Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was called to her leading role in a time of crisis for France in 2011. She took over the post from scandal-clad Dominique Strauss-Kahn and successfully transformed IMF's culture and image through focused leadership--and dealt with the debt crisis across Europe.
In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review, the 57-year-old French politician spoke about women in leadership roles.
Here are the four most interesting points from Lagarde's interview:
Why are there so few women in leadership roles?
"Because it takes so much time to reach the top. It takes a lot of energy to stay in the game, and quite a few women decide they aren't interested in pursuing top positions," she says. "I don't value one career path over another or assume that a woman in business is worth more than a woman raising a family. But I want to make sure women feel they have a choice."
What is a "feminine" leader?
"Studies show that certain characteristics are predominant in female leaders, like the ability to listen, the desire to form a consensus, an attention to risk. Which is why I think women are good leaders in times of crisis," she says.
Do women make better leaders as men?
"In a crisis situation, yes," she says. "My favorite example is Iceland. The country essentially went down the tubes. Who was elected prime minister? A woman. Who was called in to restore the situation with the banks? Women. The only financial institution that survived the crisis was led by a woman."
Does sexism still exist in the business world?
"I'll put it this way: When we had to elect new partners at Baker & McKenzie, I would ask the existing partners to show a positive bias in support of aspiring young women, because there exists--and sometimes it's intangible--rampant sexist bias against women in leadership jobs in male-dominated environments," she says.