The development and acquisition of leadership skills among rural women from Northern Ireland

  • Lori McVay

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The goal of this study was to ascertain what key factors facilitated the development and acquisition of leadership skills among women leaders from rural areas of Northern Ireland. A noticeable gap in the literature exists concerning positive factors beneficial to rural women’s leadership development. This research addressed that gap through its concentrated focus on such positive factors and the ways in which they contribute to the success of rural women in overcoming obstacles and barriers to leadership. The study explored the roles of people, organisations and events (External Factors) and thought processes and choices (Internal Factors) in supporting participants' development of leadership skills. Feminist theories provided the foundation for the study’s qualitative methodological approach, which incorporated semi-structured, in-depth interviews; participant observation; and reflexivity. A unique contribution to sociological inquiry was made through the innovative application of a voice-centred, relational method of analysis — the “Listening Guide” — as outlined by Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg and Beitsch in their 2003 work, “On the Listening Guide: A Voice-Centered Relational Method”. Utilisation of this method revealed the presence of a Leader Voice in each of the women's narratives, and thereby initiated a dialogue among their Leader Voices that made possible the discovery and articulation of a broad spectrum of positive factors pertinent to the study. Listening to this dialogue culminated in the emergence of five Key Factors cited by participants as supportive of their leadership development and as crucial to the development of aspiring rural women leaders: Supportive People, Education, Leadership Training and Practical Experience, Setting and Achieving Goals, and, lastly, Confidence. The study concludes with recommendations for policy makers and further research, and encourages practical application of the findings.
    Date of AwardDec 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorSally Shortall (Supervisor)

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