Gender Roles in Leadership and Management : A narrative enquiry based in the U.K.

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Author: Roisin Weir; [2014]

Keywords: Gender; Management; Leadership; UK; Culture; Industry;


The leadership style of individuals can change and adapt in different circumstances, and this can also be influenced if the person is a natural leader. Leadership theory argues that one can be a natural leader, but also given a situation an individual can become a leader out of circumstance (Northouse, 2013; Leicester, 1989, p. 6). Not only that but a leader can be a manager and a manager can be a leader. The focus group for this study is middle managers; they have a unique position to influence an organisation but are often overlooked (Huy, 2001, p. 73). Middle management is a sociological phenomenon because their influence is normally on the lower level staff. While studying sociology it is important to factor in preconceptions and stereotypes that people have about not only races and genders, but professions and industries. These preconceptions impact how people view a leader or manager and what that person should be in terms of their gender and personality traits. Therefore their perception of what an industry is can also be assigned a gender. These preconceptions can come from an individual’s upbringing and national culture (Hofstede, 1991, p. 8); this thesis looks  into the UK due to the more masculine nature of the culture and my own relation with the country (Hofstede, clearlycultural, 2014). The gender assigning of industries and professions influences how people lead a group as well as how they feel that they should lead to gain respect from their team.

Due to the deeper factors in this study, an interpretivist approach has been taken leaning toward hermeneutics which is concerned with an empathic understanding of human action rather than with the forces that act on it (Bryman, 2012, p. 28). This combined with a constructionist view mean that the research attempts to understand the thoughts behind beliefs and preconceptions. The main focus of this investigation is the narrative inquiry, using semi-structured interviews to allow the participants to tell stories about their experiences with managers and being a manager themselves. The interviews are cross-sectional to see how all the participants think a manager should be compared to what they actually are/see as a manager. A pattern analysis will be used to correlate the results with a Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974) test to establish if the participants are more masculine or feminine and how that impacts their leadership style.

In conclusion men don’t always have a masculine leadership style and women don’t always have a feminine style. National culture does impact how leadership and management are perceived but that is not the case in an individual’s experience of real life managers and leaders. Gender assigned industries influence what professions people choose but to a lesser extent if that person holds a management position or they are capable leaders within that industry.

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