Before answering these questions, let us study the definition: Leadership is the art of leading individuals, collectively or individually, to a specific goal, this goal can be material or spiritual, positive or negative. However, these individuals will act toward this goal only if they are forced or convinced of its merits because the levers of leadership are either force or persuasion. In the first case, a lot of energy will be spent to achieve the goal while trying to get out of the stress; in the second case, the efficiency will be guaranteed unless otherwise external events. It’s all about circumstances but either fear or confidence are both tools of leadership.
But if the force comes under so-called masculine qualities, persuasion comes under those assigned to women. So far all is simple, too simple; but things get complicated when one is interested in behavioural psychology and identity. What is a man or being a woman? Can this be limited to physical appearance? And does physical appearance impose, even unconsciously, a type of behavior?
I do not think so. Things are more complex than it seems and a leader, man or woman, will succeed to lead teams only if s/he is aware of the qualities s/he possesses, or not, in a given environment. And having such and such qualities, male or female, is not linked to a sex despite taught stereotypes that have wasted many lives but happily that last century began to undermine. But it is hard to fight against stereotypes and many people still believe in them by easiness, fear or refusal to question their received education. Just as we oppose too quickly the right brain, emotional, to the left-brain, rational, people opposed male and female behavior, forgetting that everything is in everything. We simply forget that duality means complementarity rather than opposition and each of us has inside of us male and female traits, and this whatever our physical appearance (reference to Carl G. Jung).
Thus according to stereotypes a woman would be gentle, conciliatory and emotional and watch out for any move away from this cliché. But I doubt that these are the qualities that come to your mind when you mention female leaders like Mrs Thatcher, Clinton or Merkel. And I see more and more around me men who possess “feminine” qualities, for example by taking in charge children on a very caring way, sometimes more than some mothers.
So does a female leadership exist? I do not know but what struck me about all these women leaders with whom I worked, entrepreneurs, doctors, politicians … it’s that they shared the same characteristic namely rigor, rigor towards themselves, rigor towards others. But, if rigor is a force, e.g. a masculine quality, it does not mean violence or virility but structure. These female leaders know how to put a structural framework in which teams or individuals could act and organize themselves towards a given purpose. They were women-matrices.
Then the rigor would be a feminine quality? Not necessarily, I believe that all of us, male and female, share this trait of personality to varying degrees but this quality is essential to establish the confidence which I mentioned earlier. Rigor is necessary both to leadership based on strength than the one based on persuasion. But in an environment where the use of force is useless, discipline remains a quality that requires courage to be assumed. Indeed, in this context, the facility for the leader would be to abandon rigor in favor of seduction, using the so-called female values rather than “male » values, because the context is not threatening. But these female leaders generally do not commit this political mistake; instead they usually seemed more rigorous, more straightforward than their male counterparts in the same situation.
So can we talk about women’s leadership? I do not think so. Leadership qualities are not linked to a physical identity even if the expression of these qualities can be influenced by this identity as it is often simpler to act according to what the environment expects from us. Leadership cannot be learned; this posture is the result of a combination of predispositions such as interest in the other (more than for oneself), risk-taking (rather than security), sense of teamwork, endurance, will, predisposition for solitude, capacity to reconnect with oneself, intuition and… rigor (for oneself and others). This cocktail is not especially feminine or masculine, but relates the essence of the person and of her/his evolution. Not everyone, man or woman, can be a leader and that’s good because the world would probably be unbearable.