Breaking through: developing minority leaders

DProf thesis

Mullen, W. 2017. Breaking through: developing minority leaders. DProf thesis Middlesex University Institute for Work Based Learning
TypeDProf thesis
TitleBreaking through: developing minority leaders
AuthorsMullen, W.

This research project set out to explore the experiences of Women, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual, and Black and Minority Ethnic (LGB & BME) leaders in order to understand the challenges they have faced in moving into and being successful in leadership positions and to provide insight into potential development interventions or organisational strategies which might facilitate the development and support of minority leaders. The research focus emerged from both a process of critical reflection on my own practice as a leadership and organisational development practitioner and an engagement with relevant literature in this area. While literature exists demonstrating that organisational life and opportunities may be different for minorities, there was a lack of studies on leadership development accounting for those differences. The research was conducted in two stages using an online survey followed by in-depth interviews. Initial thematic analysis provided useful if confirmatory data about developing leaders. Following a further literature review and some exploration of the work of Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher, the data was reviewed again to understand whether his thinking tools of habitus, capital and field could uncover greater insights from the data and indeed whether his work could enhance our understanding of these conceptual tools and their applicability in leadership development and diversity work. The research finds that minority leaders may be disadvantaged because they are not regarded with the same legitimacy as majority leaders. This research acknowledges the importance of gender, racial and sexual identity in leadership and that the environments in which these leaders operate consist of power inequalities which need to be attended to if minority leaders are to progress. The findings include that minority leaders may possess forms of capital and draw upon leadership styles that can provide them with an advantage in contemporary contexts. The research argues that minority leaders may, through their experiences of marginalisation, bring alternative qualities to leadership and that leadership development can break new ground by incorporating those qualities into leadership models and training. Recommendations based on the findings include integrating Bourdieusian approaches as part of leadership development and diversity work; and areas for further research which can contribute to knowledge in this field.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Department nameInstitute for Work Based Learning
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print13 Jul 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jul 2017
Accepted13 Jul 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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