chapter  5
31 Pages

Power, Empowerment and Women’s Leadership Discourses

WithGILL KIRTON, RISA LIEBERWITZ

How people understand the concepts of power and leadership is inevitably bound up with the ways in which they practise leadership and exercise power. In other words, discourses, philosophies and visions of power and leadership inform action and behaviour even if in unplanned, unarticulated, imprecise, imperfect ways (e.g. someone might hold dear a particular concept of leadership but believe that the practical circumstances in which he or she leads demand an alternative approach). In our interviews with women union leaders, we asked respondents to refl ect on their understandings of the concepts of power and leadership. This chapter explores those refl ections and thus is about what goes on inside leaders’ minds in relation to power and leadership, rather than about actual practices of leadership. First, we discuss the concepts of power, empowerment and leadership drawing on existing literature in order to provide a gender-sensitive analytical framework for interpreting the interviewees’ refl ections.