Leadership Styles and Gender Differences

Research evidences that women are significantly underrepresented when it comes to leadership positions (Appelbaum, Audet, & Miller, 2003). A comprehensive meta-analysis of previous literature, they concluded that the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions has been the biased perceptions about women’s leadership abilities. To find the reasons behind this underrepresentation, extensive research has been carried out to list the facts and perceptions about differences and similarities in leadership styles among men and women. The research has found a mix of opinions regarding the differences and impact of gender on leadership styles and behaviors. The purpose of this research is to provide a comparison between men and women in their leadership styles.

Appelbaum, Audet, and Miller (2003) found that men and women come up with different leadership styles and that leadership effectiveness is not dependent on gender. Women’s differing leadership styles can be learnt and adopted by men in specific situations and contexts. Eagly and Johnson (1990) in a meta-analytic research of available literature on leadership style differences among men and women found that women’s style of leadership is more democratic or participative as compared to men. Furthermore, women were found to be less autocratic as compared to men. Gibson (1995) in his comparative study on gender differences in leadership across Sweden, Australia, and Norway, analyzed 209 individuals working on leadership positions on four behavioral dimensions of leadership i.e. international facilitation, goal emphasis, support and work facilitation. The results of their study found that differences exist in certain leadership behaviors (dimensions) between the two genders across all the four countries. For example, males were found to be more focused on goal setting while females showed more emphasis on interaction facilitation. However the study did not find any gender differences on other leadership behaviors. The study concluded that the difference in emphasis on the two different dimensions is more related to the communal characteristics among females and agentic characteristics among males.

Looking into the findings of different research as discussed above, it can be concluded that association of a specific leadership style to a particular gender is complex as these researches show a mix of findings which cannot clearly associated a particular leadership style to a particular gender and there are other factors playing roles in the specific leadership style selection among different genders. Therefore, this issue requires further research into the reasons what makes different genders emphasize one leadership style over the other.


Appelbaum, S. H., Audet, L., & Miller, J. C. (2003). Gender and leadership? Leadership and gender? A journey through the landscape of theories. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(1), 43-51.

Eagly, A. H., & Johnson, B. T. (1990). Gender and leadership style: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 108(2), 233.

Gibson, C. B. (1995). An investigation of gender differences in leadership across four countries. Journal of International Business Studies, 255-279.