Are women better bosses?

February 26, 2020
Are women better bosses?

Wellbeing experts at Robertson Cooper have been doing some deep analysis of data from more than 200,000 people. Their conclusion? Women make better bosses than men.

I decided to look at their report to find out more.

More women have traits associated with improved wellbeing

In 2018, the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies dropped to a record low of just 24.

This huge gender split has often been argued to be the result of men being more ambitious, or even showing more leadership qualities. But a recent report by Robertson Cooper has revealed that women probably make better bosses than men.

The report assessed 210,934 individual responses from one of the biggest personality datasets in the UK. It concluded that women have more traits associated with improved wellbeing at work, than men.

Good managers need good people skills

The report was led by Prof. Sir Cary Cooper CBE, and Prof Ivan Robertson – both leading experts in the area of wellbeing at work. And if you’ve followed his work, you’ll know that Prof. Cary Cooper often talks about the importance of having good managers, with good people skills, in your business.

“The tendency is to promote people on the basis of their technical expertise” he said, at the Future of People Conference 2019. “So you’re a great marketeer, and you become marketing manager. It’s a different job. And you may be lousy at it!”

Prof. Cooper says that while it’s not bad to promote people with good technical skills to a management level, it shouldn’t necessarily be the default path. He says that when a person is leading other people, they need to have good people skills.

Good wellbeing creates good work

Of course, not everybody thinks a good leader is somebody with good technical ability. In fact, some employers seem to create leaders who are aggressive, ruthless, and even psychopathic.

So if you’re currently still thinking: “What the hell has wellbeing got to do with leadership?” then you’re probably not alone. But actually, having traits that foster wellbeing are thought to be better for leadership, and better for business, according to both Professors at Robertson Cooper.

“The better work environment you create, the more work you’re going to produce” said Prof. Cary Cooper at our Future of People Conference 2019. And in their latest report, Prof. Ivan Robertson echoes this.

“To some observers, [having traits associated with wellbeing] may come across as a hinderance to leadership” he writes. “In reality, they’re enabling more of their team to experience better wellbeing and more Good Days at Work, enhancing group creativity and productivity to the overall benefit of the organisation.”

Women aged 55 to 64 are the best bosses

I was interested to see some of the data behind Robertson Cooper’s claims. And after digesting the report, I noticed that it said 79% of women demonstrate a “balanced leadership style”, compared to just 74% of men.

My first thoughts when I read this, were that the difference was negligible. But Prof. Ivan Robertson says that a “balanced leadership style” isn’t really what creates better wellbeing at work, or indeed better leaders. He says that the thing to look for, is one of the five traits best known for its usefulness in influencing the behaviour of others: Conscientiousness.

“We know that the five major personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – influence behaviour” he says. “The secret to these findings lies within the personality trait of conscientiousness. Managers with this trait tend to display a strong sense of duty and a realistic sense of their own competence, plus a desire for personal achievement.”

Prof Robertson concludes that based on this, women are likely to make much better bosses. And in particular, older women in the 55 to 64 age range, are most likely to show this kind of personality, while men in the 25 to 29 age range are least likely to.

How leaders can set the tone for good days at work

If you’re interested in learning more about how to set the tone for good days at work, then I recommend reading this report by Robertson Cooper. It has a lot of insights that could help you train your own managers and leaders to create a better culture of wellbeing in your workplace, regardless of their age or gender. And it is written in a way that is easy to understand, and easy to take in.

If you’ve read their work before, you’ll know that as well as being highly knowledgeable, both Prof. Cooper and Prof. Robertson are also very likeable – and as always, this comes across in their latest report.

The report is called: “How leaders set the tone for Good Days at Work”, and is available to download for free here.

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