Do women stand back to move forward? Gender differences in top US business leaders' messages of servant leadership

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Abstract

This study aimed to address gendered aspects of servant-leadership and its viability for high performing businesses. Because the distinguishing aspects of servant-leadership tend to be attributed with traditionally feminine behaviors and traits, servant-leadership is often considered too soft for business. Furthermore, this feminization of servant-leadership may perpetuate the disadvantaging of women in achieving leadership status. To determine servant-leadership attitudes, rhetorical constructions of leadership within the commencement speeches of 50 Fortune1000 and Power50 executives are analyzed and gender differences explored. Results showed that gender differences in the framing of servant-leadership approaches can be observed, with Standing-Back being the most salient difference across three stages of analysis. Nevertheless, differences are subtle and in the larger picture servant-leadership attitudes are present in both women and men in the upper echelons of US business executives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-523
Number of pages37
JournalThe International Journal of Servant-Leadership
Volume14
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • servant-leadership
  • gender
  • women's leadership
  • business executives
  • executive leadership

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