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Leaders are influenced by the examples around them, says Gwen Rhys, CEO of Women in the City, so diverse role models are vital.
“It’s often said that women are more empathetic, that they have more emotional intelligence, that they understand (perhaps) the domestic demands of people in their team. I'm not sure that as a young female manager and leader I was in that position.
I don't have a family myself, I'm very task-oriented, I'm very goal-oriented, and I'm not sure that I always took other people's lives into consideration. And if I look at managers around me, I see some very empathetic men and I've witnessed some very non-empathetic women.
I think what does tend to happen is that you adopt a leadership style that is congruent with your organisation. Leaders in large corporates all adopt a similar leadership style, whether they're men or women, because that's the culture of their organisation. And of course, their culture is going to be predominantly male-dominated and so it's going to be male values that affect the way they lead.
What's important is that we all try to have a more authentic leadership style, one that we feel comfortable with and one that takes into account a wider range of needs of the people that we’re leading. That's a very big challenge.
It's important for senior leaders within corporates to, first of all, identify people who lead differently, but nevertheless deliver the outcomes that the organisation wants. Then encourage those people to be role models, so that other people in the organisation can see that different people who lead and manage differently also succeed - so that you've got somebody who looks like you, thinks like you, behaves like you and gives you permission to be that ‘other’ authentic leader.”
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