Female Leaders Are More Effective Than 'Macho' Counterparts, Study Finds

05/23/2014 04:22 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2014
Joshua Hodge Photography via Getty Images

Satisfaction with political leaders worldwide stands at 30 percent. Eighty percent of world's political leaders are men. Coincidence?

A new survey from Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor polled over 6,500 people in 13 countries on their feelings about political and corporate leadership. Overwhelmingly, respondents chose women as more holistically effective leaders.

Participants ranked 14 leadership qualities by importance. Women outperformed men in 10 of these categories, leading in the top four key metrics: communicating in an open and transparent way (62 percent vs. 38 percent), leading by example (57 percent vs. 43 percent), admitting mistakes (66 percent vs. 34 percent), and bringing out the best in others (61 percent vs. 39 percent).

Past surveys have assessed how women's effectiveness is perceived when compared to men's, but the Ketchum study partially controls for gender by investigating which qualities make for better leaders, and then asking respondents to compare men and women's ability to implement them.

While men still occupy more leadership positions than women, "macho" traits are are losing ground to what Ketchum calls "the rise of a new 'feminine' model for leadership communication."

A traditionally "macho" approach to leadership seems to have lost its luster. The economic collapse has a perceptual tie to Wall Street hedonism and a specifically male lack of caution. Partisan gridlock, largely due to a male-dominated Congress, paired with global power struggles fought mostly among men, throw the weaknesses of "macho" leadership into sharp relief.

The Ketchum researchers hypothesize that in the hyper-connected Internet era, people privilege transparency over obfuscation -- which may come more naturally to women.

Given that only 22 percent of those surveyed felt their leaders were effective, 80 percent of global leaders are men, and women demonstrate more effective leadership qualities, it would follow that people would expect to see more women in power in the future. Yet when asked whether men or women leaders were "most likely to guide us through the challenging and rapidly changing times over the next five years" 54 percent of people surveyed replied with "men" and 46 percent chose women.

Ketchum reports that in every country, women overwhelmingly selected women as most likely to lead the way, while men mostly chose themselves. At least women are starting to catch up with men where confidence is concerned.

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