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Gender role, decision style and leadership style

Park, Daewoo . Women in Management Review11.8 (1996): 13-17.


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Previous researchers have investigated the relationship between gender role and leadership style,
and they also have investigated the relationship between decision style and leadership style.
However, they have not investigated the relationship between gender role and decision style.
Using 3 validated questionnaires with 90 participants, the relationship between gender role,
decision style, and leadership style is tested. The development of effective human resources
training and management programs requires further exploration of the relationship between
gender role, decision style, and leadership style.
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Daewoo Park: Assistant Professor of Management in the Department of Management and
Entrepreneurship, College of Business Administration, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio,
USA
In their 1987 review of the field of organizational behaviour, House and Singh[1] put much
emphasis on the importance of leadership and decision making in organizational study. Heller[2]
and Janis[3] also emphasized an integration between two normally disparate topics in our
attempts to understand micro- and macro-organizational issues. Other researchers have continued
their attempts to explain better the nature of leadership and/or decision making as well as their
relationships with other factors. Studies on the relationship between gender role and leadership
style, or between decision style and leadership style have reflected this trend[4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13].
Leader behaviour (i.e. leadership style) is often conceptualized as consisting of two independent
dimensions: initiating structure and consideration[14, 15]; task behaviour and relationship
behaviour[16]; concern for production and concern for people[17]. According to Hersey and
Blanchard[17], two dimensions of leader behaviour are defined as follows: task dimension
includes goal setting, organizing, setting time lines, directing and controlling. By contrast, the
relationship dimension includes giving support, communicating, facilitating interactions, active
listening and providing feedback.
In recent years, gender role (i.e. sex-role identity) has been studied by many researchers[6, 18,
19, 20]. According to Bem[18], the two dimensions of gender role are defined as follows.
Masculinity includes being aggressive, independent, objective, logical, rational, analytical and
decisive (i.e. the reverse of the femininity). By contrast, femininity includes being emotional,
sensitive, expressive, co-operative, intuitive, warm and a tactful nature (i.e. the reverse of the
masculinity).
Many researchers have attempted to find the relationship between gender role and leadership
style[5, 10, 21, 22, 23]. They assumed that gender role is an important personality trait that
influences leadership style. Thus, they have related masculinity with task-oriented leadership
style and femininity with relationship-oriented leadership style. These relationships have been
empirically supported.
Decision style also has been studied by many researchers[24, 25, 26, 27]. Four decision styles
are defined by Rowe and Mason[26], with varying characteristics:
- directive: practical, authoritarian, impersonal and power-oriented;
- analytical: intellectual, impersonal and control-oriented;
- conceptual: insightful, enthusiastic, personal, adaptive and flexible;
- behavioural: sociable, friendly and supportive.
According to Nutt[28], "style offers a way to understand why managers, faced with seemingly
identical situations, use such different decision processes" (p. 174).
Studies on the relationship between decision and leadership style appeared in Rowe and
Mason[26]. It is clear that the directive and analytical decision styles are similar to a task-
oriented leadership style and the conceptual and behavioural decision styles are similar to a
relationship-oriented leadership style. However, unlike the relationships between gender role and
leadership style, the relationship between decision style and leadership style has not been studied
much[2, 3]. Further research is required to establish the relationship firmly.
In addition, few studies exist on the relationship between gender role and decision style[4].
Based on studies on the relationship between gender role and leadership style as well as between
decision style and leadership style, an argument could be advanced that gender role and decision
style are closely related to each other. Therefore, one of the purposes of this study is to
investigate the relationship between gender role and decision style.
To investigate the relationship between gender role, decision style and leadership style, four
hypotheses were proposed and tested here:
H1:Individuals with a masculine role identity are higher in task-orientation and a
directive/analytical decision style than individuals with a feminine role identity.
H2:Individuals with a feminine role identity are higher in relationship-orientation and a
conceptual/behavioural decision style than individuals with a masculine role identity.
H3:Individuals with a directive/analytical decision style are higher in task-orientation than
individuals with conceptual/ behavioural decision style.
H4:Individuals with a conceptual/behavioural decision style are higher in relationship-orientation
than individuals with a directive/analytical decision style.
Method
Sample
The subjects of this study were college-aged men and women. Participants were 90 students (50
females and 40 males) drawn from senior-level undergraduate management classes. The average
age was about 22 years.
Procedure and measures
Participants completed a questionnaire packet consisting of the Bem sex-role inventory
(BSRI)[18], decision style inventory (DSI)[26] and leadership opinion questionnaire (LOQ)[29].
A variety of ways to measure and characterize gender roles, decision style and leadership style
has been developed. Among them, BSRI, DSI and LOQ have received broad theoretical and
empirical support as a style measure[26].
The BSRI was developed to assess gender role (i.e. sex-role identity) as indicated by internalized
socially desirable characteristics. It contains 60 items, 20 characteristic of femininity, 20
characteristic of masculinity and 20 characteristic of social desirability bias. Items are rated from
1 (never or almost never true) to 7 (always or almost always true).
The DSI measures a person's decision style. It consists of 20 questions, each with four responses,
that concern typical situations facing managers. Each response is ranked1, 2, 4, or 8, with the
highest number indicating the greatest degree of preference.
