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Shared leadership and gender: all members are equal … but some more than others

Maria J Mendez (Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics, Indiana University South Bend, South Bend, Indiana, USA)
John R. Busenbark (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of shared leadership on the gap between male and female leadership influence in groups.


The leadership influence of 231 members from 28 committees was studied using a social networks methodology. Gender differences in committee members’ directive and supportive leadership influence were analyzed through two ANCOVA tests.


Results confirm significant differences between men and women’s leadership influence, as rated by their peers, using directive and supportive leader behaviors. Surprisingly, shared leadership has no significant effect on reducing this gender gap.

Research limitations/implications

Results cannot be extrapolated to all other types of groups, since the committees studied have very unique characteristics due to their low typical mutual interaction.

Practical implications

Organizations may need to consider complementary strategies in their group leadership design to prevent the emergence of strong gender gaps when leadership is shared. These strategies could involve training members to recognize gender inequalities in leadership status and assigning leadership roles formally to ensure more equal participation in leadership.


This paper examines the promise of gender equality in shared leadership and provides empirical data that shows that this promise is not being realized.



Mendez, M.J. and Busenbark, J.R. (2015), "Shared leadership and gender: all members are equal … but some more than others", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 17-34.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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