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The Importance of Role Models in the Development of Leaders’ Professional Identities

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Abstract

Our sense of what is possible in our careers is influenced by what has gone before, how we interpret that history, and how we draw inspiration and learning from leaders past and present in our own identity development. In Western societies, authority and power are bound with notions of leadership that are shaped by the almost exclusively male incumbents of leadership roles. Hence leadership is inherently gendered in style, reflecting characteristics of heroic heterosexual and powerful males. Indeed, preparation for leadership is so gendered that even at middle levels of management, ‘think manager, think male’ seems such a natural and normal process that we are unaware of it (Schein, 2007). Both men and women in general accept this, because it is the way things are in terms of sex roles in society and reinforced at work, and the way things have always been - unless they are females with ambition coming up against a ‘glass ceiling’. But it is not natural and normal - in other societies, different patterns are still to be found, and therefore it is clear that leadership is a social and cultural construction. Role models are an important part of the development of social identities, and we argue, the scarcity of female role models in leadership positions plays a major part in the persistence of the gender stereotypical construction of leadership (Sealy and Singh, 2006).

Keywords

  • Role Model
  • Professional Identity
  • Female Manager
  • Woman Leader
  • Female Professor

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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© 2008 Ruth Sealy and Val Singh

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Sealy, R., Singh, V. (2008). The Importance of Role Models in the Development of Leaders’ Professional Identities. In: James, K.T., Collins, J. (eds) Leadership Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230584068_15

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