Lean In for Men: A Feminist Thought Experiment for Gender-Based Leadership Development

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Studies on women’s leadership development are common, but men’s leadership development remains under researched and undertheorized. Prompted by the 10-year anniversary of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In—one the highest selling women’s leadership development texts to date—and by the continued lack of any equivalent version of “lean in” for men, I make a case for men’s leadership development. Using a poststructural feminist lens on gender and informed by the extant literature on women’s leadership development, I construct a framework for a men’s leadership development that integrates three key practices from current feminist forms of women’s leadership development models: creating basic awareness of gender politics, mobilizing intersectionality to broaden that awareness, and fostering relationship-building. Far from reinforcing the centrality of men in organizations, a men’s leadership development predicated on these practices works to counter patriarchal organizational cultures and the problematic assumptions about masculinity and leadership that help sustain them. I conclude, however, that gender-based leadership development programs for either men or women ultimately create more problems than they solve, and I argue for a new form of gender-critical leadership development for everyone along the gender spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2022
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe 20th International Studying Leadership Conference: Leadership and the Future of Humanity - University of Sussex Business School, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Dec 202213 Dec 2022
Conference number: 20


ConferenceThe 20th International Studying Leadership Conference
LocationUniversity of Sussex Business School
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Gender
  • Leadership development
  • Lean In
  • Men
  • Feminist theory

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