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The Themes of Career Success: Leadership Maturity

After twenty-seven years of conducting gender diagnostics with organizations across the globe, and in the process, amassing over 240,000 survey responses with men and women leaders, the results of this North American survey are some of the highest scores we’ve seen for women in their perceptions of self and career success.

Our first diagnostic visual shows the scores given by our senior women respondents in the order that each theme was presented to them: Career Advancement, Self-Initiation, Leadership Maturity, Big Picture, and Leadership Responsibility.

This one graphic represents the overall findings of our study. As you can see in the center or bull’s eye of our Diagnostic Wheel, the scores for each of the five themes cluster around a center—or core of positive outlook— with Big Picture receiving the highest self-score of 87%. Leadership Responsibilities received the second highest at 86% followed by Leadership Maturity (82%), Self-Initiation (77%), and Career Advancement (74%).

What is most interesting and valuable in this graphic is their strength and self-confidence in their thoughts and actions, looking for the win-win approach, and centering their attention on achieving their organization’s strategic goals.

The circle around each score represents the standard deviation or indication of the level of agreement among the respondents. As this first illustration shows, Big Picture and Leadership Responsibilities have the highest scores and lowest deviations. What this says is that most all the women in our study are on the same page when it comes to their dedication to the success of the organization and self-confidence that their talents and skills are paving the right course. There is little self-doubt in their ability and readiness to lead.

Interestingly, the lowest scores and greatest deviations are in Career Advancement and Self-Initiation. It seems that the same challenges faced by many women in middle management still surface even among these successful women.

Let’s continue to look into each of these themes to see why the women in our survey rated each of the five areas they way they did—next up, Leadership Maturity.


3. Leadership Maturity

What makes Leadership Maturity the third highest scoring theme is this group’s self-confidence, having high self-respect, and being self-assured in what they think and feel (84%).

Leadership_Maturity_WhitepaperThis is quite a positive change we’re seeing in the mindset of women in upper management. They’re embracing their own authenticity and don’t feel a need to revert to the behaviour we’ve seen in past research where women claim they have to behave more like men in order to succeed. The women in our study consider themselves highly capable in dealing with ambiguity and resolving complex dilemmas (82%).

While women tend to approach workplace challenges differently than men do, it’s difficult to act on instinct when you’re outnumbered by men who are acting on instinct as well. Deviations in the scores by some of the respondents reflect that significance of those challenges, especially in the area of conflict resolution.

Women, attempting to express their leadership maturity, can sometimes feel ineffective in a predominantly male environment. When conflict arises, women and men often approach the issue differently:


Women tend to see conflict as a breakdown that’s destructive to relationships if not immediately addressed. They prefer to approach it openly, clear the air, and build greater rapport. Women are more inclined to talk issues through and search for mutual understanding before taking action.

Men tend to treat conflict in a more isolated and detached way. Separating themselves from the issue helps them view the situation objectively, and in doing so, find the fastest path to a quick solution. If the conflict is intense, emotional, or ambiguous, they’ll tend to ignore or side step the problem and deal with it later when they can bring greater focus.

So while women may view themselves as quite competent, capable, and more willing to deal with the issue—in the moment—feeling one way and practicing what comes natural are often opposing forces in an environment that typically defaults to the male approach.

The above is excerpted from our White Paper in partnership with Thomson Reuters, “Solutions to Women’s Advancement.”