By – Nishchal Singh Mba, Kusom “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ” – John C. Maxwell “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. ” – Theodore M. Hesburgh 1. Introduction: Women and Leadership Currently, there are countless definitions and conceptual views regarding leadership. Although the concept of leadership has been discussed in the literature since the late nineteenth century, it remains difficult to obtain one definition that encompasses the true meaning of leadership.
In fact, the desire to understand the precise meaning of leadership has sparked the interest of countless researchers in the twentieth century by the publication of articles attempting to focus on how an effective leader would be able to influence others. These articles have given different views regarding leadership and their effectiveness. Every individual perceives leadership in different light. To better understand the true meaning of leadership, antecedents of leadership must be identified (Jennifer Porterfield and Brian H. Kleiner, 2005). Antecedents are those events or incidents that must occur prior to the incident or concept”. A select few characteristics (antecedents) appeared repeatedly throughout the literature. Some of these desired leadership traits are: An individual who is a skillful communicator, a motivator, one who translates visions into reality, one who provides direction in times of change and someone who is well informed. Leadership creates a true vision of what an ideal model of leadership should be. His thoughts define leadership as a process which gives direction in times of adversity and inspires others by building team work.
In the past, leadership consisted of the leader’s ability, behaviors, style and charisma. In the twenty first century, leadership has embraced a different dimension, which includes collaborative efforts among group members. Therefore, the essence of leadership is not solely the responsibility of the leader, but the relationship between the leader and the subordinates. Leadership has traditionally been construed as a masculine enterprise with special challenges and pitfalls for women. This perception raises the very interesting question of how women lead and what leadership style should they adopt to be successful leaders.
Women have not been able to uplift themselves to the top level. They have not been given much chance rather they are not considered of having those qualities and attributes to be a leader. They have been facing different challenges to climb up the organizational ladder. But slowly we can see few women who have made it to the top and proved to be effective leaders. They have great leadership qualities. The presence of greater number of women in positions of power has produced new opportunities to observe female leaders along with male leaders.
Women have always been exercising leadership in families and throughout communities. This shows that they always had leadership qualities but have not been provided enough opportunities to demonstrate their talent. But although women’s status has improved in the twentieth century in many countries, they continue to lack power and leadership compared to men. This paper aims to provide a clear picture of women leadership. It shows where women are positioned when we talk about leadership and their abilities and qualities as a leader. It also depicts the challenges that they face in this male dominant society.
The paper also talks about women’s leadership style and roles in organizational context. It also illustrates the various opportunities that they can explore in today’s world to become a successful leader. Relevant practical insights are also provided to support the theories. 2. Major Challenges: Challenges that the woman are facing to become a successful leader and so as to demonstrate their leadership There are many challenges that women are facing in today’s organization. When we talk about leadership, there are several obstacles that women have to overcome to become successful.
From generations we can see that women have not been given the leadership roles. They have always been sort of dominated in this male ruled society. Although this dominance by men in the society in many countries has decreased, still women have not found their way to lead and to portray their leadership qualities. There are still many difficulties in the internal as well as in the external environment. Much of women’s leadership over the centuries has been invisible because the question of leadership has been viewed through gender biased lenses (Dr.
Musimbi Kanyoro, 2006). According to Dr. Musimbi the overriding assumption about what was important and where leadership was happening excluded places where women have always provided leadership. Often women are leading in ensuring that families function well and have necessities for development. Women are running the “Caring Industry,” by managing the well being of the sick, the children and the elderly etc. Women are resolving conflict and finding solutions for issues in communities. Women throughout history have always been making priorities, budgets, and action plans.
Women have always been pulling together to make something happen, but all of these have been viewed as ordinary and domestic work, performed in the private sphere that did not qualify for leadership. So the main challenge here is to make women’s leadership visible. There are many women today who are working hard to demonstrate their leadership qualities to the world. Even in these difficult circumstances there are some strong women who have fought hard to reach to the top because they have what it takes to become a leader. ) “Glass Ceiling” or NOT: Ever since the term was coined by the Wall Street Journal in 1986, the concept of the ‘‘glass ceiling’’ has been used to explain why women fail to achieve senior management roles in numbers that reflect their representation in the workforce (The world needs women leaders 2008). According to the theory of “glass ceiling”, women can achieve only certain levels of success in business or politics but are prevented from reaching the most senior levels of management due to an invisible barrier that is almost impossible to breach.
