The existing literature on leadership often describes it within fairly rigid gender roles. Entire models of leadership have been ascribed gendered labels. Shared leadership is, in traditional leadership theory, a feminine model. After observing a National Health Service (NHS) department enacting a shared leadership model, and using ethnography, grounded theory and comics-based research, we decided to explore the relationship between shared leadership and gender stereotypes. We realised our hope was to see a subversion of traditional stereotypes. Our data showed shared leadership overall as a feminine model, with its focus on distribution and compassion. Within the group, a range of gender roles were performed, meaning that the group could represent itself to the outside world as either more masculine or more feminine as required. This was beneficial, as conflict with outsiders was minimised and hence anxiety reduced. However, we noted that within the group, traditional gender roles were not subverted and were probably reinforced. Despite our view that shared leadership has not been an opportunity to resist gender stereotyping within this department, the success of this feminine model may represent a challenge to the prevailing masculine model of leadership within the NHS.
- comics and medicine
- gender studies
- graphic medicine
- social anthropology
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Contributors Both authors contributed to the study design, data analysis and final manuscript. SI-T was responsible for the bulk of the data collection. MA-J drew the comics.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Ethics Committee.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.