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Gender and Leadership
Kathryn E. Eklund, Erin S. Barry and Neil E. Grunberg
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
Gender and Leadership
Kathryn E. Eklund, Erin S. Barry and Neil E. Grunberg
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
The topic of leadership has been addressed and applied for millennia. Yet, it is only
within the past 80 years that leadership has been a topic of serious discussion. It is
important to understand variables relevant to effective leadership. Gender is one such
variable that must be examined with regard to optimizing leadership effectiveness. The
topic of gender and leadership deserves serious and thoughtful consideration and dis-
cussion because of professional, political, cultural, and personal realities of the twenty‐
first century. Women and men have been, are, and should be leaders. Gender must be
considered to determine how each leader can reach maximum potential and effective-
ness. The FourCe‐PITO conceptual framework of leadership is designed to help guide
leadership development and education. The present chapter uses this conceptual frame-
work of leadership to discuss how consideration of gender may affect and optimize
leadership development and effectiveness. It is the goal of this chapter to lay out the
issues that educators of leaders, potential leaders, and “practicing”leaders should be
aware of, to achieve success for the good of the groups and individuals they have the
responsibility to lead.
Keywords: gender, leadership, FourCe‐PITO, character, competence, context, commu-
nication, personal, interpersonal, team, organizational
Leadership has been a part of human experience since people formed groups to survive threats
from the environment, dangerous animals, and other groups of people; work cooperatively to
achieve goals beyond the abilities of individuals; and create families and various social groups
to satisfy affiliative needs. Discussions of leaders and leadership appear as far back as Homer's
Iliad and in religious texts, including the Old Testament,New Testament,Bhagavad Gita, and
Koran. Essays and discussions of leaders and leadership have appeared during the past several
centuries. But, the scholarly study of leadership dates back only about 80 years, when social
psychologist Kurt Lewin and his students began studying group dynamics and differentiated
among authoritarian, democratic, and laissez‐faire leadership styles . Most discussions
© The Author(s). Licensee InTech. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and eproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2017 The Author(s). Licensee InTech. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
about leaders and leadership from antiquity through the 1970s focused on men, with minimal
discussion of women as leaders or gender and leadership. Social, cultural, and political devel-
opments over the past 50 years have made clear that men and women can be effective—and
ineffective—leaders and today, men and women are expected to be effective leaders.
To optimize leadership effectiveness of men and women, it is important to go beyond
consideration of the biological sex of the individual and simplistic generalizations of what
makes a male leader versus a female leader successful. It is important to consider if and how
gender relates to leadership. Gender is an individual difference characteristic that is relevant
to how people think about themselves, are thought about by others, and act in various
situations. Gender, therefore, is relevant to consider with regard to how it relates to leader-
This chapter begins with only a brief discussion of “gender”because the entire volume
addresses gender and the other chapters discuss “gender”in greater detail. Then, the FourCe‐
PITO conceptual framework of leadership  is summarized to provide a foundation for the
discussion of gender and leadership. FourCe‐PITO provides a comprehensive way to catalog
and examine interacting elements of leadership and is designed to guide leadership scholar-
ship, education, and development. The chapter addresses gender in the context of the FourCe‐
PITO framework. The chapter ends with a summary and a conclusion.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “‘Sex’refers to the biological and phys-
iological characteristics that define men and women. ‘Gender’refers to the socially constructed
roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men
Since the 1970s, researchers have noted the need to differentiate between sex and gender [3, 4].
Sex is defined as a biological characteristic that incorporates the anatomical, physiological,
genetic, and hormonal variation that exists in species . Historically, conceptualizations of sex
assumed XX and XY chromosomal arrangements for females and males, respectively; however
we now understand that chromosomal configurations XXX, XXY, XYY, and XO exist as well as
XY males and XX females [6, 7]. The discovery and existence of these various chromosomal
arrangements have led to greater understanding of the X and Y chromosomes, their genetic
contributions, and have resulted in the expansion of our conceptualization of sex and gender.
Gender is a multidimensional construct that refers to different roles, responsibilities, limita-
tions, and experiences of individuals based on their presenting sex and/or gender . Bem 
defined gender (i.e., extent of masculinity and/or femininity) as pertaining to the psychosocial
ramifications of biological sex (i.e., whether an individual is male or female) . Generally,
gender is operationalized by observing the behavior of men and women or by asking partici-
pants to self‐report whether they are male or female . Gender, however, consists of much
more than the psychosocial ramifications of biological sex. Gender is a complex phenomenon
Gender Differences in Different Contexts130
with many different facets . These facets include gender schemas and stereotypes; gender‐
role identity; and gender‐role traits, attitudes, and values .