There are a variety of theories used to explain this phenomenon such as the historical explanation that as traditionally, leadership roles have been held by men, this continues to be the expected norm. Other explanations stress the importance of social networking and suggest that as women are less likely than men to participate in networking opportunities, they fail to develop the social relationships that enhance opportunities for corporate or political advancement. However, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review points out that the ‘‘glass ceiling’’ is not the real problem.
Instead, the authors suggest that women are hampered at each stage of their career progression, which can be viewed as a labyrinth involving a number of false turns and dead ends along the way. Women do not progress rapidly to a point they cannot move beyond; instead they must negotiate prejudice at many junctures in their working lives (The world needs women leaders 2008). b) Gender and Stereotyping: Women’s traditional identities and roles have been associated with parenting and caring/nurturing, while men’s traditional identities are associated with paid employment and the public sphere.
Traditional views do not take into account the variety of real skills and expertise that each person has and their potential to contribute in business, farming and community work. It is important to fully recognize the potential for participation by everyone. Social attitudes regarding appropriate gender roles can influence women’s decisions regarding leadership and participation. Preconceptions about women can be so deeply ingrained that many who hold them are not even aware of them.
Beliefs can be that women leaders are less capable, less competitive or less productive than men, are not task-oriented enough, are too dependent on feedback and evaluations of others or lack independence. Men have always been dominant. This has been following form generations. When we talk about any famous leaders, male dominance is always there because women have not been given equal opportunities from the past. It’s become like stereotype that only men have the abilities and charisma to posses the leadership qualities.
Women do not have a problem developing an effective leadership style. Women have fewer role models that demonstrate how to lead in a style they can relate to and, while the stereotypical leader is male it compounds the problem. c) Balance of work, family and lifestyle: Both men and women have family responsibilities. However, women continue to assume greater responsibility for caring for children, as well as for their partners, parents, and other family members. This is reflected in women’s lower levels of leadership participation.
Anyone with family responsibilities faces challenges in trying to assess the potential personal and family impact of a leadership role. The complexities and tensions of the role, the size of the additional workload and the need to attend additional meetings increase the complexity of balancing family life commitments. The decisions women are making in relation to work and family are influencing how and when they participate in leadership roles. d) Male and female leadership styles: Women leaders face different expectations about leadership styles and approaches.
Women leaders are expected to display greater inter-personal skills and adopt more participatory, democratic styles, while men are expected to adopt more directive approaches. Research involving evaluations of leaders by supervisors, subordinates, and peers in real world settings does not support these perceived differences. An individual leadership style is developed through social, historical, and cultural contexts. Organizations may tend to hold stereotypical views of leadership involving characteristics which are stereotypically masculine behaviors.
Some women are reluctant to take on leadership roles in these organizations as the behavioral expectations are incompatible with their world views and life experiences. More rigid views of leadership styles can constrict women, and men, who prefer to exercise a different form of leadership. Leadership skills are not gender specific. It is important for organizations to recognize and validate a variety of leadership styles. Women have been strong and facing all these challenges to prove that even they have the leadership qualities and style to lead any organization.
The organization and its people need to understand this fact and start accepting and appreciating women leaders. Organizations need to make it less challenging to women as it is to men. They need to provide equal opportunities. 3. The Changing trend for women leaders: The new era The idea that women are effective leaders has jumped from the writers of feminist trade books on management to the mainstream press and is steadily making its way into the popular culture. Articles in newspapers and business magazines reveal a cultural realignment in the United States that proclaims a new era for female leaders (Alice H.
Eagly, Linda L. Carli, 2003). We can see women today in different leadership positions mainly in corporate and political fields. According to the study made by Alica and Linda, the increase in female leaders has been accompanied by changes in theories and practices of leadership. In the past, leaders based their authority mainly on their access to political, economic, or military power and through establishment of collaborative relationships. But contemporary views of good leadership encourage teamwork and collaboration and emphasize the ability to empower, support, and engage workers.
These contemporary approaches to leadership not only recommend a reduction in hierarchy but also place the leader more in the role of coach or teacher than previous models of leadership. Although the specifics of these views vary, most such discussions emphasize that leader roles are changing to meet the demands of greatly accelerated technological growth, increasing workforce diversity, intense competitive pressures on corporations and other organizations, and a weakening of geopolitical boundaries.
