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Six ways of seeing the elephant: the intersection of sex, gender, and leadership

Gary N. Powell (Management Department, School of Business, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 9 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to review six different ways that have been used to “see the elephant” that constitutes the intersection of sex, gender, and leadership.


The proportions of women in positions of power and authority, leader preferences, leader stereotypes, attitudes toward women as leaders, linkages of leadership theories to gender stereotypes, and sex differences in leader behaviour and effectiveness are reviewed.


The managerial playing field continues to be tilted in favor of men and behaviours associated with the masculine gender stereotype, a phenomenon that occurs despite what leadership theories and field evidence would suggest.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should continue to track trends in proportions, preferences, stereotypes, attitudes, behaviour, and effectiveness pertaining to the intersection of sex, gender, and leadership. Scholars should not limit themselves in the kinds of research methods they apply to this task.

Practical implications

The challenge for organisations is to take advantage of and develop the capabilities of all individuals in leader roles and then create conditions that give leaders of both sexes an equal chance to succeed. The goal should be to enhance the likelihood that all people, women and men, will be effective in leader roles.

Social implications

Leader behaviour should have no gender.


This review encourages scholars to share what they have learned from their own ways of seeing, in this journal and elsewhere, and to listen carefully to what other scholars have to share.



Powell, G.N. (2012), "Six ways of seeing the elephant: the intersection of sex, gender, and leadership", Gender in Management, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 119-141.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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