Sandra Bem pioneered the Gender Schema Theory in 1981 to explain sex typing and gender
stereotypes within the society. Bem  proposed that this process begins in childhood.
Children learn which behaviors and attributes are associated with each sex and continue to
process the information in terms of gender schema. While parents can teach more androgy-
nous views at home (such as modeling equal roles for mothers and fathers, preventing access
to media that promotes sex‐typing, etc.), children are often exposed to sex‐typing when
attending school, including day care settings. Bem  suggested that parents should teach a
sexism schema so that children recognize when sexist information or practices are occurring.
She believed this practice is likely to help prevent children from mindlessly maintaining a
particular gender schema and, as a result, will promote positive social change .
Sex typing creates a core gender identity influenced by how one is raised, the media, and other
cultural influences. Bem identified four categories of sex typing: sex‐typed, cross‐sex‐typed,
androgynous, and undifferentiated. She defined sex‐typed individuals as people who process
and integrate information consistent with their gender; cross‐sex‐typed individuals as people
who process and integrate information consistent with the opposite gender; androgynous indi-
viduals as people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders; undiffer-
entiated individuals as people who do not appear to process sex‐typed information .
Why do specific gender stereotypes become so ingrained in our societies? Bem  suggested
that the Gender Schema Theory leads children, especially during adolescence, to conform to
what is culturally defined for males and females, because it is easier to assimilate society's
stereotypically congruent norms. As a process theory, the Gender Schema Theory further
solidifies the gender stereotypes within societies. A heterosexual subschema, defining differ-
ences between proper societal benchmarks of masculinity and femininity, encourage the strong
gender schema developed in societies. This subschema asserts that men and women should be
different from each other and many societies use the heterosexual subschema as the norm.
Bem  hypothesized that cross‐sex interactions more readily take on gender stereotypes,
especially in social settings, and people behave differently toward individuals of the opposite
sex when they find them attractive or unattractive.
As societal norms are changing, with the acceptance of same‐sex relationships and gender
fluidity, gender stereotypes are evolving as well. Lee and Kashubeck‐West  used confirma-
tory factor analyses to analyze four ethnic groups (African American, Asian American, European
American, and Hispanic American) of young American adults. The analyses indicated that the
two‐factor differentiation proposed by Bem (i.e., masculine/feminine) did not fit men or women
from any of the ethnic groups in a simple binary fashion. Donnelly and Twenge  reported
that women's femininity scores, using the Bem Sex‐Role Inventory, decreased significantly from
1993 to 2012, whereas their masculinity scores remained constant. The scores for men did not
change significantly during this 20‐year time period. When the period of time was expanded
from 1974 to 2012, women's self‐reports of masculinity rose significantly during this time frame,
with no significant change in self‐reported femininity. Men's masculinity and femininity scores
remained constant during this broader time frame. Women's androgyny scores significantly
Gender and Leadership
increased since 1974 (but not since 1993), whereas men's androgyny scores remained constant.
These findings may suggest that since the 1990s, women are less likely to endorse typical
feminine traits, and/or the scale is not sensitive to modern gender stereotypes .
Gender also includes the manner in which individuals interact with each other and the social
roles they are expected to fulfill in a society [9, 16]. In addition, ideas regarding gender are
culturally and temporally specific and subject to change. Historically, men's higher social
status within many cultures meant that they also have had more opportunities and access to
power and resources than women have had and, as a result, men have been afforded more
power and influence [17, 18]. Relatively recent changes in views, self‐identity, and acceptance
of varied gender roles (regardless of biological sex) make consideration of gender and leader-
ship a topic worthy of discussion. Before discussing gender and leadership per se, leadership is
defined and the FourCe‐PITO conceptual framework for leadership is explained.
