Woman Sinclair, Amanda (1953 - )

Beaumaris, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Academic and Teacher
Alternative Names
  • Lloyd, Amanda (Maiden)

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Amanda Sinclair has been a researcher and teacher specialising in areas of women, gender, diversity and leadership, since completing her honours undergraduate degree in Psychology and Politics at the University of Melbourne in the 1970s. Among her key contributions have been to introduce a gender perspective and the experiences of women to business students and executives as part of her role as Professor at Melbourne Business School. That has included inserting in traditional curricula issues such as masculinities and the role of emotions and bodies in leadership.

Sinclair was born in 1953, a daughter after two older brothers Chris and Michael (dec) to her parents, William and Barbara Lloyd. She grew up in Beaumaris, walking the sandy, bush tracks to Beaumaris State and High Schools. Her father was a factory manager who rode his bike to Cheltenham station to get to work in Richmond. Her mother had been a radio script writer and Barbara made the bold (possibly unpopular and certainly unconventional) decision to attend Melbourne University to study English languages and Australian history when her daughter was young. Among Amanda's early memories is sitting in a dusty book laden office in the Old Arts building alongside her mother attending a tutorial in Beowolf. She could feel her mother's excitement in the exchange of ideas, after her enforced years of suburban domesticity. Amanda won government scholarships in Year 9 and then 12 which provided fee and living support, a welcome contribution as, by this time, her father had died and Barbara was supporting the family as a secondary teacher.

Enrolling in a B.A. at Melbourne, Amanda found Economics disappointing and English opaque but enjoyed the more questioning Politics classrooms. Mostly though she was distracted by romance, married her first husband in 1972, and as many did took a year off to travel and work in the UK and Europe. The experience of working in pubs and for the Southern Electricity Board in Reading, provided a strong motivation to return to complete her B.A.(Hons). Amanda's honours thesis was the study of 'Frognall', an airforce training institution. She had been inspired by political scientists Graham Little and Alan (Foo) Davies, to go behind the veneer of institutional and political life. The research sought to chart masculinities and the 'psychosocial' dimensions through interviews with cadets, rather than studying organizational charts and lines of command.

After graduating, Amanda worked as a social planner for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and then Loder and Bayly Planning Consultants. It was these work experiences which provided the impetus for her PhD, which was an in-depth analysis of multidisciplinary teams at work. Although the rhetoric of the time was that teams were a democratic and effective way to solve work problems, Amanda's own experiences and her research found that teams were often tyrannical. Behind the veneer of equality and devolution, members were silenced and hierarchies imposed. What looked like work - getting through the agenda - often meant little real work was done.

During her PhD, Amanda had two children, James in 1980 and Amy in 1982, but her marriage also broke down. It was the most difficult time in her life, but finishing the PhD and then commencing a research project on Women in Local Government were life lines, providing her with a sense of value and of the contribution she wanted to make. The Women in Local Government Project was initiated by a steering committee of influential Victorian women councillors who were lobbying alongside WEL (the Women's Electoral Lobby) and other women's organisations such as the Australian Local Government Women's Association (ALGWA), to improve the political representation and opportunities for women. Amanda had been observing women in politics through this time and though herself at this stage relatively untouched by feminism, had begun writing articles (published in The Age) about the new phenomena of women leaders and their experiences. The project involved travelling throughout country and urban Victoria interviewing women councillors, and the experience was the crucible that politicised Amanda and awoke a feminist consciousness. She authored a book with chapters by Lynne Strahan and Margaret Bowman, Getting the Numbers: Women in Local Government (1987,Hargreen & MAV) which remained a manual and essential reading for prospective women councillors for many years.

By 1986 and with the encouragement of Professor John Power (also part of the Women in Local Government Steering Group), Amanda had started teaching in the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Policy at Melbourne University, teaching evening classes for part-time students. The drill involved feeding the kids (there was now a third, Huw and a new partner, Warwick Pattinson), and a drive into the city to swap cars with Warwick who would take the kids home to bed while she went to teach. In 1988, an advertisement for a lecturer at the fledgling Melbourne Business School appeared and Warwick said 'you could do that'.

From 1988 till beyond 2012 when she retired as a Professor, Amanda continued to research and teach in areas and ways that many (students and faculty) at the Business School found disconcerting. She was one of only two women academics when she joined MBS, both junior, and has mostly worked part-time. She drew early attention to the significance of gender in a widely-cited article called Sex and the MBA (1995). In a collaborative project initiated by The Australian Centre to investigate the absence of women from corporate leadership, Amanda argued that we need to shift focus from women to understanding the perpetuation of cultures that equate leadership and heroic masculinity. This work resulted in many publications including two books: Trials at the Top (1994, The Australian Centre) and Doing Leadership Differently: Gender, power and sexuality in a changing business culture (1998; 2004, Melbourne University Press).

