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A critical analysis of the emerging models of power amongst South African Women business leaders.

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This study aims to understand and analyse the emerging models of power amongst South African women business leaders. The focus of this study is on women’s construction of power in relation to their leadership roles within an organisation. Traditionally models of power have been constructed within the dominant patriarchal discourse relating to the capacity to exert control over others. Current theories are redefining power and the nature of leadership in relation to the changing needs of society. Due to our patriarchal society women have traditionally been excluded from building theories on power, both within an academic and business context. In this thesis women’s autobiographies have been studied to include their growing awareness of power in their past, current leadership role and envisaged future. This has resulted in the identification of emerging models of power amongst these South African women business leaders. The empirical work is grounded in three key bodies of literature: theories on power; literature on leadership; and studies on transformation. Specific to this study has been the inclusion of feminist theories on power since the aim of the study is to include women’s perspectives into the process of theory building. This qualitative study is positioned within a social constructionist paradigm and uses the methodology of discourse analysis to identify emerging models of power. The 10 participants in the study include women executive directors and managers within large scale businesses across a range of industry sectors within South Africa. The findings of this work shows that women continue to grapple with the tensions of constructing their power and leadership identity within a patriarchal environment. As a result they move between models that entrench patriarchy; adapt to patriarchal systems through survival strategies; or tentatively assert an alternative transformative model of power. This emerging model reflects social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of power experienced by the women research participantswithin their leadership context. The research highlights the fact that despite efforts to create gender equality in organisations, transformation will not occur without fundamentally shifting perceptions of power to include these emerging models which are consistent with current leadership thinking.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Women executives--South Africa., Businesswomen--South Africa., Entrepreneurship--Women--South Africa., Leadership in women--South Africa., Theses--Human resource management.