There are many ways to finish the sentence, “Leadership is...”In fact, an online search for the
definition of leadership yields more than 128,000,000 results. Over the past century, the defini-
tion of leadership has evolved from “the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led
and induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation” to “the enhancement of behav-
iors (actions), cognitions (thoughts and beliefs), and motivations (reasons for actions and
thoughts) to achieve goals that benefit individuals and groups”. It is noteworthy that
concepts of effective leadership have shifted emphasis from “who”the leader is to “what”the
leader does. Who the leader is remains important and is highly relevant to the present discus-
sion of gender and leadership. The focus on relationships, influence, and outcomes allows for
substantial individual differences and characteristics of effective leaders provided that they are
aware of how to accomplish effective leadership. Effective leaders are aspirational and inspi-
3.1. FourCe‐PITO framework
Callahan and Grunberg  considered many models of leadership to identify a conceptual
framework for leader education and development, including authentic, democratic, laissez‐
faire, transactional, transformational, servant, authoritative, and adaptive leadership. Callahan
and Grunberg  found value in all of these models and identified four leadership domains to
capture key elements of all of these models: Character, Competence, Context, and Communi-
cation. These four C's (“FourCe”) occur across four different psychological levels—Personal,
Interpersonal, Team, and Organizational (PITO). The PITO levels were adapted from the
leadership training model developed at the United States Air Force Academy [20, 21].
The FourCe‐PITO leadership framework considers the four domains across the four levels.
Character includes all characteristics of the individual—physical (e.g., sex, race, age,
appearance) and psychological (e.g., gender, personality, values, outlooks, attributes). Com-
petence includes transcendent leadership skills (e.g., high emotional intelligence, critical
and strategic thinking, leading by example, motivating and empowering others) and
Gender Differences in Different Contexts132
specific expertise determined by role and specialty. Context includes physical, psychologi-
cal, cultural and social environments, and various situations (e.g., stress). Communication
refers to verbal (oral and written) and nonverbal, sending and receiving of information.
sonal refers to how one's perception of self and personal characteristics, as well as percep-
tion by others, affects each dyadic relationship. Team refers to small groups of people
interacting for a common purpose. Organizational refers to large groups of people and
systems that affect people.
Callahan and Grunberg  refer to character as the aspects of the individual including person-
ality and values, but also more broadly to individual characteristics, such as physical stature
and appearance. Gender, sex, race/ethnicity, and age also fall within this domain. Character
contributes to the potential and realized effectiveness of leaders . The importance of a
leader's character is not a new or revolutionary idea. Ancient literature (including the Bible
and Homer's epic poems) is filled with examples of leaders whose individual characteristics
were greatly emphasized, for example, the cunningness of Odysseus, the wisdom of Solomon,
and the courage of Hector. The earliest writings on leadership theory focused on the leader's
individual characteristics. The “Great Man”theory of leadership appeared in Carlyle  who
proposed that leaders shaped history through their character—especially their intellect, prow-
ess of their leadership, and divine inspiration.
Consideration of a leader's character is relevant to leader effectiveness. It is noteworthy that
key aspects of character pertinent to leadership (e.g., self‐confidence, humility, trustworthiness,
responsibility, integrity) are not gender specific. In addition, personality differences (e.g.,
extraversion versus introversion, judging versus feeling, sensing versus perceiving) occur in
males and females of masculine and feminine gender. Personal values, beliefs, ethics, and
morality also are individual differences that are not linked to sex or gender. However, gender
—as an important aspect of Character—is relevant to consider with regard to leadership styles
4.1. Gender and Character
The FourCe‐PITO framework  includes the importance of character for effective leadership.
Some character traits identified—such as responsibility, integrity, trustworthiness, optimism,
adaptability, and humility—transcend gender roles and are important for the leader role .
However, Gutek and Morasch  argued that gender roles often affect leadership roles, and
Ridgeway  maintained that gender provides an “implicit, background identity”relevant to
4.1.1. Gender stereotypes
Gender stereotypes describe stereotypic beliefs about the attributes of women and men, and
prescribe how men and women “should”behave [26, 27]. Men are stereotyped with agentic
Gender and Leadership
characteristics such as confidence, assertiveness, independence, rationality, and decisiveness;
whereas women are stereotyped with communal characteristics such as concern for others,
sensitivity, warmth, helpfulness, and nurturance . These gender stereotypes of women as
warm, nurturing, and caring and the corresponding stereotypes of men as cold, competitive,
and authoritarian may have contributed to the perception by some that women may be less
effective than men in leadership positions although they can be, in fact, equally effective [29,
30]. It is noteworthy that any generalizations about men versus women as effective leaders
based on sex or gender reveal an emphasis on the Character domain of leadership. Interest-
ingly, Eagly et al.  found that men and women are equally effective leaders, unless the
leadership role is “gendered”(i.e., people expect the leader to be a man or a woman). In that
case, leaders of the expected gender and sex are more effective. This finding is further
discussed under “Context and Gender”because the social role expectations and the context
in which the leadership takes place influence leader effectiveness.