Therefore, it is possible that this changing nature of leadership roles accords female leaders some advantages that they did not possess in the past. Effective leadership is congruent with the ways that women lead. Women’s leadership is viewed to be interactive, involving collaboration and empowerment of employees, whereas, men’s leadership is about command and control, involving the assertion of authority and the accumulation of power. Men and women are quite different in the ways that they lead, with men relying on a somewhat antiquated leadership style that does not fit the needs of most contemporary organizations.
While women’s have what it takes to become a successful leaders as they posses and match the changing needs and style in these types of organizations. Some major leadership qualities in women: It is clear that there is a difference between women leaders and men who lead. So, what are the unique qualities of women leadership that has helped them to become leaders? Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive; they have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders.
Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts enabling them to read situations accurately and take information in from all sides. These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued. In short the leadership qualities that women possess are: i. Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts. i. When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude. iii. Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making. iv. Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks. Therefore, women are finding their way to the top. They have the qualities and attributes to become a successful leader. The organizations today are accepting more freely women in leadership roles. 4. Opportunities: Do women have the Opportunities in leadership?
Do women have what it takes to become a top leader? Do women have the abilities and capacity to lead? Do women have the leadership qualities? These questions are important when we talk about the opportunities that women have in today’s context. From the above discussion it is quite apparent that women are no less than men when it comes to leadership. From the days of old to the modern era, many are still of the opinion that men are the ones who are destined to lead, and women, no matter how prepared or qualified, will serve as followers for most of their lives.
But this assumption, is becoming harder and harder to accept and defend in the modern era. Women have always had the capacity and desire for leadership, however, due to political, economic and societal restrictions, they were not able to advance in leadership positions. As times are changing, these so-called restrictions have been dramatically reduced, giving women the opportunity to enter into leadership roles (Jennifer Porterfield and Brian H. Kleiner, 2005). As social attitudes are shifting to define fewer arenas as masculine, acceptance of women as leaders in the other arenas has grown.
This is quite significant as this was one of the major challenges that women were facing. Today’s women have changed. They know how to fight for their rights. They have shifted their priorities from domestic works to other paid form of works. Women are becoming more masculine, although not decreasing in feminine qualities (Alice H. Eagly, Linda L. Carli, 2003). Some research indicates that the incongruity between leader roles and the female gender role have diminished. As leadership roles change, a larger proportion of them provide environments that welcome women’s managerial competence.
Also important to women’s rise is change in organizational practices, brought about in part by different organizational and national Rights Act, which has deemed sex discrimination in employment illegal in many countries. With the authority of such laws, discrimination has been challenged in the courts, and some organizations were then required to give women access to leadership roles providing women a fair chance to develop. The organizations also are becoming less hierarchical and more result oriented. They reward talent over gender and present a more level playing field than do traditional organizations (Klein, 2000).
In addition, the culture of many organizations now embraces the benefits of including women and minorities among their leaders. Such organizations support women by encouraging mentoring and networking and establishing more family-friendly policies. It is also not the glass ceiling that prevents women from achieving senior leadership roles. More than ever before, the world needs women leaders. A recent meta-analysis demonstrates that the most effective model of leadership is transformational (The world needs women leaders 2008).
According to this journal, transformational leaders are facilitators who act as role models to other team members and use innovative problem-solving approaches. Transformational leaders adopt a mentoring role with their followers, encouraging self-development and increased responsibility within the organization. This contrasts with the transactional model of leadership characterized by a top down definition of role responsibilities combined with a system of rewards and punishments used to ensure that subordinates meet management-defined organizational goals.
Women are more likely than men to adopt a transformational leadership style and therefore it could be argued that women should be running the world’s major corporations as well as playing key roles in national and international politics. This is a major opportunity for women leadership and development. Finally, there are many challenges but the opportunities are also tremendous for women to explore their leadership qualities. 5. Practical perspective: Nepali context Nepal has got its own leaders. Let it be in the political, military, industrial or in other business fields.
