Spotlights and shadows: Preliminary findings about the experiences of women in family business leadership roles

Mary Barrett*, Ken Moores

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In an earlier study (Moores & Barrett 2002) we found successful CEOs had learned leadership of family controlled businesses (FCBs) in a series of distinct learning phases. Because that study's sample did not include many women, our present study focuses on women in FCBs to better understand how they exercise leadership and entrepreneurship in the family firm context. Case study analysis of an international sample of women FCB leaders, using frameworks which avoid essentialist assumptions about women's and men's approach to leadership, suggests there are some characteristic ways women leaders learn FCB leadership and entrepreneurship roles. We have tentatively labelled them stumbling into the spotlight, building your own stage, directing the spotlight elsewhere, and coping with shadows. Some interviewees had failed to attain leadership; we labelled their journey becoming invisible. This paper uses Eisenhardt's (1989) framework to elaborate on the stumbling into the spotlight and coping with shadows journeys and what can be learned from them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-377
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Management and Organization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


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