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Claire O'Neill

This chapter focuses on the role gender plays in the experience and perception of leadership. It argues that in recognising the centrality of lived, relational bodies to leadership, through a phenomenological lens, the importance of addressing the sexed and gendered body is highlighted. Following a discussion of the relevance of gender to the discipline of leadership studies, the chapter draws on Merleau-Ponty’s work to explore women’s experience of “the flesh” of leadership, with a particular focus on the relationship between one’s perception of self, and the perception of the Other. This idea is further developed through the theory of dys-appearance (Leder, 1990). It argues that the problematizing of women’s bodies in leadership results in an experience for women leaders of self-objectification, and of their bodies as an “unwanted presence” within their self-perception. Qualitative data, which emerged from a substantial study of women’s embodiment in leadership, is included to illustrate the development of these ideas, and to bring to life these phenomena in the experience of women leaders.