But if we start counting the make a comparison between male and female leaders, the female percentage is negligible. Like in most countries Nepalese women also find it difficult to make it to the top managerial positions. The condition of Nepalese women is very poor because of male dominance in the society, education etc. The working population of Nepalese women is very less. But, there are many women who are heavily involved in social activities. They are working each and every day to ensure that the community that we live in becomes a better living place.
They lead their family and even find solutions for issues in communities. They are leaders who are not valued and not visible. If we try to find women leaders as role models in Nepal it is very difficult. The past history reveals that there are many men leaders in the country but only few female who can call to be as leaders mainly in business sector. This has become as a stereotype that women do not have the qualities and traits to make it at the top. This has been one of the major challenges for the emerging women leaders of the country.
In Nepal we have joint families. Women take most of the family responsibilities like taking care of the children, old parents, cleaning the home etc. This has been the job of all the Nepali women from the ages. Even if they have a nuclear family they have certain responsibilities. So this reflects in their work and work environment. This is one major challenge that Nepali women are facing. Though there are so many challenges, there are few women who have emerged as leaders. These women are from political, social, industrial and business sectors.
Anuradha Koirala (chairperson of Maiti Nepal), Ambica Shrestha (an hotelier/ a social leader), Bidya Bhandari (defense minister), Sujata Koirala (foreign minister) are some of the famous leaders who have showed their leadership qualities to the world. Anuradha Koirala is a chairperson of Maiti Nepal. She has been working with the institution from last 17 years. She has the qualities and traits to become a leader. She has been nominated for the CNN heroes Award. She has been nominated for her continuous and relentless contribution in the women’s and children’s issues, particularly in the prevention of trafficking within and from Nepal.
With her unique leadership capacity, Maiti Nepal has made significant accomplishment in the rescue, repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of the trafficked survivors, protection of vulnerable children and advocacy for a paradigm shift in the policy over the years of Maiti Nepal’s history. Anuradha Koirala has received several awards for the glorious initiatives taken so far regarding social issues concerning children and women. Some of the awards include German UNIFEM Prize 2007, Queen Sofia Silver Medal Award Spain, The Peace Abbey, Courage of Conscience Sherborne, MA, USA.
Another women leader is Mrs. Ambica Shrestha who is an hotelier and a social leader. She has been running a star hotel and leader a social organization to empower women as entrepreneurs. These are some of the women who have been popular and a real role model for modern Nepali women to become leaders. This shows that even though there are several challenges and difficulties for women to demonstrate their leadership qualities and come out as successful leaders, they can overcome by their abilities and talent. The Nepalese organizations have started to appreciate the women power and talent.
Even women posse’s leadership qualities and due to this truth today we can find many women executives who are climbing to the organizational ladder. The Nepalese business environment is also changing, providing women equal rights and fair chances. The Nepalese organizations are becoming more transparent when hiring human resources. 6. Recommendation Organizations must increase the transparency of their leadership training and development programmes, resources, and other opportunities. Policy makers and development advisers should realize that people are whole human beings with family lives as well as work lives.
This view might help them create more flexible arrangements for work and leadership development activities. Organizations already acting in this way not only enhance their staff commitment but retain better talent for longer. If organizations improve the chances for women in leadership roles, they are also likely to improve opportunities for everyone. Most of these changes do not need radical reorganization or explicit affirmative action policies. Women themselves also need to understand their potential and fight for their rights if required.
They have to snatch the opportunities that come across them if they have the capacity. Therefore, the women should change, the culture should change, the organization rules and structure should change and the whole environment should change in order to provide women more opportunities and grow at large. References Jennifer Porterfield and Brian H. Kleine (2005). A New Era: Women and Leadership, Volume 24 Number 5/6 2005 Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli (2003). The female leadership advantage: An evaluation of the evidence Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro (2006).
Challenges to women’s leadership Linda L. Carli and Alice H. Eagly, Gender, Hierarchy and leadership, Journal of social issues Vol. 57, No. 4, 200, pp. 629-636 Focus on women, Information paper, Women and leadership http://www. women. qld. gov. au/resources/focus-on-women/documents/information-paper-4. pdf The world needs women leaders, Vol 24, No. 3, pp: 27-29, (2008). Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited Emerald journals http://www. emeraldinsight. com/Insight/viewPDF. jsp? contentType=Article&Filename=html/Output/Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Pdf/0560240308. pdf