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The role of androgyny in leader prototypes over four decades

Gary N. Powell (Management Department, University of Connecticut and Lancaster University, Storrs, CT, USA)
D. Anthony Butterfield (Management Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of psychological androgyny, a construct that represents a combination of masculinity and femininity, in explaining changes in descriptions of a good manager over time.


Samples of the same two populations were surveyed at four different points in time spanning four decades (N = 1,818).


Good-manager descriptions became increasingly similar in masculinity and femininity over time, or increasingly androgynous according to the balance conceptualization of androgyny. However, both good-manager masculinity and good-manager femininity declined over time, with masculinity declining to a greater extent, which accounted for the greater similarity in these scores. As a result, according to the high masculinity/high femininity conceptualization of androgyny, good-manager descriptions actually became decreasingly androgynous and more “undifferentiated”. Overall, the trend in leader prototypes over time was toward less emphasis on traits associated with members of either sex.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of two alternative methods of analyses and the survey instrument are acknowledged. What constituted a good manager may have depended on the context. Further scholarly attention to the concept of an undifferentiated leadership style is recommended.

Practical implications

People may be moving beyond leader prototypes based on the simple application of gender stereotypes. Changes in leader prototypes over the past four decades may contribute to enhancements in women’s societal status.

Social implications

Leader prototypes may disadvantage women less than in the past.


Results suggest that the role of androgyny in leader prototypes is declining according to the high masculinity/high femininity conceptualization.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the British Academy of Management Meeting, Cardiff, Wales, 2012. The authors wish to thank Jeffrey Edwards, Laura Graves and Qing Cao for their advice regarding data analyses. The senior author acknowledges support for this research from a grant by the Patricia and Timothy Friar Endowment.


Powell, G.N. and Butterfield, D.A. (2015), "The role of androgyny in leader prototypes over four decades", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 69-86.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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