Women Leaders Increasingly Relying on Transformative Leadership to Foster Resilience

A one of a kind study by EY Global Delivery Services (GDS) and Avtar found that women leaders are increasingly relying on ‘Transformative Leadership’, as the dominant model of leadership. Read on to know more.

Men and women have different connections. However, since men constitute the vast majority of C-suite executives, the emphasis on leadership models that are adopted has been overwhelmingly male-oriented.

Transformative leadership, which includes behavioural characteristics such as agility and curiosity, emerged as the dominant model in a unique study to determine what type of leadership women follow. EY Global Delivery Services (GDS) and Avtar conducted a study on EY GDS women executives in different countries (India, Argentina, Poland, China, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom) to better understand the key impacts on their leadership styles. India is home to 79% of the 1,245 female leaders polled.

The study seeks to identify resilient career prospects for female professionals that can be used to achieve leadership objectives. The study brings a new outlook and balance to the traits associated with leaders. Female leaders are thought to have higher levels of strategic thinking, empathy, influence, agility, and teaming potential than males.

There is little research on women in leadership, particularly in emerging nations, according to Jaya Virwani, who oversees the diversity, inclusion, and ethics unit at EY GDS, “The tone has changed because more women are walking into the workforce. They are influencing policy decisions to attract more women towards a balanced workforce. At EY GDS, we’ve enabled successful careers, we’ve helped our women thrive and succeed. But there’s also a lot that these women have done to get there. We wanted to study their journey and the practices that have helped them become role models for other women to emulate.”

Jaya added, “We’re not saying that a certain leadership model will bring you to a place of success. If women practice any of these models that work for them, or exhibit the behaviour of any of these models, they will still be able to meet their career aspirations. What’s clear from the study is the higher the leadership intentionality, the faster you get to the top.” The 'Women's Leadership Models' EY GDS-Avtar study provides five various paths that women pursue when practising their leadership style. These are:-

  1. Warrior - the resilient leadership model,
  2. Bootstrapper - the astute leadership model,
  3. Powerhouse - the transformative leadership model
  4. Savant - the purposeful leadership model
  5. Matriarch - the empathetic leadership model

Saundarya Rajesh, founder and CEO of Avtar Group, stated, “The most critical point to note here is not that these different routes or practices of leadership exist, it is that all women who demonstrate leadership (it might be any one of the above or even a combination) do so only because they have a common ground of self-awareness, inclusivity and leadership intentionality. While self-awareness is a result of the individual’s own emotional intelligence journey, inclusivity is a result of what they experience through role models in the workplace. Leadership intentionality, which we believe is the most crucial one, emerges out of both their upbringing as a child as well as the influences they imbibe in their workplace.”

According to Saundarya, women's leadership appears to have a gender effect. She noted, "Women's socialisation (primarily as caregivers, family and community builders, and equal resource distributers) usually results in them incorporating these characteristics in their leadership style.”

According to the study, at the mid-career level, there is a huge reliance on teamwork abilities, and at the mature stage, there is a greater emphasis on problem-solving skills, with other top leadership characteristics being consistent across career phases. Women on professional pauses — 250 of those polled — displayed more intentional leadership, maybe motivated by a desire to prove themselves.

There is no like-for-like comparison since men were not included in this study. However, Rajesh claimed that the study compared its findings to various pre-existing models based on a thorough literature analysis. She continued, citing secondary study findings, “It should also be taken into consideration that there is a general difference in the daily behaviour and expectations of men and women in the workplace, which percolates into different aspects of the workplace including the leadership style. For example, women may be more likely to engage in a relational approach to work than men (Matthew, Buontempo, & Block, 2013)."

Women's leadership programmes and policies can hold up a mirror to the organization's culture, which is an often-underestimated facet of women's leadership. Saundarya added, “The availability and utilisation of career enablers has a very important role in the kind of leadership models that emerges. And the effectiveness of the career enablers is determined by the organisational culture. While the current research establishes the transformative leadership model as the most dominant one among women leaders, we must remember that no one model of leadership (used in the context of the research) is more important than the other. Often, women leaders demonstrate a composite of leadership competencies resulting in an amalgamation of leadership models, the net outcome of which is their leadership intentionality.”