Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

"I Do Not Let Setbacks Discourage Me Much" the Composition of a Finnish Female Leader

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

"I Do Not Let Setbacks Discourage Me Much" the Composition of a Finnish Female Leader

Article excerpt


The article illustrates findings from a larger study on the Finnish female leaders' paths to a leader's position. This sub-study analyzed the composition of a Finnish female leader as narrated by leaders themselves. It was studied through two specifying questions: what kinds of personal features female leaders considered important in their leadership practices and how do these women describe the emphases of leadership. This was a qualitative study in which 10 Finnish female leaders were interviewed in two phases in 2006 and 2011. According to the narratives, the important personal features were perseverance and rabidity, honesty and humbleness, as well as tolerance of criticism, adversities, and loneliness, which were analyzed in the light of the authentic leadership theory. The emphases of leadership included the dimensions of social interaction and being a bellwether. The study contributed a new narrative viewpoint to the definition of authentic leadership.

Keywords: leadership, female leaders, authentic leadership, narrative research

1. Introduction

The rapidly-changing worklife sets new challenges to leadership as well (Cascio, 2010; Syväjärvi & Vakkala, 2012). Despite over a-hundred-year-long tradition of leadership research producing various theories and definitions (see e.g., Ladkin, 2010; Northouse, 2013; Solheim, 2000; Yukl, 2010), a holistic illustration of leadership is still lacking. Indeed, leadership as a phenomenon appears extremely versatile and complex (Ladkin, 2010).

What kind of leadership is expected in these days and what kinds of features should leaders possess? Regardless of numerous definitions, there are some central elements in leadership. On the one hand, leaders are expected to manage goals and objectives, vision, and substance. On the other hand, they also have to be people leaders, inspire employees to work toward goals and motivate, encourage, and support employee so that they engage and bear their responsibility over the success of the enterprise (Northouse, 2013; Syväjärvi & Vakkala, 2012; Yukl, 2010).

In the 21st century, the concept of authentic leadership has gained more and more attention (see e.g., Gardner et al., 2011; Gill & Caza, 2015; Ladkin & Spiller, 2013). It is based on positive psychological viewpoint to leadership (see e.g., Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Seligman, 2011; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). In this viewpoint, authenticity refers to the ownership and truthfulness of one's own experiences, including thoughts, emotions, needs, and beliefs (Harter, 2002; see also Ladkin & Taylor, 2010).

Another important aspect of this study is female leadership. The modern time acknowledges women as capable leaders and their development into leadership position (see e.g., Frantsi, 2013; Lämsä, 2003; Lämsä et al., 2007). The purpose of this study is to analyze Finnish female leaders' narratives, their descriptions of themselves as leaders. How do they perceive themselves a leaders? What kind of characteristics do they perceive they need as leaders? Their narratives can help describing the composition of a Finnish female leader. Authentic leadership functions as the theoretical background that in this study will be used and understood as the narrative self (see Sparrowe, 2005).

1.1 Authentic Leadership

Research on authentic leadership has recently included new definitions and theories (see e.g., Gardner et al., 2011; Gill & Caza, 2015). It seems that the concept is still finding its form theoretically and empirically (Gardner et al., 2011). The definition has included, for example, the following four elements: self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, and internalized moral perspective (see e.g., Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner et al., 2011; Gill & Caza, 2015; Ladkin & Taylor, 2010). Self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize one's strengths and weaknesses, one's personal way of make interpretations of facts, and one's personal influence on other people. …

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