The LOQ was developed to measure two dimensions of leader behaviour. The subject is asked to
evaluate on a five-element scale how frequently an ideal leader should engage in the behaviour.
The response to each of 30 leader behaviour items is rated on a five-point scale from 0 (never) to
4 (always).
Results
Table I shows the means, standard deviations and reliability coefficients (Cronbach alpha) from
the BSRI, DSI and LOQ for all subjects in this research.
In particular, most reliability coefficients show high reliability (greater than 0.75). The current
study on the relationship between gender role, decision style and leadership style resulted in
varied findings. All hypotheses were tested using one-way ANOVA. Directionally, as seen in
Table II, the means of the leadership style scores for each gender group resulted precisely as
anticipated. Task-orientation mean scores for the masculine group (49.7) were greater than the
means for the feminine group (43.7). Relationship-orientation mean scores for the feminine
group (47.8) were greater than the means for the masculine group (42.5). As seen in Table II,
these differences were statistically significant.
Also, the means of the decision style scores for each gender group resulted as predicted. As seen
in Table II, the mean scores of directive (81.2) and analytical (85.4) decision style for the
masculine group were both greater than the means (73.2 and 76.1) for thefeminine group. The
mean scores for conceptual (75.3) and behavioural (77.7) decision style for the feminine group
were both greater than the means (71.1 and 68.8) for the masculine group. As seen in Table II,
these differences were also statistically significant.
Further, the study focused on the sex of respondents who scored high/low in feminine/masculine
traits and related style measures: 35 females and 21 males in groups with high feminine/low
masculine traits and relationship-oriented styles; 32 females and 23 males in groups with high
feminine/low masculine traits and task-oriented styles.
In addition, the means of the leadership style scores for each decision style group resulted as
predicted. As seen in Table II, task-orientation mean scores for the directive (82.8) and analytical
(84.2) decision style groups were both higher than the means for the conceptual (73.3) and
behavioural (69.8) decision style groups.
Likewise, relationship-orientation mean scores for the conceptual (75.3) and analytical (71.7)
decision style groups were both higher than the means for the directive (70.6) and analytical
(65.5) decision style groups. As seen in Table II, these differences were also statistically
significant. This means support for the results by Rowe and Mason[26] and implies that decision
style can be aligned with leadership style.
Discussion and application questions
In recent years, a different approach to management research has emerged: a marriage of
organizational behaviour/human resource management and strategic management[30, 31, 32].
Ibrahim and Kelly[31] called it "a paradigm shift" which re-emphasizes the combination of
micro (i.e. people) and macro (i.e. organization and strategy) in management studies. Schuler[32]
also emphasized "linking the people with the strategic needs of the business" as a critical success
factor for many organizations. In addition, the issue of the "fit" between people (i.e. managers
and employees) and organization (i.e. strategy, structure and process) has raised much concern
and interest among academic researchers and practitioners[33]. Miles and Snow[33] explained
the dynamics of fit: Misfit and minimal fit produce organizational failures or survival whereas
tight fit and early tight fit result in excellence and "the Hall of Fame".
The current study is an attempt to find how organizations can create and develop tight fit or early
tight fit between people and their needs. For example, linking the people (managers and
employees) with the strategic needs of the business such as competence acquisition, development
and utilization requires an in-depth analysis[34]. Many organizations currently emphasize
"teams" in their management processes. Because developing/keeping constructive confrontation
is critical for teams[35], organizations try to organize teams with different types of people[36].
To assess and identify different types of people, organizations have adopted different measures.
Instead of relying on a single measure, organizations have found that a combination of different
measures could result in higher reliability[37]. In addition to leadership style, the importance of
gender role and decision style is added to find the right people to meet the strategic needs of the
businesses. However, a question still remains: are they substitutes or supplements? This requires
further exploration on the relationship between gender role, decision style and leadership style.
Finally, although this study did not include the meaning of androgyny, it has been discussed by
many researchers[19, 22]. By defining androgyny as an ideal of human functioning blending the
strong characteristics of masculinity and femininity, they argued that androgyny is necessary for
a leader to be effective. In most cases, however, the positive relationship between androgyny and
leadership effectiveness has not been supported. Is it a repetition of the great high-high (high
task- and relationship-oriented) leader behaviour myth[38] ? This also deserves further study.
Conclusions
The findings of this study statistically supported the argument that there exists a close
relationship between gender role, decision style and leadership style. Also, the findings suggest
that different measures of gender role, decision style and leadership style can be adopted by
organizations in their attempts to acquire, develop and utilize competence. In the light of the fact
that some of the findings of this study concur with those from previous research[4, 6, 26], while
other findings raise new questions, some suggestions are made for future research. Among the
possibilities for further needed research would be development and validation of an instrument to
measure gender role/decision style/leadership style effectiveness. Replication of the research on
groups with different demographic characteristics might be another possibility for further
research. Also, replication of research using different leadership style, decision style and gender
role instruments would be worthwhile. Finally, these efforts would contribute to overcoming the
nature of the "paper and pencil" testing as shown in this study.
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Illustration
Caption: Table I; Scores from the BSRI, DSI and LOQ: means, standard deviations, Cronbach
alpha; Table II; Results of one-way ANOVA
Word count: 2652
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