With regard to how leadership characteristics are gendered, research indicates that traditional
managerial effectiveness (e.g., time efficient, performance focused) often is sex‐typed as mas-
culine (i.e., agentic as opposed to communal). This means that characteristics deemed neces-
sary to be a successful manager or an effective leader have often been stereotypically
associated with men [31, 32]. Schein and Mueller  and Schein et al.  reported that
individuals perceive successful managers as having characteristics more often held by men
than by women, and the expectation that successful managers will possess masculine traits is
stronger among men than among women.
In leadership roles that transcend managerial roles, gender stereotypes may be particularly
challenging for women because agentic, as opposed to communal, tendencies often are valued.
According to the Role Congruity Theory , the agentic qualities thought necessary in the
leadership role are incompatible with the predominantly communal qualities stereotypically
associated with women, resulting in a prejudicial evaluation of the behavior of women leaders
as less effective or unfavorable than the equivalent behavior of men. For example, the more
agentically a leader role is defined (e.g., military officer, political leader, or scientist) or the
more completely women fulfill its agentic requirements, the more likely such women are to
elicit unfavorable evaluation because their behavior deviates from the social norm of the
female gender role . Therefore, in leadership roles, women are confronted with opposing
pressures: as leaders they should possess agentic qualities (i.e., masculine characteristics), but
as women, they should not be “too manly.”Therefore, women may receive more positive
reactions if they include in their repertoire behaviors that are more communal (e.g., expressive,
friendly, and participative), as long as these behaviors are not viewed as inappropriate for the
leader role [35, 36].
4.1.2. Leadership style
Another consideration concerning the interaction of character and gender on leadership effec-
tiveness is leadership style. Callahan and Grunberg  indicate that personality affects the
leader's preferred leadership style and gender also is likely to affect preferred leadership style.
Many different leadership styles have been identified over the years. In this chapter, we focus
Gender Differences in Different Contexts134
on those task‐oriented versus interpersonally oriented styles identified by Bales  and
leadership styles discussed by Lewin and Lippitt .
Tas k ‐oriented leadership style is defined as a concern with accomplishing assigned tasks by
organizing task‐relevant activities. Interpersonally-oriented leadership style is defined as a
concern with maintaining interpersonal relationships by tending to others’morale and wel-
fare [37, 39]. These leadership styles can be categorized as agentic versus communal styles of
leadership, respectively. Behaviors of the task‐oriented style include: encouraging followers
to follow rules, maintaining high standards for performance, and making leader and fol-
lower roles explicit . Behaviors of the interpersonally-oriented style include: helping and
doing favors for subordinates, looking out for their welfare, explaining procedures, and
being friendly and available . Male gender is commonly associated with agentic style,
whereas female gender is commonly associated with communal style. Both styles can be
effective, depending on the followers and the situation. Understanding one's own gender
and which leadership style is more comfortable can help optimize one's effectiveness as a
Another way to distinguish leadership styles is the classic distinction of democratic (participa-
tive decision‐making) versus autocratic (directive) versus laissez‐faire (little or no direction)
leadership as identified by Lewin and Lippitt . This spectrum is relevant to the consider-
ation of gender roles, because a component of agentic norms implies that men are more
autocratic and directive, whereas women are more participative and democratic . It has
been suggested that the extent to which female leaders favor a more participative rather than
directive leadership style may reflect cultural influences based on expected roles of women
versus men . Women may encounter negative reactions and evaluations when they become
directive and take charge in an agentic manner consistent with an autocratic style . Because
men probably do not experience the same incongruence between the male gender role and the
leader role, they may be freer to lead in an autocratic manner. The fact is that each of these
leadership styles has its place. If gender roles limit one's leadership style options, then effec-
tiveness of leadership is constrained.
Other leadership scholars [41, 42] have examined distinctions between transformational leader-
ship styles versus transactional leadership styles. Burns  defined transformational leaders as
setting high standards for behavior and establishing themselves as inspirational role models by
gaining trust and confidence of followers. Transformational leaders set future aspirational goals
and motivate followers to achieve these goals. By mentoring followers, transformational leaders
encourage followers to reach their full potential. In contrast, Burns  defined transactional
leaders as those who establish exchange relationships with their followers and emphasize behav-
iors or actions. Transactional leaders clarify subordinates’roles and responsibilities, monitor
work, praise followers when they meet objectives, and correct them when failing to do so.
