Gender National Differences in Leadership

Posted on October 24, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings, Corporate |

Gibson, Cristina B. An Investigation of Gender Differences in Leadership across Four Countries. Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2. (2nd Qtr., 1995), pp. 255-279.

This study investigates the influences of gender, culture, and nationality on management leadership styles. The author focuses on four countries and two cultural dyads, Norway and Sweden, and Australia and the United States. The author’s framework explores five leadership behaviors and six leadership styles by using over 200 managers, 55% male and 45% female, to complete a questionnaire and conduct interviews. While proposing 12 separate hypotheses, “post-hoc analyses suggest that across all four countries, males emphasize the goal setting dimension, while females emphasize the interaction facilitation dimension (255).” Although this study discusses sample and limitations to its effectiveness, it demonstrated that there gender and national origin do affect leadership styles.

The three main objectives for this study are to evaluate how gender, culture, and nationality influence leadership. Much of the research was based on Eagly [1987] work on communal and agentic qualities. Communal qualities are oriented toward others, including affection, sympathy, and the ability to nurture, all of which are traditionally assigned to female characteristics. Agentic qualities are oriented toward aggressiveness, goal-setting, independence, and decisiveness, all of which are traditionally assigned to male characteristics. Both qualities are expected to be fulfilled by their respective gender assignments, proving that the communal qualities are more highly valued among women and agentic for men.

As previous research has demonstrated (Powell and Graves), female leaders exhibit transformational characteristics whereas male leaders exhibit transactional leadership styles. Research has proven that female leadership involves communal interactions, encouraging group participation and the development of the others through motivation and empathy, whereas men execute transactional behavior on the basis of rewards and punishment.

In addition to gender influences, the author sets out to demonstrate cultural influences on behavior. In using the definition of culture by Kluckhohn [1951:86], the author proposes that culture requires communal sharing of values, symbols, feelings, and thought processes, and that, within a country, individuals would share these same value orientations, and thus, value the same leadership qualities and performance measures. In short, it is expected that similar countries will share similar values, which is why the author has paired the four countries for equal comparison and evaluation.

The first three hypotheses tested evaluate whether gender, culture, and country would have any significant effects onto leadership behavior and styles. Countries that often share similar cultural values often times group together, thus exercising similar business practices and measures. In countries like Australia and the U.S., who ranks high in masculinity and self-reliance, would value competitiveness and sympathy for the strong, whereas countries like Norway and Sweden would not rank high in masculinity and value solidarity and sympathy for the weak. In order to evaluate the validity of these statements, the author used Flamholtz leadership framework model.

This model includes five leadership behavioral dimensions; goal emphasis, interaction facilitation, work facilitation, supportive behavior, and personnel development. In assessing leadership styles, Flamholtz [1986] devised a six leadership style continuum, including; autocratic, benevolent autocratic, consultative, participative, consensus, and laissez-faire, all of which range from directive to non-directive. This framework served as the basis for the next seven hypotheses that involved assigning agentic qualities, such as goal setting and work facilitation to men and communal qualities to women via interaction facilitation, supportive behavior, and personnel development. The last two hypotheses evaluated national origin and its affects onto leadership behavior and styles.

The author used the Leadership Effectiveness Questionnaire (LEQ) that was developed by Flamholtz [1986], to measure the behavioral and leadership styles mentioned earlier. Scores were correlated with the Leadership Behavior Descriptive Questionnaire (LBDQ), which is used in leadership research and papers. The LBDQ measures relationship-emphasis and task-emphasis. These methods seem to hold true across cultural applicability.

Research results on the goal setting and interaction facilitation dimensions demonstrated that “males scored significantly higher on goal setting (M= 6.16) than did females (M= 5.64) indicating that males tend to emphasize this dimension more than females (268).” Conversely, women scored significantly higher than men on interaction facilitation, indicating females emphasize interaction facilitation methods more than the goal setting dimension, thus confirming the first hypothesis. Regarding the second hypothesis, Australia scored the lowest in interaction facilitation and laissez-faire style dimensions, but scored the highest in benevolent autocratic style, demonstrating that Australians place strong value on goal setting and autocratic styles, as opposed to communal development.

Research results also proved the third hypothesis to be invalid, as male and female leaders across all four countries, shared different leadership behavior standards. Goal setting and interaction facilitation were the two most varied dimensions across gender, confirming hypotheses four and six. “However, no gender differences were obtained on any other behavior or style dimensions (thus P5, P7, P8, P9, and P10 were not confirmed) (271).” These findings suggest that male leaders do not directly require following agentic qualities as prescribed earlier, and that female leaders do not require communal qualities either. Thus, men and women may equally value improvements and 360° relations.

What I would like to see further research on is the prediction of Australian evolution of leadership behavior and styles, particularly because of increasing immigration and globalization. Also, as Australia made recent political announcements to immigrants trying to ‘Americanize’ Australia, the Prime Minister publicly proclaimed to the world that immigrants must adopt to Australian style of living and that the country will not conform to immigrant practices and cultures. Will this political position affect future business practices and operations? I predict so, but this research may serve as a compliment to studies using Australia in comparison to other countries.

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