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Recruiting leaders: an analysis of leadership advertisements


Philip Dewe, Department of Organisational Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Email:


Recruiting the right leaders is an important challenge for organisations. How do organisations find these leaders? This article looks at the recruitment of leaders through advertisements. We address to what extent the ‘vocabulary of leadership’ originating in influential leadership theories is actively used in communication about leadership positions. All job advertisements (4,217) that appeared in a consistent source in the public domain in the UK (Times newspaper) were collected for a period of 15 months. Out of the total number of advertisements, 1,390 were advertisements for leadership positions (chairman, CEO or director). The information in these advertisements was recorded and content analysed. The analyses highlight what terminology organisations use in attracting the desired leaders. In general, ‘people oriented’ and ‘transformational’ terms are used far more than terms describing ‘task oriented’ or ‘transactional’ qualities. Differences were found between advertisements for CEO and lower level leader (director) positions that seem to reflect the difference in hierarchical level and magnitude of the leadership responsibility of these roles.

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