Executive presence

Differing social norms make leading across cultures a challenge for women

Women enter an office building in Beijing. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

A 2015 study of leaders and rising talent revealed that local norms of executive presence differ greatly from country to country, and especially from women to men, perhaps explaining why women in emerging markets find themselves overlooked when it comes to advancement, despite comprising a large part of the talent pool. In the U.S. and the U.K., rising leaders are expected to demonstrate authority, but in Asia rising leaders are expected to demonstrate emotional intelligence. In China 90 percent of respondents believed men should lead in an assertive way but 68 percent believed that women should lead in a reserved way. Women in emerging markets are expected to guide their listeners to conclusions, whereas men are expected to directly state their conclusions. The leaders of the study argue for a gendered approach to professional development that would allow women to better understand and receive training for the expectations under which they operate in emerging markets. “It’s pretty disturbing finding that the traits of executive presence globally are different for men and women,” says Gianni Giacomelli, chief marketing officer at Genpact. “But given that our growth depends on creating inclusive leaders, that’s research we can put to immediate use.”

Read the full story at Harvard Business Review.

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