Transformational leadership, more than transactional, has communal aspects, whereby the
leader is focused on mentoring and developing followers. Consistent with the possibility that
the transformational leader role may be more aligned with the female gender role, research
indicates that subordinates perceive greater continuity between leaders’feminine personality
traits and a transformational style rather than a transactional style [43, 44]. Of note, however,
Gender and Leadership
women are more likely than men to utilize the contingent award component (i.e., reinforcement
or punishment) of transactional leadership than men .
Regarding leadership effectiveness, Eagly et al.  found transformational leadership and the
contingent award component of transactional leadership to be effective, with null or ineffective
findings for transactional leadership alone. This difference may be relevant to the leadership
effectiveness of people who use communal and supportive leadership styles.
4.2. Character, Gender, and PITO
Gender is a core element of Character and includes self‐perception of Gender as well as
perception of Gender by others. Therefore, with regard to Character and Leadership, Gender
needs to be considered and is relevant across all four levels of PITO. Gender affects our self‐
perception (Personal), perception of us by other people in dyads (Interpersonal), small groups
(Team), and large groups or systems (Organizational). It is necessary for one to have self‐
awareness (Personal) of Gender. When other people are involved (be it Interpersonal, Team,
or Organizational), it is important for one to be self‐aware and to understand perception of self
by others to determine how to best lead.
Callahan and Grunberg  refer to competence as the “abilities, skills, and knowledge relevant
to leadership that transcend various roles, professions, and responsibilities, and to abilities,
skills, and knowledge specific to particular roles, professions, and responsibilities of relevance
to the leadership position.”Leaders need to have both practical and working knowledge
specific to their role as well as transcendent leadership competencies. Transcendent leadership
competencies include management skills, critical thinking, decision making, problem solving,
emotional intelligence, relational skills, and the ability to influence other people .
Effective leaders influence people and often demonstrate excellent management skills so that
followers perform optimally, work as a team, and make best use of resources, including
personnel, supplies, equipment, and time . Levitt  indicated, “management consists of a
rational assessment of the situation, and the systematic selection of goals and purposes; the
systematic development of strategies to achieve these goals; the marshaling of the required
resources; the rational design, organization, direction, and control of the activities required to
attain the selected purposes; and finally, the motivating and rewarding of people to do their
work.”Although management is important to leadership, leadership competencies go beyond
management skills .
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive and express emotions, to use
emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to effectively
manage emotions within oneself and in relationships with others . Goleman [47, 48] takes a
broader approach to emotional intelligence, suggesting that it consists of personal and social
competencies. Personal competence consists of self‐awareness, confidence, self‐regulation,
conscientiousness, and motivation. Social competence consists of empathy and social skills
Gender Differences in Different Contexts136
such as communication and conflict management [47, 48]. The Hay-McBer group found that
leaders with greater emotional intelligence competence were more influential than people
who lacked this competence . It is important to note that although individuals have
different “natural”emotional intelligence, Callahan and Grunberg  catalog this construct as
a Competence (rather than part of Character) because it can be learned and developed.
The art of influence is a leadership competency that is largely tied to the perception of
leadership by others . A leader's influence is the ability to motivate followers to change their
behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes . Yukl and Chavez  identified nine influence tactics that
a leader may use to influence followers: inspirational appeal (i.e., when the leader seeks to gain
commitment by arousing emotions), rational persuasion (i.e., when the leader uses logical
arguments and facts to influence a decision), consultation (i.e., when the leader seeks the target
persons’participation in the decision making process), ingratiation (i.e., when the leader uses
praise or flattery to win over), personal appeal (i.e., when the leader uses an interpersonal
relationship between the leader and the target person to carry out a task), exchange (i.e., when
the leader offers an incentive or exchange for compliance), coalition tactics (i.e., when the
leader uses the aid of other already complying individuals to gain support of the target
person), legitimating tactics (i.e., when the leader refers to rules or formal policies to prove he
or she has legitimate authority), and pressure (i.e., when the leader intimidates the target
person to comply with their requests) .
Effective leadership also depends on relationship skills. In transformational leadership roles,
relationships between leaders and followers are marked by a high degree of mutual trust,
respect, understanding, and obligation toward each other. There is a high degree of reciprocity
between leaders and followers; each affects and is affected by the other [36, 52].
5.1. Gender and Competence
As previously discussed, Callahan and Grunberg  define competence as the abilities, skills,
and knowledge that transcend various leader roles, and the specific abilities, skills, and knowl-
edge relevant to a particular leader role. This section focuses on emotional intelligence and the
art of influence.
