Heroes and She-roes: A critical discourse analysis of what autobiographies contribute to leadership discourse and the differences and similarities between female and male authors herein

Johanna Viktoria Larsson

Student thesis: Master thesis


The back bone of this thesis is the constructivist perspective and it is with this point of view the key words leadership, gender and discourse are analyzed. Having this perspective means that you see the world as a social creation and whatever the event, specific or general, it is caused by outer forces and impressions. An autobiography is not only to be seen as a book written by someone who wants to share his or hers life story, but rather a medium which together with other written texts and social influence constitutes what shapes discourses. Discourses are not fixed and the future of any discourse is not up to the individual, thus it is a social creation. This leads to the question on why discourses appear the way they do. Autobiographies’ contribution to the leadership discourse is that they are used as a medium for the leader to show that he or she is adapting to whatever the followers attribute to what they think is a proper leader, i.e. managing the self in order to affirm that they live up to the norm within the discourse. The answer to why the leadership discourse is dominated by men, which also gives a new dimension to the first research question, is found in the gender discourse theory where it is said that we attribute things depending on gender. We attribute strength, courage and poise to the male gender and shyness, hysteria and tenderness to the female gender. This means that we ourselves have created an image that leadership is only for men and not something suited for women. The idea that gender and what we attribute to it is something false and has merely been hanging on since the early theories on patriarchy is confirmed with the findings from the three female authors’ autobiographies. The women prove that they have accomplished the same status in leadership as the male authors and further, that they do not write in an uninteresting manner as it has for a long time been believed by male researchers on narrative life writing since they continuously keep leaving women’s life narratives out from the understanding of historical contexts. The similarities between the male authors and the female authors were vast and the differences came down to that the female authors did not use any stereotypes to improve their image while the male authors did. The female authors contribute to equalization between sexes within the leadership discourse through their autobiographies and the male authors continue to uplift the male stereotypes and therefore not contribute to any change within the male dominated discourse

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages93