October 6, 2003
In Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s novel, Ambiguous Adventure he addresses many
problems. Such as the cultural and social choices that Africans faced
during the colonial era, how education played a major role in the European
colonization area. The one that is most surprising is the role of the Most
Royal Lady. She is highly respected by everyone, including the male leaders
in the Diallo family. But her role is very unusual, she is a woman and
women of this time had no place in a leadership position.
More and more women are rising to the leadership challenge, even in some of
the most male-dominated industries. The increase in the number of women
attending university, in the workplace or starting their own business has
demonstrated to men who own businesses that women can be both managers and
mothers, thus showing their male counterpart that women can in fact “do it
all”. This paper will show the history of women, as well as the challenges
they face. In conjunction with the Most Royal Lady in Kane’s novel, the
leadership styles of women will also be discussed.
A number of events have occurred over the last twenty-five years or so
that have resulted in the rise of the female in the work-for-pay world.
Beginning in the mid-1970’s, women began going to business school and
earning their Master’s of Business Administration and, as a result,
building on that education and gaining work experience. The days of the one
income family are over. Females need to be armed with a university or
college degree to be a contributor to this century’s model of the family
unit and in this time of “education inflation”, the demand for higher
education is growing at a staggering rate. In the corporate sector, the
generation of women who entered the corporate world two to three decades
ago have blazed the trail now followed by ever-growing numbers of women.
Just as in Kane’s novel, women whom hold leadership positions will be
While women continue to make progressive strides toward equality, few
have risen to the highest positions-leading companies to the new
millennium. Fortunately, women can now demand equal treatment in their
respective organizations as a result of the aforementioned changes in
history. Many women in African culture still have set backs, and are unable
to demand equal treatment. There is a vast amount of evidence that women
tend to occupy less powerful, lower paid and lower status organizational
positions than men. These divisions not only occur vertically, but on a
horizontal scale as well. Women who seek to enter management level
positions fight against stereotypes, discrimination, and myths, not to
mention the fight to balance work and family. They have also been
overwhelmed by unfamiliar products, skeptical clients or customers, guy
talk, a scarcity of female associates and little or no empathy. Sheila
Wellington, President of Catalyst, a non-profit organization for the
advancement of women to corporate and professional leadership, said in a
speech on October 23, 1996 to the Economic Club of Detroit in Detroit
“Let me be clear, I believe that most obstacles to women’s advancement
to the top are not intentional, they are a result of unexamined assumptions
about women’s career interests
and of policies and practices that have existed unquestioned over time in
the corporate culture. With real commitment to change, the situation
is remediable.” (,)
Perhaps, the “glass ceiling” that women are under is not the intent of
their male counterparts. I believe that it is the socialization of men and
women in our society that has lead to this imbalance in the work force.
But, somewhere along the line, men have to realize and acknowledge the
socialization they have endured is creating much disharmony and discontent
among their female colleagues.
There are many characteristics that women inherently possess that make them
Women tend to handle juggling many tasks at the same time better than men
do. Because women have traditionally been the primary caregiver in the home
as well as taking care of the household chores, “juggling” or time
management has become second nature to them. Although women are skilled in
handling many tasks, studies have shown that women are for the most part,
people-oriented, rather than task-oriented.
Women also value relationships and tend to spend time nurturing those
relationships with their family, as well as subordinates. Coaching,
counseling, and mentoring, and the building of relationships are among the
many characteristics needed to be an effective leader. In the past,
commanding and controlling were thought to be the answer to gaining
compliance and hard work from employees. The majority of men lean toward
the traditional ‘command and control’ style and were more likely to view
job performance as a series of transactions with subordinates offering
rewards for services rendered or punishment for inadequate performance.
Women understand the effectiveness of immediate praise and tend to be more
supportive of one another and the people who work for them. Men wait for
proof of achievement before extending gratitude or compliments.
It is important to note that while the majority of women do possess
all or some of these inter-personal skills, men are quite capable of
exhibiting these same characteristics and it is also possible that there
are women who do not possess any of these characteristics. Women are also
said to be easy to motivate, are trustworthy and cooperative, and are
Current studies suggest that women tend to have strong skills in
collaboration and group processes. Many behavioral scientists have
concluded that, in general, women’s leadership style seeks consensus among
subordinates rather than the more typically male independent decision
making style. Women are sometimes faced with criticism for being too
passive, but if she opts for a more task-oriented, directive style of
leadership, she is seen as too aggressive or masculine-a “bitch”. They use
an interactive approach to management in which they encourage employees
participation but also attempt to “enhance other people’s sense of self-
worth and to energize followers”.
Women in leadership roles in organizations are usually highly involved in
the day-to-day operations and they seek advice from the community and their
peers. When it comes to leadership and management, women “tend to lead in
circles rather than pyramids”. That is to say that they lean towards
creating a cooperative atmosphere rather than a hierarchical, competitive
environment. They possess superior creative problem solving and intuitive
management skills, these among their other interpersonal skills have been
encouraged throughout their lives and they have relied on those very skills
in each and every one of their relationships.
Because of women’s socialization, these characteristics have come to the
forefront. As children, women are encouraged to listen, to build
relationships, to be considerate of other’s feelings and opinions and so
on. As a result, a new breed of leaders was born.
What, if any, characteristics of leadership, do women possess? Women
possess a superior sense of teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. “If
the goal is to improve performance, the winning bet will be on cooperation
over competition every time. Competition almost never results in best
performance; pursuing excellence is a collaborator’s game”.
Especially in joint tasks, cooperation and collaboration are keys to
success. Enabling others to act is innate in women. Again, as primary
caregivers, they are subject to letting their children go and experience
life and make their own mistakes, this is just second nature to women.
Reciprocity is key in executing effective leadership. Women focus a
lot of their energy and time in maintaining and building relationships with
the people around them. Reciprocity is one of the components of building a
relationship, “reciprocity also leads to predictability and stability in
relationships, which can keep both relationships and negotiations from
breaking down”. Reciprocity is described as having the willingness to be
cooperative and an unwillingness to be taken advantage of.
To foster collaboration encompasses what women leaders are. The
sharing of information and resources is, again, like second nature to
women. This is through their socialization. That is not to say that all
women possess these characteristics, but it is based on the majority
through studies and extensive research. Building trusting relationships is
the embodiment of the female psyche. Without trust in the people around
them, their effectiveness as a leader, employee, wife, mother or friend is
non-existent. Women strive for trust in the people they connect with on
daily basis and they strive to be trusted. “Trust is at the heart of
fostering collaboration. It’s the central issue in human relationships
within and outside the organization”.
It is a universal fact that women are exemplary listeners. It is the
key in understanding the people you work with. To understand what is
important to them is crucial to a successful business relationship. To know
what an employee needs to feel fulfilled and to work to capacity, superior
listening and communication skill are necessary.
Celebrating accomplishments are also a fundamental practice in leadership.
As mentioned previously, women are more likely to celebrate accomplishments
and provide immediate praise to successful subordinates, unlike their male
counterparts. Women are drawn to creating social support networks. Once
again, women’s socialization comes to the forefront. Females are taught by
example that to be happy and fulfilled you need your own little “support
network” made up of friends and family. When women have problems or need
advice they immediately call upon their network for assistance. Unlike men,
who by nature, tend to withdraw and put the decision making process solely
on their own shoulders.
Although women do possess many of the characteristics of effective
leaders, they are not prone to lead by example. As Kane shows the Most
Royal Lady is a leader and well respected in that position. Due to the
clash in the scheduling of work and their personal lives, women are torn
between being a driven leader and being an effective leader in the home.
But, again, gender is not always the determining factor in leadership
capabilities. There are exceptions to each of the rules outlined within
this paper. It is important to take note that there are male leaders that
possess each of these qualities and are superior leaders. Alternatively,
there are men and women who possess little or few of these characteristics
and have still risen to the top of their ranks in terms of leadership style