Hours after being grazed by a tomato at a boisterous rally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was cool as a cucumber when asked about dealing with “alpha males” at campaign event later in the day. Preparation, she said, is key.
Merkel, who’s campaigning for a fourth term as chancellor ahead of an election this month, attended two rallies on Tuesday. At the first in the university town of Heidelberg, she encountered fruit-throwing protesters angry with her open-door refugee policy, and their efforts splattered bits of tomato on her blazer.
She wore that same outfit to a later appearance in Stuttgart, where she was asked how she deals with leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who were referred to as “alpha males” by a moderator on stage.
Subscribe to The World’s Most Powerful Women, Fortune’s daily must-read for global businesswomen.
“For me it’s always been important, and I won’t deviate from this, that I try to be as I am, and that I’m well prepared for the substance,” she said. “Such meetings are not about building a friendship. If that happens, good, but it’s about representing the interests of your country, and to make your values clear.”
Since Trump took office, Merkel has repeatedly fielded questions about their relationship because Trump has bashed Germany, an ally, on its trade and migration policies, as well as on its defense spending.
Preparation—versus a “just wing it” attitude—is routinely cited by female leaders who operate in male-dominated spheres.
During a U.S. presidential debate last year, for instance, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton defended herself when rival Trump chided her over reports that she’d spent a lot of time studying for the showdown.
“You criticize me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said. “And, yes, I did. Do you know what else I prepared for? I also prepared to be president.” (Sometimes preparation is not enough.)
Likewise, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who served as labor secretary under President George W. Bush, also cited preparation when asked how she has excelled in predominately-male industries.
“I prepare so much more than some of my male colleagues… And I know women who are prepared more and we get ridiculed and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She’s just preparing so much. She’s such an automaton. Can’t she just like, wing it?’ Well, I’m not comfortable winging it,” Chao told Politico in April. “I don’t prepare as much as I used to because experience does count. But in the beginning, yeah I prepared, and I tried to make it look as if I wasn’t preparing because I didn’t want to be ridiculed.”
The trend extends beyond women in high-profile jobs. A YouGov poll in October found that 74% of U.S. adult women—versus 60% of men—said they tend to prepare for things rather than improvising. At the same time, 32% of men indicated that they tend to improvise, compared to just 17% of women.
In the end, preparation appears to be the more successful approach, and not just for women seeking public office. That same YouGov survey found that a majority of men and women have more respect for a person who prepares for a job interview than someone who’s simply flying by the seat of his—or her—pants.