Leadership Traits Driving Performance Today — Gendered or Not?

Kate Carney
3 min readAug 17, 2022

“In order to fully integrate, we must first differentiate”

- American Philosopher, Ken Wilber

Feminine vs. Masculine. Soft vs. Hard Skills. Agentic vs. ??? (haven’t yet come up with a good antonym — help me out here!). EQ vs IQ. Transactional vs. Transformational.

Are these labels helpful? They are based on generalities (or stereotypes — eek!) and certainly do not describe all men, or all women in leadership roles. Yet, I can appreciate the idea that we need to differentiate styles, call out valuable traits that may have been overlooked in the past, and support more women in leadership.

Call them what you want — today leaders need to practice human-centric styles that drive performance. The bottom-line matters, profitability matters, hitting measurable goals and setting high expectations matter. It’s business, it’s not personal (a topic for another day).

The key is to integrate traits on both sides of the ledger. Here are 3 human-centric traits of effective leaders.

Endless Empathy …

Empathy is a broad concept. At its core, it’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others; the ability to step into another’s shoes; to see things from another’s perspective and appreciate how they experience a situation.

Empathy helps you understand or predict another’s perception of your actions and decisions, as well as predict their actions and reactions.

It’s also a performance driver. 74% of employees said they would work longer hours for an empathetic employer. 76% of people who experience empathy from their leaders are more engaged. Engagement drives performance.

Is this a gendered trait? A study by Korn Ferry, found women are 45% more likely to be seen as consistently demonstrating empathy.

Yet, I caution that while empathy is a way of strengthening relationships, a way of gathering perspectives and ideas, getting caught up in the feelings of others, trying to satisfy or please others, is a losing battle. You cannot take on those feelings.

Talent Agent –Ari Gold Style?

One study found that women outscore men in 17 of 19 top traits of effective leaders. One of which is the development of others — 54.1% vs 49.8% — HBR discussion.

Rather than focused on self, effective leaders are about fostering their team, helping the team and its members to be their best. Human-centric leadership takes the form of coach, mentor, and guide.

They develop others by giving them the structure or framework to engage in their own thinking, decision-making, and actions. It’s less arrogant, ego-driven, or dominant.

You want to be a hero? You want a medal, or are you a coward? Knock off the hippie shit, strap on a helmet, and start shooting. This is Malibu, Emily, I want you to storm that beach like it’s fucking Normandy!” — Ari Gold, Entourage

Inspire & Motivate

That quote is a great segue to inspired motivation. Transformational leaders create a positive shared vision and motivate their team to achieve that shared vision through strong emotional appeal.

Using inspired, clear communication and motivational behaviors, effective leaders transform their team’s attitudes and beliefs, aligning their employees with the company’s purpose. It is also about building confidence in their own strengths to drive the inspiration or motivation that is already inside them.

Equally important to remember that employees are motivated by more than just purpose and meaning. Hitting targets, meeting high expectations, being rewarded with appropriate incentives and promotions.

Perhaps, being the “hero” or winning a “medal”!

Mix it up, lean into both the masculine and the feminine, to drive performance.



Kate Carney

I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.