The Leadership Quarterly recently published a research paper written by Mills College biologist Dr. Jennifer Smith and her colleagues entitled “Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective.”
Even though there have been many efforts to narrow the gender gap in our human leadership roles, women continue to be underrepresented. However, by studying behavior patterns of animals, four domains were identified: emergence, distribution, power, and payoff. In a current study of non-human mammals, females consistently lead in conflicts in at least two of these major contexts. For example, in the lives of whales, lions, spotted hyenas, lemurs, and elephants, female leaders emerge without coercion, and followers benefit from the social support and/or ecological knowledge of female elders.
Here are some observations about female leadership in the wild:
Considering leadership among animals is an innovative approach to learning a great deal more about human female leadership. Reading about specific species provides information that may well improve human leadership. For example, in reading about deer (which are numerous where I live), I discovered their qualities translate to: gentleness; the ability to move through life and obstacles with grace; being in touch with an inner child; innocence; being sensitive and intuitive; vigilance; the ability to change directions quickly; a magical ability to regenerate; and being in touch with life’s mysteries. Needless to say, I learn a great deal from deer as I contemplate their essence.
Dear reader, do you have a special animal you relate to? If so, what have you learned about life and yourself through your connection to that creature? Can you think of how that connection might influence your role as a leader? All comments are very welcome!