Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Lisa A. Steelman

Second Advisor

Jessica L. Wildman

Third Advisor

Renee Nicole Souris

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Taylor


The purpose of this research was to determine if women perceive leadership as riskier than men do, and whether that could be holding women back. Specifically, this study investigated the influence of gender and leadership views on the development of leader identity and the role that perception of risk of leadership plays. Role Congruity Theory of Leadership, Lack of Fit, and Adaptive Leadership Theory were used as theoretical frameworks in this cross-sectional study using 2022 archival data. Participants were undergraduate and graduate students from five different universities in the United States. Leader role alignment (LRA), which is the congruence between self-views and leader views, predicted the “claiming” of a leader identity. That relationship was moderated by both gender and the perceived risk of leadership. Additionally, the perception of the risk of leadership was found to be higher for women, compared to men, as a function of more management experience. Implications and future avenues of research are discussed.