March 8, 2015
I think women may turn out to be better leaders than men.
I’ve been reading a lot about personality measurement, and the science has moved forward significantly since the discovery of the Big 5 (6 if you include general intelligence).
The science-backed traits are:
Women score higher than men in conscientiousness and agreeableness, and lower than men in stability. Everything else is virtually identical. Here are some thoughts based on those results combined with general observations:
- I think the female leadership curve might look similar to the intelligence curve, with more (compared to men) who are in the middle and fewer who are either extraordinary or bad. This is good for a world that needs a lot of competent leaders and which is hurt by bad ones
- I think women are more empathic and less power-hungry than men, which will help stave off corruption which follows leaders (and especially powerful men) wherever they go
- Women finish college in dramatically larger numbers than men, which is a function of their conscientiousness
- I think maternal instincts such as consistency and empathy and agreeableness are better for leaders than dominance and ambition, which are found more in men
The one thing that doesn’t seem to square is the data point that women are measured as less stable than men in personality tests. The cliché being that men are non-emotional and women are sappy and irrational. What if this is the case for many or most men and women, but that for those where it’s not the case the women simply exceed the men in everything?
And let us not forget male emotional flaws, which in my opinion culminate in dramatically increased vulnerability to corruption and authoritarianism.
I think men are simply more likely to be made unstable and dangerous by power hunger, ambition, greed, and other negative emotions than women are likely to fall victim to their vices.
In short, I think the market will start selecting female leaders because men are too instable, ambitious, power-hungry, and generally likely to mess things up.
I think the reason more men are currently leaders than women is due to a few main issues:
- Women only recently (1950s) realizing that they’re equals with men
- Men tend to display as more confident and competent in short bursts, which is causing us to select the wrong people for leadership
- An average human male is more likely to be attracted to a female secretary than to a female CEO, thus women tend to orient themselves towards more submissive positions in society to attract friends and mates
But these are likely temporary situations that will adjust over time.
And let’s just say that there is something negative that comes with females leading. What if there is some downside in the form of creativity or trailblazing or whatever, where men could actually do those things somewhat better?
This could very well be the cost of removing the tendency toward corruption and self-immolation, and I think I’d enthusiastically take that trade.
But maybe it’s not that women aren’t capable of being bold and brash and creative with solutions the way men are credited at being good at, but rather that their instincts tell them it’s a bad plan over the long term and they side with stability and level-headedness instead.
Like I said, I’ll happily take that trade. This is what the world needs more of.
The worlds decisions are not Jack Bauer 24 scenarios stacked on each other with ticking time bombs. They’re about consistent, empathic and long-term thinking that benefits everyone as much as possible, and maybe women are just better at that.
I don’t know that any of this is true, but it seems like it might be. And I hope it is.
We can still keep highly creative and volatile men and women in positions to advise our female leaders when that sort of input is needed, but I’d sleep better knowing that most of our businesses, public organizations, and nations were being run by calm, forward-thinking, and empathic leaders that have a natural immunity to corruption and aggression that men seem to lack.
I for one welcome our female overlords. And the sooner the better.
- This is ultimately an empirical question, so the data will show us over time if it’s true, just as it has with college graduation rates.