Women leaders, personal leadership and challenges

Date: February 14, 2014
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Orientation: Women leaders are acknowledged for their resonance-building leadership styles, adaptive communication skills and qualities of cooperation, mentoring and collaboration – traits that are becoming increasingly important to leadership in contemporary organisations. If women are sufficiently competent to serve as leaders, why have so relatively few reached the top of the ladder? Gender based stereotypes influenced by the cultural value dimensions of society are seen as the major barriers to women’s advancement. Despite enabling legislation in South Africa, statistics reflect the dwindling of opportunities as women reach the upper echelons of management. Career primary motivated women reported structural barriers in organisations including networking, glass ceilings and glass cliffs. Societal challenges that women face included lack of access to power in an environment that is becoming increasingly toxic, resulting in eroding of values and ethics among leaders in general. Personal challenges working mothers faced were finding balance in the social construction of their life roles and creating a meandering career path, during midlife. Personal leadership was evident in the women’s lives in their spiritual dimensions, their mental dimensions, their physical dimensions and their emotional dimensions. Research purpose: The aim of this study was to describe “Who” women leaders in South Africa are; to explore “What” challenges they face personally, in society and in organisations; and “How” personal leadership helped them to cope and excel in their careers and lives. Motivation for the study: In my opinion women are equally competent to serve as leaders, but there are barriers to their achievement of leadership positions. Living as a woman in South African society, where gender conditioning is interwoven, I’ve always been painfully aware of and frustrated with segregation and lack of opportunities based on gender. The first motivation for the study was to investigate the specific challenges career-primary motivated women face. Secondly, women leaders seem to cope brilliantly and excel in their careers and personal lives. The motivation of this study was to investigate what the qualities are that females bring to leadership and to illuminate how personal leadership assisted women leaders to overcome personal, socio-cultural and organisational challenges to excel in their careers through the different phases of their lives.

Publisher: University of Johannesburg
Year of Publication: 2012

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