Feminist Leadership By Liz Madden

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Feminist Leadership 

By Liz Madden 04/05/2014

‘’Leadership is an ageless topic’’ – Kotter 

There has been a growing interest in the topic of Leadership over the past decade. Leadership is now being studied across the Globe by Businesses, Organisations and Academic Institutions.

There are many concepts within Leadership Theory, but this piece will focus on Leadership Traits, Feminist Leadership and Authentic Leadership.

Several studies show that there are a number of traits that leaders have in common. Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) claim that there are six traits in which leaders differ from non-leaders. These include : drive, the desire to Lead, honesty/integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, and knowledge of the business .

As a feminist, my mind naturally questions if Men and Women exhibit the same Leadership traits?

According to Lowen (2009) there are a number of characteristics that distinguish Female Leaders from Male Leaders. These features include women being more assertive, persuasive, flexible and empathetic.

If women possess the leadership qualities that are associated with success  then Why do men dominate Leadership Spaces?

The most recorded leaders in history are predominantly male (e.g. Jesus Christ, Churchill,Stalin, Hitler ). Even today, a google search of ”Leaders in History” will return searches of the greatest leaders of time, which are ALL men. Unfortunately, this deep-rooted attitude has led people to naturally associate ‘Leader’ with ‘Man’.

As Feminists, we must continue to question why there are more Men than Women in Leadership roles, and why men continue to dominate areas of Finance, Media, Technology, Law, Emergency Services, Sports and Politics.

Fortunately, there is a concept surfacing in the field of Leadership that is challenging these Leadership ‘norms’. This concept is called ‘Feminist Leadership’.

What is feminist leadership? According to Batliwala (2011) Feminist Leadership is: ‘’recognizing that women bring different qualities to leadership, with a greater attention to collaboration, cooperation, collective decision-making, and above all, relationship-building’’. Batliwala also states that the concept of feminist leadership has been widely “discussed”, “described” and “analyzed”.

In the past five years, there has been a notable rise in Female Leaders as Women emerge to the fore of Politics, Technology, Business and Media. We must congratulate and applaud our fellow Female Leaders for gaining success in a male dominated sphere.

There are many inspirational female leaders who are changing the face of leadership and just by being in a Leadership position, they are displaying a message of equality.

The concept of Feminist Leadership offers Leadership Studies a new perspective. Feminist Leadership enhances current Leadership Theory by opening up discussion on topics like Gender, equality and human rights.

Literature on the subject of Feminist Leadership is widely available and Srilatha Batliwala (An India-based Scholar Associate with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development) has published a book on the topic that is accessible online.

Another interesting aspect of Leadership is Authentic Leadership. Authentic Leaders are inspirational, unique and genuine. They treat their followers with respect, dignity and equality. Many believe that authenticity is something that leaders ‘just have’ and that it is not something that can be taught.
My personal example of an ‘Authentic Leader’ is Malala Yousafzai (Taliban shooting survivor, Educational activist and Nobel peace prize nominee). Malala has started her own fund to make education widely accessible to all young girls. Malala is the voice of Leadership for young girls across the Globe. She has started a revolution, a movement and a conscience for people to realise that young girls are being denied their right to education.

“We should not wait for someone else to come and raise our voice. We should do it by ourselves. We should believe in ourselves. Yes, we can do it. One day you will see that all the girls will be powerful; All the girls will be going to school. And it is possible only by our struggle; only when we raise our voice.” – Malala Yousafzai

Feminism and Authenticity are two concepts that have broadened my understanding of Leadership. Feminist Leadership is becoming increasingly popular as the topic is discussed by Academics, Organisations, Media, NGOs and by Feminists.

We can support the idea of Feminist Leadership by continuing to write, share and speak about the Female Leaders who we believe to be authentic and inspirational.

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Here are some interesting websites, talks and articles relating to Women and Leadership.

WIL: A national, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women in leadership roles

The Guardian: Women in Leadership 

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

On-Line professional, refereed journal for women in leadership

Ireland 

Women in Leadership: National Women’s Council of Ireland 

Women in Leadership Courses 

Irelands most powerful women

References

Kirkpatrick & Locke. Leadership: Do Traits Matter?

Batliwala. Feminist Leadership

Lowen: Leadership Traits 

Inspirational Reads 

Générose from Burundi

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