Tuesday, June 18, 2013



Dr. Larry Pfaff, Professor of Psychology
Spring Arbor University
Phone: 269-370-0083                                                 
E-mail: lpfaff@arbor.edu


Portage, MI, June 18, 2013 –Dr. Lawrence A. Pfaff is the primary author of the research “Perceptions of Women and Men Leaders Following 360-Degree Feedback Evaluations” published in the current issue of the Performance Improvement Quarterly.


Based on previous research and publications it has been theorized that women leaders would employ relational leadership behaviors significantly more frequently than men leaders. It has also been theorized that men and women leaders would employ the use of task-oriented behaviors equally. But these theories have not been tested in the actual workplace, especially not from the perspective of those who work with the leader.

In this study, researchers used a customized 360-degree method to examine the frequency with which 1,546 men and 721 women leaders perceived themselves and were perceived by colleagues (supervisors, employees, peers) as using 10 relational and 10 task-oriented leadership behaviors. Relational behaviors include such things as communication, trust, coaching, and participation. Task-oriented behaviors include such things as goal setting, planning, strategy and decisiveness.

The study results did not match what was expected from previous literature. Dr. Larry Pfaff, lead researcher said, "The women simply outscored the men. Female leaders - as rated by their bosses, themselves, colleagues and the people who work for them - were rated significantly better than their male counterparts, not only in the relational skills, but also in the task-oriented skills. The women leaders were not just stronger on the 'softer' skills such as communication, feedback and empowerment but also in such areas as decisiveness, planning and setting standards."

Employees rated female leaders significantly higher than male leaders in eighteen of the twenty skill areas assessed.  Men and women tied in the other two areas.  Bosses rated female leaders higher than male leaders in sixteen of the twenty skill areas. On self ratings, women scored themselves higher in seventeen skill areas.  Peers rated women higher on thirteen of twenty areas.
"This study clearly challenges the conventional wisdom that women are only better at the ‘softer skills’ such as communicating, empowering people and being positive," said Pfaff. 

"The statistical significance of this data is dramatic," said Pfaff.  "While gathering data on more than 2,400 subjects, on average, men are not rated significantly higher by any of the raters in any of the areas measured."

Using a method known as 360-degree feedback, each leader was evaluated by his/her boss, direct reports, peers and self on the Management-Leadership Practices Inventory (MLPI).  The MLPI uses 85 items to measure twenty skill areas.  The MLPI is a reliable, valid measure of leadership behavior.  MLPI results have been shown in research to correlate to a leader's workgroup productivity.  The areas measured by the MLPI are:  Goal Setting, Planning, Technical Expertise, Performance Standards, Coaching, Evaluating Performance, Facilitating Change, Delegation, Recognition, Approachable, Directive, Participative, Strategy, Communication, Teamwork, Empowering Employees, Trust, Resourcefulness, Self Confidence, and Decisiveness.

Since 1980 Lawrence A. Pfaff and Associates has provided human resource consulting services to businesses across the country.  The focus has been on employee and executive development, 360-degree feedback and selection systems.  Pfaff and Associates is the developer of SELECTProTM Selection Interview Software and the MLPI System of 360-degree feedback inventories.

The complete article can be obtained from Dr. Pfaff at lpfaff@arbor.edu or by calling 269-370-0083.