Gender and Leadership: Literature Review

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Gender and Leadership

Literature Review

1. Introduction

Leadership theories and literature describe what leaders should do and on the other hand literature also exists on what leaders actually do, the former are prescriptive and the latter are descriptive (Bratton et al; 2005). Leadership style is a relatively consistent set of behaviours that characterise a leader (DuBrin; 1995). The main leadership theories encompass the trait, behaviour, contingency, power influence, and gender influence and exchange leadership perspectives.

This paper focuses on transformational leadership and thus will detail the theory underpinning transformational leadership vis a vis gender differences in leadership. A brief discussion on Leadership effectiveness as it relates to gender and Leadership styles will also be shown. In a study of gender and leadership styles it is important to highlight the deeper foundations that have a bearing on why men and women may lead differently. One of those causes has been found to be culture; a brief review of this construct and its’ bearing on gender has also been outlined in this section.

3.2Gender and Leadership

Swanepoel et al (2003) define gender as a “demographic factor that may influence Human Resources Management in organisations and which can lead to similar problems of discrimination in the workplace”. DuBrin (1995) state that the terms sex and gender arouse controversy both scientifically and politically. He further states that the term gender refers to perceptions about the differences among males and females whilst sex differences refer to actual tangible differences such as the fact that the mean height of men is greater than that of women. The terms gender and sex are, however, often used interchangeably.

Task and interpersonal styles in leadership research are obviously relevant to gender because of the stereotypes people have about sex differences in these aspects of behaviour (Ashmore, Del Boca, & Wohlers, 1986; Eagly & Steffen, 1984). Men are believed to be more self-assertive and motivated to control their environment (e.g., more aggressive, independent, self-sufficient, forceful, and dominant). In contrast, women are believed to be more selfless and concerned with others (e.g., more kind, helpful, understanding, warm, sympathetic, and aware of others' feelings). Although democratic versus autocratic style is a different (and narrower) aspect of leader behaviour than task-oriented and interpersonally oriented styles (see Bass, 1981), the democratic- autocratic dimension also relates to gender stereotypes, because one component of these stereotypes is that men are relatively dominant and controlling (i.e., more autocratic and directive than women.

Bratton et al (2005) highlight a study conducted by Schein (1975) who extended the gender issue in Leadership further with the results confirming that to both the male and female managers who participated in the study; being a successful manager meant being masculine in terms of stereotypical behaviours (Bratton et al, 2005). Wajcman in Bratton, Grint and Nelson stated, “Some leadership behaviours are interpreted differently depending on the gender of the leader. For example, a particular action seen as “firm” when displayed by a man (e.g, banging the table top with the hand) might be termed “hysterical” when displayed by a woman.” (Bratton et al; 189).

Women are said to find participative management more natural than men because they feel more comfortable interacting with people and that their natural sensitivity encourages group members to participate in decision- making (Dubrin; 1995). Yet as women move up the corporate ladder, their identification with the male model of corporate success becomes important and may even reject the few feminine traits that they may earlier have endorsed. Bass (1998) in his review of...
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