Narratives of ‘bad leadership‘: Experiences and perspectives of successful Icelandic female leaders


  • Sigrún Lilja Einarsdóttir
  • Einar Svansson



Bad leadership; female leaders; diversity; top-down management; equality.


Conservative, male-oriented company culture makes the corporate ladder more slippery for women, who are probably more likely to deal with “bad leadership” from superiors. The lessons drawn from the experiences of women, who have ac[1]complished unusual success as top directors in their organizations, are important guidelines to improve management. This paper reports primary findings from an Icelandic study on the characteristics of exemplary Icelandic female leaders and top managers and their leadership styles. Data was collected through qualitative semi-structured interviews with a chosen group of women that have got nominations and/or prizes for excellent leadership record in recent years in Icelandic organizations. Participants provided various narratives on their experiences of bad leadership (mainly from men in management positions), the more experienced interviewees felt pressured at times in their career to assimilate themselves to the male culture in their corporations and that the glass ceiling was indeed visible until they tried to break it by pushing forward and obtain power positions. Majority of the interviewees had experienced tunnel-vision, narrow-mindedness and resistance to change among their male counterparts and tendencies of top-down management, arrogance and pride, leading to incompetent mode of communication that can lead to weaker, non-professional decision-making with lack of diversity and open dialog ending in worse results for the organizations. Findings indicated that unacceptable working conditions, and the implication of stress and too much workload can transform a good leader to demonstrate some characteristics of a bad leader.

Um höfund (biographies)

Sigrún Lilja Einarsdóttir

Associate Professor at the Bifröst University.

Einar Svansson

Associate Professor at the Bifröst University.




Hvernig skal vitna í

Einarsdóttir, S. L., & Svansson, E. (2023). Narratives of ‘bad leadership‘: Experiences and perspectives of successful Icelandic female leaders. Tímarit Um viðskipti Og efnahagsmál, 20(2), 119–134.



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