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Pride May Help Women Get More Leadership Positions

Update Date: Jun 04, 2013 05:20 PM EDT

Proud women are perceived as being better leaders than their more cheerful counterparts, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Technische Universität München wanted to see how people select and assess leaders.  They found that women are judged as being more willing to lead if they show that they are proud of the personal performance.  However, if they give off a positive impression, they are judged to have less willingness to leadership roles compared to men who display similar emotions.

The study also shows that women themselves still expect more leadership qualities from men.

Researchers said that the latest findings suggest that ability alone is not enough to propel women into leadership positions. Researchers said women who want to lead are expected to demonstrate improved negotiation skills, networking strengths and the ability to develop a strategic career ladder.

"But even these skills are not enough," Professor Isabell Welpe of TUM's Chair for Strategy and Organization said in a news release. "They ignore the fact that there are stereotypes that on a subconscious level play a decisive role in the assessment of high achievers. Leaders should be assertive, dominant and hard-lined; women are seen as mediators, friendly, social."

After conducting a series of experiments, researchers found that the same behavior exhibited by women in men in leadership position is assessed in different ways. What's more, study participants expected better performance if a man is in charge.

In another experiment, researchers found that while participants preferred leaders who allowed a greater degree of freedom.  Women themselves made a distinction according to the bosses' gender.  Researchers found that females managers who did not delegate decision-making power to employees were viewed less favorably than male bosses who behaved the same way.

"There is still the belief that men in leadership positions show more assertiveness towards their staff," explained Welpe. "The surprising thing is that some female stereotypes are more reinforced in the minds of women themselves -- for example their tendency to accept a dominant leadership style in men."

However, researchers say there are ways for women to challenge the stereotypes.

Past research shows that people who are seen as willing to lead do in fact have a greater chance of being appointed to a leadership position.  Acting proud may also help women get leadership roles.  Researchers found that people who came across as proud were assessed as having greater leadership willingness, and this effect was significantly more pronounced in the case of women in the study.

"Women who looked cheerful were judged to less willing to lead," explained Welpe.

"Pride, on the other hand, is positively associated with leadership qualities," he concluded.

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