5.1.1. Emotional intelligence
Numerous studies [53–56] have indicated that emotional intelligence is an important compo-
nent of leadership. Emotional intelligence increases the confidence of individuals and helps
leaders and followers achieve levels of performance beyond expectations, especially when
coupled with transformational leadership that emphasizes emotions and motivation .
Emotionally intelligent leaders are reported to be happier and more committed to their orga-
nizations , attain greater success , perform better [48, 60, 61], and understand their and
others’emotions to improve decision‐making and instill enthusiasm, trust, and cooperation
among followers through interpersonal relationships .
A review of sex, gender, and emotional intelligence offers mixed findings . Some research
indicates that women may have slightly higher levels of emotional intelligence compared to
Gender and Leadership
men [64, 65]. However, Bar‐On  reported no significant differences between men and
women regarding overall emotional intelligence. He did find gender differences for some
components of emotional intelligence; however, Goleman  found none. Because of the
mixed results regarding gender differences in emotional intelligence and research supporting
the utility of emotional intelligence for effective research, improving one's emotional intelli-
gence will be beneficial for leadership, regardless of gender.
5.1.2. The art of influence
A leader's influence can be defined as the ability to motivate followers to change or enhance
their behaviors, cognitions, or motivations to achieve goals that benefit the individual or the
group. Influence is often considered to be a measuring stick of a leader's effectiveness.
According to the Elaboration Likelihood Model , source characteristics (e.g., leader charac-
teristics), such as expertise, power, and personal appeal or likeability, are important determi-
nants of influence. Generally, leaders who have expertise and are likeable tend to exert greater
influence than those without expertise who are unlikeable .
The characteristics of competence and likeability as contributors of influence have particular
applicability to gender because stereotypically, women are often characterized as possessing
likeable qualities and men are often characterized as possessing competent qualities .
People who are predominantly feminine in gender style may find themselves in a double bind
when it comes to leadership and the incongruity between the stereotypical leader role and the
female gender role. Women's ability to influence is often dependent on the ability to overcome
this double bind, whereas men usually do not experience the social pressure to be both
communal and agentic .
Men's historical predominance in high status roles has resulted in men generally possessing
higher levels of status than women . Gender differences in status are important determi-
nants of influence because it relates to the perceived competency of the individual. Status
Characteristics Theory  states that an individual's status can be used implicitly to form
performance expectations of self and others. People presume that higher status individuals
have more competence than lower status individuals and are more likely to yield to the
influence of the high status individual . In addition, individuals perceived as higher status
are more likely to engage in agentic behaviors and are perceived as more influential .
Similar to previously discussed theories, Status Characteristics Theory predicts greater com-
munal behavior by women and agentic behavior by men . Because men historically have
higher status, they have greater legitimacy as influence agents and are encouraged to behave
agentically. On the other hand, because of their presumed low competence, low status individ-
uals who exhibit agentic behaviors may be perceived as attempting to illegitimately gain
power and influence and, as a result, their influence is likely to be resisted [69, 73]. To
overcome this potential resistance, lower status individuals must communicate a lack of
personal gain and little desire to control, but instead convey a relational and collectivist
motivation (i.e., utilize communal behaviors; ) to be most effective. It follows then that
communal behavior should enhance the influence of people who are perceived to have lower
Gender Differences in Different Contexts138
5.2. Competence, Gender, and PITO
Gender is not a core aspect of Competence. Therefore, Competence should be judged across
the four levels of PITO regardless of Gender. However, cultural biases often color interpreta-
tion of competencies based on sex and Gender. For example, outstanding performance in
athletic events by men is usually attributed to the male athletes themselves. In contrast, similar
outstanding performance in athletic events by women is often attributed to their male coaches.
A leader should be competent and have the abilities, skills, and knowledge necessary to
perform the jobs effectively. The Gender of the leader should not define a leader's competence
on the Personal, Interpersonal, Team, or Organizational levels. Yet, because Gender biases may
affect perception of Competence in self and others, it is important to be aware of any Gender‐
related biases that contribute to misperceptions about Competence and to, instead, focus on
each Competence per se.
According to Callahan and Grunberg , context includes physical, psychological, social, and
economic environments, as well as various situations (e.g., stress). The leadership context is
characterized by three categories: the unique characteristics of the group being led, the nature
of the group's tasks, and the organizational climate/culture where the leadership happens .
