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Third of teen pupils think men are better leaders

Pupils rank Barack Obama, Gareth Southgate, Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn among most-admired leaders

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Pupils rank Barack Obama, Gareth Southgate, Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn among most-admired leaders

A third of young people in the UK think that men are naturally better leaders, according to new research by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

When asked about leadership, 34 per cent of 14- to 19-year-olds were found to think that the historically greater number of male leaders than female was down to men being naturally better at leading than women.

When asked which leaders they most admire, pupils voted for Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Gareth Southgate. Oprah Winfrey is the highest-ranking woman cited, in fifth place.

Other women on the list include actress Emma Watson, activist Malala Yousafzai and Theresa May, although the prime minister finishes lower than Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.

“While it is surprising that so many more young people think that men are naturally better leaders than women, rather than discouraging us, it should inspire us to support all young people in increasing confidence in their ability to be strong and confident leaders,” said Peter Westgarth, chief executive of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

When asked about leadership characteristics, young people favour leadership that values empathy and kindness over authority and discipline, the research suggests.

The survey shows that more than half (58 per cent) of pupils think listening skills, kindness and empathy are the most important characteristics of leaders; just 10 per cent choose discipline, 6 per cent say dominance is important; and 3 per cent cite ruthlessness.

“For too long, good leadership has been associated with dominance and authority so it’s brilliant to see attitudes changing among young people," said Sarah Willingham, entrepreneur and ex-Dragon’s Den investor.

“Throughout my career, I’ve seen many examples of these traits only getting people so far before they’re caught out, and ultimately it’s empathy and resilience that tend to win.”

Two-thirds of pupils aspire to a leadership role, but 40 per cent think their lack of confidence would hold them back.


Leaders that young people most admire:

  1. Barack Obama
  2. Bill Gates
  3. Gareth Southgate
  4. Harry Kane
  5. Oprah Winfrey
  6. Emma Watson
  7. Donald Trump
  8. Jeremy Corbyn
  9. Elon Musk
  10. Malala Yousafzai
  11. Theresa May
  12. Hilary Clinton
  13. Nicola Sturgeon
  14. Desmond Tutu
  15. Emma Gonzalez
  16. Sheryl Sandberg

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