Legitimized by History? A Biographical Approach to Leadership: The Life-Story of Angela Merkel

Leonie Ann-Sophie Struve

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


Several studies have proposed a biographic approach to leadership. This research relates to previous research of this topic to investigate the potential and importance of the leader's lifestory. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her life-story serve as the example for this thesis. For the analysis two interviews with Angela Merkel in 2005 and 2013 are used which are conducted by the well known German women's magazine Brigitte. In the analysis several questions were posed which related to a) life-stories as a means to justify and legitimize leadership and develop a self-concept, b) the creation of an overall leadership development theme and c) the question to which extent the narration of a life-story is influenced by the setting and context. The methods used are thematic content analysis to explore themes as well as narrative analysis to take a closer look at the text itself. The content of the interviews is not analyzed in chronological order, but grouped into different sections for a better overview. There is the issue of validity and reliability due to the qualitative and interpretative character of this research. There are however certain findings that resulted from the analysis. First, that life-stories make it possible for the leader to convey meaning which could not be communicated directly with the same desired effect. Through the life-story facts can turn to memorable experience and enable the leader to establish a direct leader-follower relationship. In addition the follower's life-story can play an equally important role since a direct connection can be drawn between leader and follower when similarities in life-stories occur. Second, through the way the life-story is told a leadership development theme is defined: The development theme of an outsider and a late bloomer. Merkel emphasizes the fact that she is an outsider and does not perceive it as a disadvantage. Even more so, her understatement gives her an advantage due to the fact that others and especially her opponents underestimate her. Third, through the comparison of the two interviews at different times and with different settings it can be assumed that the life-story can be altered, adjusted and adapted to the respective environment and context. It is further concluded that this does not need to weaken the authenticity of a leader and his or her story. But rather highlights the opportunity for leaders to take an active part in creating their life-story. The findings support the assumption that the life-story has an enormous potential for leaders to make use of. Further research is recommended, especially since the importance of a leader's life-story might not have been realized yet.

UddannelserCand.merc.sol Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
Antal sider65