Effective female leaders display empathy, listen to criticism, speaker says
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest example of how female leaders can thrive over their male counterparts in crisis situations, a keynote speaker at the virtual Women in Medicine Summit said.
Helen Burstin, MD, MPH, MACP, executive vice president and CEO of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, told attendees that recent papers published by SSRN and the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that states and countries with female leaders had lower COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.
“[They] were more likely to have coordinated policy responses to COVID-19,” she said. “They were more willing to make some of the tough policy calls. They also exhibited more empathy and were more likely to listen to trusted experts.”
These women also had characteristics indicative of what Burstin called “transformational leaders.”
“They were more likely to demonstrate vision, inspirations, direction settings and out of the box thinking,” she said. “The qualities that have tended to be associated with male leaders in the past were exhibited far more strongly by women during the pandemic.”
Data from the leadership development firm Zenger Folkman showed that women had an overall leadership effectiveness rating of 53.1% before the pandemic and 57.2% during the pandemic. Men had an overall leadership effectiveness rating of 49.8% prior to the pandemic and 51.5% during the pandemic, according to Burstin. The data indicated that the gender difference is likely due to several factors, including women being more likely to take initiative, inspire and motivate others, value diversity and develop strategic perspectives, she said.
Women already in leadership roles should try to share their time and talent with younger generations, Burstin said.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we work with our junior colleagues, particularly our junior colleagues who are underrepresented in medicine, and bring them up as quickly as we can into positions of leadership,” she concluded.