Opening Doors to Lead

Contrary to popular belief, there is risk in averting risk.

In an environment where one must excel, women have made progress by taking calculated risk in new management styles while maintaining their power in traditional competitive landscapes. This has created a shift in business that all leaders, both men and women, can benefit from understanding. Recently, on Critical Mass Radio, Tomilee Gill spoke about how she has experienced, and lead, in this shift and how she mentors women in leadership positions, or planning to take leadership positions.

Women have led their teams successfully through the doors of male owned businesses and in doing so, opened doors to leaders everywhere by slowly and carefully incorporating managing styles based not on gender, but on what works by motivating their team to excellence.

While information on this topic usually has a “by women and for women” approach, the information below is detailed to serve both male leaders as much as female leaders in the dynamic task of recruiting and managing intelligent, empowered individuals.

Every recruiter has to provide candidates with an excellent experience, but the executive recruiting process must raise that bar to an even higher level. Interestingly, the below processes of transformational and interactive leadership reaches to all acts of accessing the ideal executive candidate and empowering their inner strengths.

President of Executives Unlimited, Inc., Tomilee Gill, stated, “Many times men are considered assertive, and that is considered strength. If a woman is associated with the word, assertive, she might be considered pushy or bossy, maybe picky, so there’s just different definitions in how we define personal strength with men and women.

I think also women are many times thought of as transformational leaders, ones who work with teams and groups. Men are considered more transactional by nature and project oriented.”

Judy B. Rosener explains in Harvard Business Review that, “Transformational leadership is getting subordinates to transform their own self-interest into the interest of the group through concern for a broader goal.” Below, her notions on effective leadership are summarized.

  • Ascribe power to your personal characteristics: like charisma, interpersonal skills, hard work, or personal contacts rather than to organizational stature like the title of your position.
  • Share power and information: enhance other people’s self-worth, and get others excited about their work.
  • Encourage participation. Inclusion is at the core of interactive leadership.
  • Where appropriate, act on the input you receive. Ask for suggestions before you reach conclusions.

Claire Rothman, general manager of the Great Western Forum, a large sports and entertainment arena in Los Angeles, spoke about the value of open disagreement: “When I know ahead of time that someone disagrees with a decision, I can work especially closely with that person to try to get his or her support.”

Susan S. Elliott, president and founder of Systems Service Enterprises, a St. Louis computer consulting company, expressed, “I prefer participation, but there are situations where time is short and I have to take the bull by the horns.”

When asked if there are any self-imposed barriers that women bring to the business world, Tomilee Gill stated, “I think of men and women sometimes and I think of a brick wall. Let’s say that brick wall is ten feet high, and a man will come up to it and if he wants to get through it he’s just going to break it down. A woman is going to measure it. She’s much more careful in how she’s going to get through that wall. Those two characteristics actually work very well together in a business environment as long as they’re willing to understand those differences and to respect them. But the first thing you have to do is respect yourself. There’s so much opportunity for you.”

Alice H. Eagly states in her symposium, Gender & Work, that transformational leaders…act as inspirational role models, foster good human relationships, develop the skills of followers, and motivate others to go beyond the confines of their job descriptions. Our meta-analysis showed that female managers are somewhat more transformational than male managers (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003). As far as transactional (or incentive-based) leadership is concerned, this meta-analysis also showed that female managers tend to motivate followers with positive, reward-based incentives.

Eagley closes her piece by stating, “To find out whether our societies would thrive and prosper if women shared power equally with men, more women would have to hold the reins of power. My best guess is that the gains of moving expeditiously in this direction far outweigh the risks.”

It’s clear there are as many leadership styles as there opportunities to use them. We hope this information is helpful to you in accomplishing your goals. 98% of our clients reengage us for additional search assignments. We welcome you to visit to find out more about our methods and results or listen to the full Critical Mass Speaker Series to learn more about women and how they think differently in business.


1). Ways Women Lead by Judy B. Rosener. Harvard Business Review. Subscription Service P.O. Box 52623
Boulder, CO 80322-2623.

2). Gender & Work: Challenging Conventional Wisdom by Alice H. Eagly. Research Symposium for Harvard Business School.

3). Leadership Styles: A Meta-analysis Comparing Women and Men. Eagly, A. H., Johannesen-Schmidt, M. C., & van Engen, M. (2003).