The stories that make us: Leaders’ origin stories and temporal identity work

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Brianna Barker Caza, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The stories we tell about our origins can shape how we think and act – helping us make sense of and communicate who we have “become” over time. To better understand the role that origin stories play in individuals’ work lives, we explore how 92 men and women leaders make sense of “becoming” a leader (origin stories) and “doing” leadership (enactment stories). We find that, despite the uniqueness of their experiences, their narratives converge around four frames, being, engaging, performing, and accepting, through which they understand, articulate, and enact their leader identities. We theorize that these narrative frames serve as sensemaking and identity work devices which allow them to create temporal coherence, validate their leader identity claims, and offer them behavioral scripts. Our findings also unearth key gender differences in the use of these frames, in that men used the performing frame more often and women tended toward the engaging frame. These findings provide novel insights into the ways in which the gendered context of leadership becomes embedded in leaders’ understandings of who they are and what they intend to do in their roles. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings on scholarly conversations around identity, leadership, and gender.

Additional Information

Human Relations.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Gender, identity, identity work, leader identity, leadership, leadership development, narratives

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