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Relational Leadership and Gender: From Hierarchy to Relationality

  • Mary Uhl-Bien
Chapter
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 27)

Editors’ Introduction

We devote the next three chapters to developing an understanding of how leadership traits that were typically viewed as female, now form part of a broader leadership paradigm that is emerging within knowledge economies. This new leadership paradigm is called Complexity Leadership Theory. Though Uhl-Bien and her colleagues do not make specific reference to gender in their earlier papers, it is clear that their work offers important perspectives on the functioning of women within the complex adaptive systems that have come to characterize contemporary organizations. Uhl-Bien (2006:654–676) advances the “entity” perspective on leadership by including a “relational” perspective that describes leadership as socially constructed. This moves us beyond the age of “Great Man Theory” towards an acceptance of leadership as a social change process. Leadership hence becomes more about processes than about individualistic behavior. Uhl-Bien does not stop there however. With colleagues Marion and McKelvey (2007: 298–318), she places the relational perspective within the broader context of complexity leadership theory, and explains how the interplay between different leadership roles, which they refer to as administrative, enabling and adaptive, creates leadership opportunities for both men and women. These three essays form a critical bridge between those essays in this book that emphasize the unique capacities of women, and the broader perspective that these views of female leadership traits are also socially constructed and thus open to revision and change. Relational leadership becomes embedded in a broader leadership theory that allows us to see the traditional archetypes of male and female leadership as modes that emerge, shift and change within the complex dynamics of organizational life. This may allow both men and women to “shift gears”, and not find themselves hemmed in by gender stereotypes.

Keywords

Complex Adaptive System Adaptive Function Leadership Research Leadership Theory Administrative Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Innovative Leadership, University of NebraskaLincolnUSA

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