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Gender and Leadership Style: A Meta-Analysis
Research comparing the leadership styles of women and men is reviewed, and evidence is found for both the presence and the absence of differences between the sexes. In contrast to the gender-stereotypic expectation that women lead in an interpersonally oriented style and men in a task-oriented style, female and male leaders did not differ in these two styles in organizational studies. However, these aspects of leadership style were somewhat gender stereotypic in the two other classes of leadership studies investigated, namely (a) laboratory experiments and (b) assessment studies, which were defined as research that assessed the leadership styles of people not selected for occupancy of leadership roles. Consistent with stereotypic expectations about a different aspect of leadership style, the tendency to lead democratically or autocratically, women tended to adopt a more democratic or participative style and a less autocratic or directive style than did men. This sex difference appeared in all three classes of leadership studies, including those conducted in organizations. These and other findings are interpreted in terms of a social role theory of sex differences in social behavior.