Are Women Leaders Bolder than Men?


Harvard Business Review published an article in April that highlights a study of boldness between male and female leaders. The researchers created a “boldness index” of seven behaviors, then compared these between men and women using their 360-degree review database of 75,000 leaders. These bold leaders:

  • Challenge standard approaches
  • Create an atmosphere of continual improvement
  • Do everything possible to achieve goals
  • Get others to go beyond what they originally thought possible
  • Energize others to take on challenging goals
  • Quickly recognize situations where change is needed
  • Have the courage to make needed changes

Counter to common assumptions that men take more risks, the study concludes that on average, women act more boldly than men. This was particularly true in male-dominated functional areas, which the researchers surmise requires a fairly bold personality. The women showed a greater willingness to challenge the status quo, push harder for results, and do something out of the ordinary.

While it may not be true that women are bolder than men in the general population, women who rise to the leadership ranks in business may tend to be more bold because they have to be in order to succeed.

The women executives we work with demonstrate a similar propensity for boldness in comparison to the men. We encourage aspiring women executives to tackle big challenges that require them to step out of “business as usual,” take risks, and gain visibility within the organization. In doing so, they identify themselves as high-potential employees ripe for promotion. 

If you’re curious how you rank on the boldness index you can take the assessment here. Do the results of the research or your own assessment surprise you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this meshes – or doesn’t – with what you’ve seen in the workplace.

Kate Purmal and Lisa Goldman are the co-authors of The Moonshot Effect,Disrupting Business as Usual. The book is now available for purchase in hardback and e-book formats on Amazon.

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