Lessons from Female Leaders

There is a growing call for a more equal future with better representation of women as leaders.

We rally around the need to eliminate or reduce obstacles in the way of women on their paths to leadership. Yet, in a recent article in Harvard Business Review and a compelling Ted Talk, psychologist and author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic accounts for the inequity in another way – an overabundance of incompetent men as leaders.

In fact, he advocates for more obstacles in the way of men who lack the characteristics and abilities that data has demonstrated makes for more effective leaders, which in his assessment overwhelmingly favor women.

Here are his “sexist” lessons male leaders can learn from women:

Don’t lean in when you’ve got nothing to lean in about.

Stop falling for people who lean in without the talent to back it up. Use science-based assessments to more accurately gauge attributes.

Know your own limitations. 

We live in a culture that celebrates self-belief. Although studies show women are generally less overconfident than men, their more balanced self-view means they are better able to prepare, aiding competence and performance.

Motivate through transformation. 

Women are more likely to lead with purpose than men, who tend to rely on incentive. Purpose is tied with higher levels of team engagement, performance and productivity.

Put your people ahead of yourself. 

It’s very hard to turn a group of people into a high-performing team when your main focus is yourself. Because men are generally more-self-focused than women, they are more likely to lead in a narcissistic and selfish way.

Don’t command. Empathize.

Throughout history, women have been told they are too kind and caring to be leaders, but the notion that someone who is not kind and caring is at odds with reality. In today’s workplaces, it is an imperative for leaders to establish an emotional connection with their followers.

Focus on elevating others.

Female leaders have been proven to be more likely to coach, mentor and develop their direct reports than male leaders, thus enabling them to unlock other people’s potential and promote effective cooperation on their teams.

Don’t say you’re “humbled.” Be humble.

There are well-established gender differences in humility, and they also favor women. Humility is also a trait essential to great leadership. Without humility it will be very hard for anyone in charge to acknowledge their mistakes, learn from experience, take into account other people’s perspectives, and be willing to change and be better.

Dr. Tomas calls for a larger focus on equality of talent and potential as the best gender equality intervention. The ROI of male leaders should be scrutinized as strenuously as the ROI of female leaders.


The Institute for Women’s Leadership seeks to fulfill critical needs in the region and contribute to a more robust, broadly engaged and representative professional workforce and leadership with programs like “Women Rising” Stories from Experience” and “Rising Together: Caffeinated Conversations,” along with “Sharing Knowledge” workshops from qualified business members. For more information visit the website www.uwgb.edu/womens-leadership


Harvard Business Review. “7 Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn from Women,” April 1, 2020.
TedXCambridge. “Why We Should be More Sexist.”
Ideas.Ted.Com. “6 Things we can learn from how women leaders have handled the pandemic,” September 24, 2020.