who they are and to embrace a wider range of leadership characteristics needed to run an organisation effectively? Is it women’s fear to integrate more aspects of herself into an existing community? Or is it a strong inner setting that to be successful in the business world you should act and be like a man?

Each and everyone has their own reason. But what do experts say about women’s authentic style and competencies? According to research carried out by Korn Ferry, women are rated higher than their male counterparts in 17 out of 21 critical leadership skills, including operating and interpersonal ones, courage and drive – competencies that enable women to connect with customers, engage employees and build talent.

Moreover the latest Hay Group Korn Ferry results, unveiled in March 2016, shows that women outperform men in nearly all emotional intelligence competencies, including emotional self-awareness, demonstrating empathy, coaching and mentoring, influence, inspirational leadership, conflict management, organisational awareness, adaptability, teamwork and achievement orientation, except for emotional self-control, where no gender differences were observed. Experts say that women more effectively employ the emotional and social competencies, correlated with effective leadership and management, than men. Through these competencies men and women are able to boost performance within their organisations, accomplishing their goals through both internal and external stakeholders.

Commenting on these results, Boyatzis, Ph.D, from Case Western Reserve University said: “Historically in the workplace, there has been a tendency for women to self-evaluate themselves as less competent, while men tend to overrate themselves in their competences. Research shows that the reality is often the opposite. If more men acted like women in employing their emotional and social competences, they would be substantially and distinctly more effective in their work”, he added.

By understanding what is most important at the desired level in terms of skills and competencies, by understanding women’s natural strengths and areas that need development, women-leaders can focus on their development efforts in the areas which will help their career and developing their unique style of management.

How to start? The first step is to ask yourself, why do you want to change? Why do you need this? What will be different when you employ a more authentic style? Each woman will have an individual answer based on her own values and inner reasons, but all these answers will give a great motivation to go ahead and will give the courage to succeed.

Another step – getting real feedback; be ready to handle it and demonstrate to people that you can handle it. It may not be easy to hear, but ask for candid feedback. Women personalise and internalise feedback. No one would like to have a situation when someone says one thing to you and other thing about you – so it is important to build people around you who could provide you with real feedback.

Taking time for reflection can raise awareness of yourself and your purpose. By checking with themselves periodically, women can gain better appreciation of the factors and circumstances that have brought them to their current situation, while also helping them to decide on how to shape their leadership in the future.

By asking herself a question on the possible greatest impact she wants to have going forward and how she can drive value for the organisation and the people using her unique capabilities in the ways others may not, can enable women to discover their sense of purpose and powerful motivation. A driving purpose becomes a motivation to take greater risks and take on roles that might otherwise be uncomfortable, and energise them to be more resilient during challenges.

With greater authenticity, thanks to deeper self-awareness and a clarified sense of purpose, women can more fully embrace new opportunities and to become their best and devote their full capabilities to their leadership.

And what’s your authentic leadership style?


  • Orr, J. Evelyn.2015. Best Practice Series: Women Leadership. Los Angeles: Korn Ferry Institute
  • “Emotional and Social Competency Inventory Research” by Korn Ferry Hay Group

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