Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Gender Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Program Name


Program Director

Judy Halebsky, PhD

First Reader

Christian Dean, PhD

Second Reader

Joan Baranow, PhD


Leadership styles have taken various forms throughout humanity’s trajectory on earth. Indicative of patriarchal systems, the most prominent styles of leadership that are widely recognized in the public and private sectors routinely favor individuals who portray characteristics of ambition, confidence and assertiveness that at times crosses over into aggression. When one considers which gender fit the stereotype of exhibiting leadership qualities under these assumptions, often hyper-masculine men fit the mold.

In contrast, when women are successful at ascending and working in higher ranking positions, the characteristics that are mapped on to their personas are often associated with collaboration and relationship-building. Scholarship in leadership theory indicates that collaborative and team-building styles of leadership are far more conducive for achieving success in many different endeavors of business and politics. My investigation into this topic critiques the assumptions informed by a patriarchal culture that confuses good leadership with common attributes of hyper-masculinity. I will also discuss how women have most effectively pushed for social change throughout history by supporting each other emotionally and collectively in order to overcome patriarchal systems of domination and oppression. Thus, contrary to leadership theories that purport that women should seek to lead as aggressively as men under a patriarchal setting, this thesis argues that the systems of power that encourage dominance, strict hierarchies and ruthless competition are counterproductive and even damaging to most individuals within traditional organizational structures. Hence, a new vision for positive leadership attributes must be adopted if the goal is to foster and support equitable systems of organization and successful leadership.