Are men or women more democratic leaders?

We use a laboratory experiment to examine whether and to what extent other-regarding preferences of team leaders influence their leadership style in choice under risk. We find that leaders who prefer efficiency or report high levels of selfishness are more likely to exercise an autocratic leadership style by ignoring preferences of the other team members. Yet, inequity aversion has no significant impact on leadership styles. Elected leaders have a higher propensity than exogenously assigned leaders to use a democratic leadership style by reaching team consensus. Male leaders and leaders influenced by group membership tend to employ a democratic leadership style.

Source: “Other-Regarding Preferences and Leadership Styles” from IZA Discussion Paper No. 4080, March 2009

Why might this be? From the study:

Interestingly, women have a higher propensity to make autocratic decisions than men. It is difficult to speculate about the underlying reasons for this result. One of the possible explanations is that female team leaders apply more aggressive strategies than their male counterparts. This phenomenon is often confirmed by the empirical observation that there are few women in top leadership/managerial positions. Therefore, women have to exert more effort and act in tougher ways in order to compete with men.

If you want to read more about sex and human nature I recommend this book as well as The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature.

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