Barbara Kellerman

American academic

Barbara Kellerman is an American political scientist and Professor of Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She ranked by as among "Top 50 Business Thinkers" 2009, and ranked by Leadership Excellence as in Top 15 "Best Minds on Leadership" 2008-2009.


  • I’m sick of hearing how far we’ve come. I’m sick of hearing how in some cases women are superseding men, progressing to positions of middle and upper management. Above all, I’m sick of hearing about the pipeline, about the path to the top supposedly thick with women who will, in the fullness of time, be rewarded for their patience and virtue. The following figures speak for themselves: Three percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by women; 16.8 percent of members of the U.S. Congress are women; 7 percent of tenured engineering faculty in four-year institutions are women. The fact is that so far as leadership is concerned, women in nearly every realm are hardly any better off than they were a generation ago.”
  • 'Becoming a leader' has become a mantra. The explosive growth of the 'leadership industry' is based on the belief that leading is a path to power and money, a medium for achievement, and a mechanism for creating change. But there are other, parallel truths: that leaders of every stripe are in disrepute; that the tireless and often superficial teaching of leadership has brought us no closer to nirvana; and that followers nearly everywhere have become, on the one hand, disappointed and disillusioned,and, on the other, entitled and emboldened.
    • Barbara Kellerman (2012), The End of Leadership, Harper Collins Publishers; Book description

Women and leadership, 2007


Barbara Kellerman, ‎Deborah L. Rhode, ‎Sandra Day O'Connor (2007), Women and leadership: the state of play and strategies for change.

  • Women who do not opt out of demanding professional positions are more likely to opt out of demanding family obligations.
    • p. 6
  • Women face trade-offs that men do not. Aspiring female leaders risk being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked, in settings that may require individuals to be both in order to succeed.
    • p. 7
  • People more readily credit men with leadership ability and more readily accept men as leaders. What is assertive in a man can appear abrasive in a woman, and female leaders risk appearing too feminine or not feminine enough.
    • p. 7
  • Double standards in domestic roles are deeply rooted in cultural attitudes and workplace practices. Working mothers are held to higher standards than working fathers and are often criticized for being insufficiently committed, either as parents or professionals. Those who seem willing to sacrifice family needs to workplace demands appear lacking as mothers. Those who take extended leave or reduced schedules appear lacking as leaders. These mixed messages leave many women with the uncomfortable sense that whatever they are doing, they should be doing something else.
    • p. 12