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Having a good female leader beneficial to employee mental health, study suggests

A new study from AUT and Massey suggests that having a good female leader may lead to greater employee satisfaction than having a good male leader.

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Jarrod Haar talks about his study – which pre-dates the pandemic response. Source: Breakfast

The study, by professor Jarrod Haar oif AUT and Dr David Brougham of Massey, examined whether gender makes a difference when it comes to good leadership.

The study is not yet completed and fully interpreted, but the results indicate that having a leader who was empathetic and sincere was beneficial to wellbeing, with employees experiencing higher life satisfaction, less stress, less burnout and overall experiencing less anxiety and depression.

Crucially, the study also found that having a good leader - who was female - further reduced those feeling among employees, both male and female.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's leadership through the Covid-19 crisis has been praised by many both here and overseas, but interestingly, the AUT/Massey study survey was taken before the Covid-19 period.

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A total of 625 New Zealand employees were surveyed, with just over half of them (57.1 per cent) female. Their average age was 40.

"The survey provides clear evidence that during the Covid-19 lockdown period, having a good leader is beneficial for your wellbeing; it is ‘extra beneficial’ if that leader is a woman," the study's authors wrote.

"The results likely reflect that female leaders may have a different approach to leadership, with a tendency to be more focused on relationships, and more sensitive, attuned, and responsive to their staff.

"Thus, good leaders who are female are better able to allay their employees' concerns and frustrations with work.

"The result? Employees have a greater sense of wellbeing which, in turn, helps make them more productive."

The study has not yet been finalised or peer reviewed.