Age, gender, individual characteristics, and culture are important contextual factors. Effective
leaders are aware of and adjust to context in a variety of ways. Ayman and Adams 
proposed that leaders can learn to alter behaviors, to adapt so they are perceived as behaving
differently, or to actively manage and change the situation.
6.1. Gender and Context
With regard to gender and context, the most apparent, relevant research literature focuses on
psychological and social context. Theories underlying this research vary from Androgyny
Theory  to Status Characteristics Theory . However, the most common theoretical posi-
tions that underlie the study of gender and leadership with regard to psychological and social
context are the intrapsychic perspective, the social structural perspective, and the interpersonal
6.1.1. Intrapsychic perspective
According to the intrapsychic perspective, the leader's intrapsychic gender‐role characteristics
(e.g., masculinity/agency/instrumentality and femininity/expressivity/communion) matter
because they affect the leader's preferred style, behavior, and outcomes regardless of whether
the leader is a man or a woman .
6.1.2. Social structural perspective
The social structural perspective posits that the qualitative differences in men's and women's
normative roles affect their leadership behavior and outcomes. Gender is important because of
Gender and Leadership
the common perception that male gender roles are more congruent with the leadership role
than are female gender roles. This perception may contribute to prejudice against women
leaders [9, 35]. Men are commonly attributed higher status and are more likely to be in
leadership roles congruent with their sociodemographic status and gender . In contrast,
women are commonly perceived as having lower status and the leadership role may be
viewed as less congruent with their socio‐demographic status and gender .
6.1.3. Interpersonal perspective
The interpersonal perspective focuses on how leaders interact with superiors, coworkers, and
subordinates. This perspective incorporates aspects of both the intrapsychic and social struc-
tural perspectives because interactions are viewed as a function of socio‐demographic gender
stereotypes, gender‐related beliefs, expectations about the self and others, and situational cues.
Accordingly, gender makes a difference because men and women have different types of social
interactions with their male and female supervisors, peers, and subordinates, and these inter-
actions influence outcomes .
6.2. Context and leadership styles
A meta‐analysis conducted by Eagly and Johnson  suggested that several factors in the
organizational context moderate the emergence and direction of gender differences in leader-
ship styles. One of the largest moderators is the sex composition of the organization. Differ-
ences between male and female leaders in democratic and autocratic styles are significantly
reduced in male‐dominated groups than in female‐dominated groups. This finding suggests
that female and male leaders use styles more congruent with the gender‐typing of the context
In addition, context and leaders can be viewed from an interactionist perspective (i.e., context
and leaders reciprocally influence each other) . In other words, context constrains which
behaviors are considered prototypical [78, 79]. The “stronger”the situation, the more salient
are norms that guide behavior . For example, in the military strict rules and procedures
and strong norms produce over‐determined behavior (strong situation), whereas relatively
weak situations produce substantial variation in individual behavior . Of note, not only
do individuals behave as the situation demands, but they have selected particular environ-
ments and are active players in shaping the environments , particularly when they are
6.3. Gender and stress
In addition to psychological and social context, it is important to consider how stressful a
situation is and whether stress affects behaviors of individuals as well as interactions among
people. Stress is defined as a “process by which environmental events threaten or challenge an
organism's well‐being and how the organism responds to the threat”. With regard to
gender and stress, it is relevant to recognize that there are three major stress responses: the
Fight‐or‐Flight response , the Polyvagal Theory , and the Tend‐and‐Befriend response
. The Fight‐or‐Flight response is demonstrated by all mammals, regardless of sex or
Gender Differences in Different Contexts140
gender, but has sometimes been considered a more “masculine”response (perhaps related to
sex and/or gender). The Polyvagal Theory refers to the freezing response (“frozen with fear”)
or “playing dead”that mammals display when encountered with an inescapable predator or
stressor, with no apparent sex or gender differences in this response. The Tend‐and‐Befriend
response has been offered as a description of a predominantly “feminine”response (that can
be demonstrated by females and males) to threat by protecting vulnerable individuals and by
responding to stressors by seeking others for social collaboration and mutual protection. Males
and females of masculine and feminine genders display all three of the major stress responses,
but the relative magnitude of these stress responses appears to be related to sex and gender.
6.4. Context, Gender, and PITO
Gender is often a key aspect of Context, including, psychological context, social context, and
situational stress. Context and Gender operate at all PITO levels of interaction. Cultural
differences in Gender roles and biases as well as psychobiological differences in relative extent
to which each of the three stress responses operate are likely to contribute to interactions
among Context and Gender with regard to leadership. Self‐awareness of these processes may
help to optimize leadership effectiveness.
