Sex Roles [sers] pp489-sers-373450 May 24, 2002 23:29 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Sex Roles, Vol. 45, Nos. 11/12, December 2001 (
Gender Stereotypes of Leaders: An Analysis
of the Contents of Obituaries From 1974 to 1998
Christa Rodler, Erich Kirchler,
and Erik H
University of Vienna
The present study investigates changes in gender stereotypes by an unobtru-
sive method. Obituaries of deceased women and men in leading positions
as published in four German language newspapers between 1974 and 1998
were analyzed. Following a previous study (E. Kirchler, 1992), terms used
in the obituaries to describe former leaders were classiﬁed into 58 categories.
Frequencies of descriptions were analyzed with regard to leadership success,
stability of attributes, and person-orientation versus task-orientation. Results
show that gender images were dissimilar in content each of the years. In 1992
and 1998, however, female and male stereotypes became more similar.
KEY WORDS: gender stereotypes; leadership; management.
Stereotypes provide a base for leader–subordinate interactions
(Martinko & Gardner, 1987). From this perspective, subordinates’ percep-
tions of their leaders’ characteristics are essential factors for acceptance
and followership (Mitchell, 1995; Robbins, 1998). According to leadership
attribution theory, leadership success is not exclusively deﬁned by the com-
petencies of leaders; it is also facilitated by social reality as constructed by
subordinates (Calder, 1977; Pfeffer, 1992). This conceptualization demands
to take the subordinates’ perspective because their assumptions, percep-
tions, attributions, and behavior affect leadership efﬁciency. With regard to
gender, this approach focuses “...not on how men and women actually dif-
fer, but how people think that they differ” (Deaux, 1984, p. 110). In assigning
To whom correspondence should be addressed to University of Vienna, Department of Psy-
chology, Universitaetsstrasse 7, A-1010 Vienna, Austria; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation