Do Women Make Good Leaders?

Despite Sarah Palin's high-profile candidacy, most people think men are better leaders.

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Outside Voices - ''Working Girl'' aka Karen Burns
So, Sarah Palin is on the GOP ticket for vice president. A heartbeat away.

Which brings up the question: Do women make good leaders?

In a recent Pew Research study, respondents identified eight essential traits for leadership: honesty, intelligence, hard work, ambition, decisiveness, compassion, extroversion, and creativity. Then they rated men and women in each of these categories. Women came out better than men in all except for decisiveness.

You'd think this means people believe women make the best leaders. Nope. Only 6 percent of survey respondents said women are better leaders than men. One in 5 (21 percent) said men are better leaders, and 69 percent said women and men were equally good at leadership.

It's in vogue to claim that women don't reach the very top—Sarah Palin notwithstanding—because we don't want to. We "choose" lower roles because we put more emphasis on family and child-rearing. Why do women make only 80 cents for every dollar men make? It's because we "choose" lower-paying careers.

On the bright side, opting for a better work-life balance may just prove women's superior intelligence.

In any case, it's certainly a fact that society needs women leaders. Why? Because female leadership styles produce happier and more loyal employees. We are superior motivators, listeners, and nurturers. We're better at working out compromises. We're great at consensus-building (except, maybe, for Sarah Barracuda). All this translates to better employee performance, productivity, and innovation.

Is there anyone who doesn't agree with this? Other than the "Iron My Shirt" crowd?

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at