Leadership Style and Career Success of Women Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations

By Jones, Elwin L.; Jones, Ronald C. | Advancing Women in Leadership, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Leadership Style and Career Success of Women Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations


Jones, Elwin L., Jones, Ronald C., Advancing Women in Leadership


Women remain underrepresented within public, corporate, and private organizational leadership positions (Emmerik, Wendt, & Euwema, 2010). Regarding corporate leadership, women hold approximately 3% of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) positions within Fortune 500 companies (Ely, Ibarra, & Kolb, 2011). Of the top 400 nonprofit organizations within the United States, women hold almost 19% of the executive leadership positions; therefore, noted disparity exists between women serving in executive roles within for-profit corporations in comparison to nonprofit organizations (Lansford, Clements, Falzon, Aish, & Rogers, 2010).

Women continue to experience difficulty regarding obtaining and establishing successful leadership careers because of the pervasive dominance of male leadership (Clarke, 2011; Doherty & Manfredi, 2009; Jonsen, Maznevski, & Schneider, 2010; Lansford et al., 2010; Lopez-Zafra, Garcia-Retamero, & Martos, 2012; Muchiri, Cooksey, Di Milia, & Walumbwa, 2011; Muhr, 2011; Vanderbroeck, 2010). Research indicates that women leaders add significant economic and social value to an organization's sustainability and profitability, yet leadership opportunities remain somewhat depressed for women in comparison to men (Jonsen et al., 2010; Lansford et al., 2010; Nadler & Stockdale, 2012). Regardless if the cause is ineffective or the lack of diversity initiatives, male-dominated recruitment policies, or inherent bias regarding women in leadership positions, evidence indicates that leadership genderdisparity exists (Clarke, 2011; Ely et al., 2011; Lansford et al., 2010; Nadler & Stockdale, 2012).

Jacobson, Palus, and Bowling (2009) noted that leadership style, behavior, and decision making represent critical components of successful career development and advancement. When women occupy executive positions, subordinate men often resort to behaviors exhibiting condescension, bitterness, and resentment, potentially discouraging women from seeking leadership positions (Thoroughgood, Hunter, & Sawyer, 2011).

Literature Review

The identification and development of an effective leadership style is of paramount importance for women seeking career success (Elgamal, 2012). A critical gap exists within the existing body of knowledge regarding the examination of leadership styles and nonprofit executive leaders (Budworth & Mann, 2010; Glick, 2011; Reed, Vidaver-Cohen, & Colwell, 2011). Insufficient research exists within the literature regarding leadership styles, behaviors, and strategies women must employ to overcome gender biases and disparity to advance successful careers in leadership (Budworth & Mann, 2010). Jones and Lentz (2013) recommended additional research regarding the relationship between leadership style and the career success of women in nonprofit organizations. Addressing the lack of women in leadership positions requires a thorough examination of leadership style choice, the patterns and rationale of leadership style selection, and achievements of successful women in leadership positions (Jacobson et al., 2009). Furthermore, examining the leadership styles of successful women might detect characteristics and behaviors that allow more women to enjoy flourishing careers in leadership (Jones & Lentz, 2013; Reed et al., 2011).

Examining the correlation between leadership style and the career success of women leaders in nonprofit organizations represents the purpose of this empirical research study. Comparing the leadership style of women experiencing sustained and effective leadership careers to leadership styles of women that lack career success within the nonprofit sector is an objective of this study. Research leading to a better understanding of leadership styles regarding adoption, employment, and application might assist women in breaking through the glass ceiling, leading to enhanced leadership opportunities in nonprofit as well as for-profit organizations (Budworth & Mann, 2010). …

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