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Gender, authentic leadership, and identity: an analysis of women leaders' autobiographies.

Sang, Katherine J.C.; Kapasi, Isla; Sang, Katherine; Sitko, Rafal


Katherine J.C. Sang

Isla Kapasi

Katherine Sang

Rafal Sitko


Purpose: Leadership theories have moved from viewing leadership as a personality trait, towards models that recognise leadership as a social construction. Alongside this theorisation, gender and leadership remains of considerable interest, particularly given the under-representation of women in leadership positions. Methodological approaches to understanding leadership have begun to embrace innovative methods, such as historical analyses. The current study aims to understand how high profile women leaders construct a gendered leadership identity, with particular reference to authentic leadership.

Approach: Thematic analysis of autobiographies, a form of identity work, of four women leaders from business and politics; Sheryl Sandberg, Karren Brady, Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard.

Findings: Analyses reveal that these women construct gender and leadership along familiar normative lines; for example, the emphasis on personal and familial values. However, their stories differ in that the normative extends to include close examination of the body and a sense of responsibility to other women. Overall, media representations of these ‘authentic’ leaders conform to social constructions of gender. Thus in the case of authentic leadership, a theory presented as gender neutral, the authenticity of leadership has to some extent been crafted by the media rather than the leader.

Value: The study reveals that despite attempts to ‘craft’ and control the image of the
authentic self for consumption by followers, gendered media representations of individuals
and leadership remain. Thus, alternative approaches to crafting an authentic leadership self which extend beyond (mainstream) media is suggested.


Sang, K. J., Kapasi, I., Sang, K., & Sitko, R. (2016). Gender, authentic leadership, and identity: an analysis of women leaders' autobiographies. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 31(5/6), 339-358.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 10, 2016
Publication Date Jul 4, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 5, 2018
Journal Gender in Management: an international journal
Print ISSN 1754-2413
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 5/6
Pages 339-358
Keywords Autobiography; gender; leadership; authentic leadership; Identity work;
Public URL
Publisher URL


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