Three Aspects of the Female Brain Impacting Leadership Style

Recent advances in scientists’ ability to look into the brain have provided more understanding of the ways in which male and female brains are different, primarily in three areas: (1) blood flow; (2) brain structures; and (3) neurochemistry. We often ask the age-old question about whether gender differences are caused by “nature or nurture,” and the answer is yes. Both nature and nurture contribute to who we become in all aspects of our identities through a process called epigenetics. In their book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business, Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis discuss the ways in which the unique features of the female brain impact women’s leadership styles.

  1. Blood Flow - Because of increased blood flow through emotional and verbal centers of the brain, female leaders are more interactive and quickly identify the connections between different ideas. It’s generally important for female leaders to work through the emotional content of an issue before coming to a solution, and this often means hearing everyone out. For female leaders, being able to identify the relationships between seemingly antagonistic positions and identifying solutions that put all of the puzzle pieces together demonstrates success.

  2. Brain Structures - Although a popular cliche, the phrase “women’s intuition” can be attributed to a woman’s larger corpus collosum, which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Because she listens to all viewpoints and is able to draw connections between them, her intuition allows her to make good decisions, even in the absence of hard data.

  3. Neurochemistry - Women possess higher levels of oxytocin, the bonding/attachment hormone, than men. This manifests itself in women’s leadership styles through a focus on collaboration and team leadership rather than hierarchy. When building their teams, women often look for members who have complementary strengths to decrease the sense of competition while increasing positive collaboration. This brain characteristic also contributes to women’s views of success as being primarily related to maintaining healthy personal and work relationships.

Traditional approaches to leadership have favored male brains and, therefore, men’s ways of leading. Without both men and women at the leadership table, however, organizations miss out on critical perspectives in decision making and leadership style...using only half a brain! How has your organization benefitted from gender balanced leadership?

Jaime GoffComment