Amanda was appointed the MBS Foundation Chair of Management (Diversity and Change) in 1995. She had the opportunity to initiate the Women and Management Program at MBS and with Cathy Walter, an alum and MBS Board member, created the annual highly successful Women and Management Dinner, which honours prominent women leaders. Amanda was the University's inaugural Universitas 21 scholar travelling to the UK and Canada to meet with like-minded academics. Through this period, Amanda also had the chance to conduct research, work with and profile many outstanding diverse leaders in public life and in business for example Australia's first Police Chief Commissioner, Christine Nixon and Aboriginal leader, Lillian Holt. A co-written book with Valerie Wilson New Faces of Leadership (2002) explored how people with diverse cultural backgrounds brought special capabilities to leadership. Throughout her career as an academic, it was senior women in other parts of the University such as Professors Pat Grimshaw, Joan McMeecken and Sally Walker who provided invaluable encouragement for Amanda's research (which had been dismissed as her 'imaginings' by some colleagues). She was also part of Women in Senior Education (WISE) and other initiatives to improve opportunities for academic women, who were frequently facing obstacles in traditional, male-dominated faculties. In spite of facing some of these difficulties herself, Amanda relished her MBA classes, introducing different perspectives on leadership, organisations, ethics and diversity to students who often - and sometimes in retrospect - saw those classes as the highlight of their study and a platform from which to take careers and lives in new directions.

However, 1996 saw the death of her brother Michael and in 1997, she had the last of her four children, Charlie, and these experiences prompted another shift of pace and direction. Wanting to find a different way of doing her own leadership work, Amanda began training to be a yoga teacher. In 2005, after a period as a Deloitte Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University's Judge Business School, she put her efforts into arguing for a different kind of leadership, one that values the whole person, that seeks to nourish and free people. She has run yoga and meditation classes at MBS but also integrates insights from meditation and eastern philosophies into her mainstream leadership teaching, for example, with colleague Richard Searle she runs residential executive programs on Mindful Leadership. Her 2007 book Leadership for the Disillusioned: Beyond myths and heroes to leading that liberates (Sydney: Allen & Unwin) made the case for this more embodied but less ego leadership, documenting some of her own journey trying to model that in what and how she teaches and researches (Sheridan, Pringle et al. 2009).

As part of the Australian Women and Leadership project, Amanda has increasingly also sought to write about leadership differently. Finding much of the leadership canon pompous and self-important, she has argued for, and experimented with 'writing differently' (Grey and Sinclair 2006; Sinclair 2010; Sinclair 2013). Partially this is about her own love of great writing and closet desire to be a novelist, but it is also about conveying experiences of leadership in ways which fully reflect the tedium, the tumult and occasionally, the erotic (Bell and Sinclair 2013). In addition to her work Amanda loves swimming, gardening and travelling, especially with her family. She is reviving her rusty French and learning Italian to enjoy that travel even more.

Published Resources


  • Sinclair, Amanda, Doing Leadership Differently: Gender, Power and Sexuality in a Changing Business Culture, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1998. Details
  • Sinclair, Amanda, Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving Beyond Myths and Heroes to Leading that Liberates, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 2007. Details

Book Sections

  • Sinclair, Amanda, 'Critical Diversity Management Practice in Australia: Romanced or Co-opted?', in Konrad, Alison; Prasad, Pushkala and Pringle, Judith (eds), Handbook of Workplace Diversity, Sage, London, England, 2000, pp. 511 - 530. Details
  • Sinclair, Amanda, 'Not just 'adding women in': Women Re-making Leadership', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011, pp. 15-34. http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/sti/pdfs/02_Sinclair.pdf. Details

Journal Articles

  • Bell, E. and Sinclair, A., 'Reclaiming Eroticism in Higher Education', Organization, 2013 forthcomming. Details
  • Grey, C. and Sinclair, A., 'Writing Differently', Organization, vol. 13, no. 3, 2006, pp. 443 - 453. Details
  • Sheridan, A. And Pringle, J et al, 'Prologue: Doing scholarship differently: Doing scholarship that matters: An interview with Professor Amanda Sinclair', Journal of Management & Organization, Interview Transcript, vol. 15, no. 5, 2009, pp. 549 - 554. Details
  • Sinclair, A., 'The Leadership of Christine Nixon', The Journal for Women and Policing, vol. 24, Winter, 2009, pp. 7-11. Details
  • Sinclair, A., 'Placing Self: How might we place ourselves in leadership studies differently?', Leadership, vol. 6, no. 4, 2010, pp. 447 - 460. Details
  • Sinclair, A., 'A Material Dean', Leadership, vol. 9, no. 3, 2013, p. 7. Details
  • Sinclair, Amanda, 'Sexuality in Leadership', International Review of Women and Leadership, vol. 1, no. 2, 1995, pp. 25 - 38. Details
  • Sinclair, Amanda, 'Women within Diversity: Risks and Possibilities', Women in Management Review, vol. 15, no. 5 / 6, 2000, pp. 237 - 245. Details
  • Sinclair, Amanda and Ewing, J, 'What Women Managers Want: Customising Human Resource Management Practices', Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, 1992, p. 14. Details

See also