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Christine Lagarde: Women Lead Better in Crisis

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund explains why female leaders are inherently better equipped to manage in tough situations.

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.

Last updated: Oct 23, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter,

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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