In most leadership models, communication is identified as a critical element. Communication
is defined as the sending and receiving of information, verbally (oral and written words) and
nonverbally (including tone of voice, intonation, facial expressions, body language) . Receiv-
ing information involves listening to verbal language as well as absorbing non‐verbal informa-
tion. Sending information similarly occurs verbally, through spoken words or written text, and
non‐verbally through the sender's facial expressions, body language, and non‐verbal aspects of
oral communication .
Effective leadership also depends on effective listening, reflecting respect, and a willingness to
be involved with others . Information gathered through “active”listening, strong relation-
ships with the group, and strong communication skills is used to make informed decisions
relevant to the individual and the group. It is the role of leaders to develop relationships with
individuals and create positive and supportive communication environments [1, 88].
In addition, the communicator needs to be perceived as credible, trustworthy, and knowledge-
able about the information being conveyed . The most effective communication takes into
consideration primacy, recency, repetition, clarity, and relevance of information. Furthermore,
addressing opposing opinions, memorable imagery, and consistency of nonverbal information
and verbal content all add to persuasive and effective communication [89–92].
7.1. Gender and Communication
Individuals employ different communication styles [93–95]. Feminine communication has
been described as more indirect, elaborate, and emotional, whereas masculine communication
Gender and Leadership
has been described as more direct, succinct, and instrumental [94, 96]. The feminine linguistic
style can help to establish rapport and encourage conversation and comfortable exchange of
information, but it also can be interpreted as uncertainty, tentativeness, and a lack of authority
Stereotypically masculine characteristics (such as assertiveness and self‐reliance) are often seen
as components of effective leadership [32, 100]. Women who use a “feminine”communication
style may be considered less competent than men in leadership roles [35, 101] and can be rated
less favorably when competing for leadership positions [28, 102]. As a result, women's compe-
tence in leadership is often undervalued based on communication style, in part because of
gender‐based stereotypes [28, 35]. Because female leaders are not considered to be as effective
communicators as male leaders [103, 104], women's communication style may reinforce the
stereotype that they are less competent than men in a leadership position. In contrast, when
women use more “masculine”communication styles, they may be perceived as pushy or
arrogant, depending on context. Similarly, men who use more “feminine”communication
styles may be perceived as weak or lacking confidence.
It is important to note, however, that linguists and communication experts have not reached
agreement about whether there are truly differences in communication based on sex or gender.
Tannen  proposed that there are sex differences in communication style that are learned
within a given culture. Gray  argued that there are marked sex differences in communi-
cation style, both sending and receiving. In contrast, Cameron  argued against Gray's
binary distinction and proposed that gender and communication should be considered in
more complex and nuanced ways.
7.2. Communication, Gender, and PITO
Gender and Communication has a complex interaction. It often seems that interpretation and
reactions to different Communication styles are affected by the Gender of the “sender”and of
the Gender of the “receivers”of the communication. It also seems that Context plays an
important role in the Gender by Communication interaction. The research literature and
relevant scholars have not yet reached consensus on this complex issue. With regard to
Communication, Gender, and PITO, it seems likely that the same complexity of interaction
operates such that the level of interaction affects whether Communications are differentially
interpreted based on Gender. Despite this lack of clear conclusion, it seems important to
consider that Gender likely affects how Communication is interpreted, especially at the Inter-
personal, Team, and Organizational levels.
8. Summary and conclusion
The topic of gender and leadership deserves serious and thoughtful consideration and discus-
sion because of professional, political, social, and personal realities of the twenty‐first century.
Science and society have come to appreciate that women and men cannot simply be classified
and distinguished based on biological sex. Instead, gender is a more complex and meaningful
Gender Differences in Different Contexts142
way to understand individual differences. The present chapter uses the FourCe‐PITO concep-
tual framework to discuss how gender relates to the leadership domains of Character, Compe-
tence, Context, and Communication across the Personal, Interpersonal, Team, and
Organizational levels of interaction. We believe that it is important to understand and appre-
ciate how gender may contribute to self‐perception and perception by others and that this
understanding has the potential to help optimize leadership effectiveness.
The opinions and assertions contained herein are the sole ones of the authors and are not to be
construed as reflecting the views of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences,
the Department of Defense, or the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of
Military Medicine. We thank Hannah Kleber for her suggestions.
Kathryn E. Eklund
, Erin S. Barry
and Neil E. Grunberg
*Address all correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA
2 Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA
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