Investigating male and female leadership styles and politeness in the Indonesian workplace

  • Ismarita Ramayanti

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research explored the perceptions and use of leadership styles and politeness strategies by Indonesian male and female managers in business meetings. Although significant research has been conducted on male and female leadership styles and politeness strategy use in the Western context, this research is lacking in the dynamically changing Indonesian context which is traditionally a hierarchical and highly paternalistic society. There has been a steady growth in the number of Indonesian women occupying leadership positions in the workforce which has created novel contexts of linguistic use. This research aims to raise awareness of the potential of women as managers and the challenges they face in a patriarchal society. To address the gap on gender oriented leadership research, the present thesis employed the method of linguistic ethnography, to examine the leaders’ linguistic use in the Indonesian context. Ten male and ten female managers’ meetings were digitally recorded and semi-structured interviews with twenty managers and forty male and female subordinates of these managers were also conducted to derive the perceptions of the managers and their subordinates on the managers’ leadership styles and politeness strategy use. A close thematic analysis of the interviews revealed the five most frequently used leadership strategies in the interviews with the participants which formed the basis of analysis. To identify the leadership styles in the business meetings a mixed discourse analysis framework was utilised (Holmes,1995). To analyse politeness strategies in discourse, Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness strategies were combined with the discursive politeness approach (van der Bom & Mills,2015). While both male and female managers shared similar views about the characteristics of a good leader they held contrastive perceptions about characteristics of male and female leaders. These gender specific differences in leadership styles were not born out in the business meetings. Both managers displayed the same leadership strategies in the business meetings: being a good mentor, being decisive, being democratic, and being nurturing and caring. The only leadership style that was only adopted by male managers was following religious beliefs. Similar findings were reported in the analysis of politeness strategies: male and female managers employed politeness equally to achieve particular interactional goals. This study demonstrates that gender stereotypes still exist in the Indonesian workplace since leadership for females is believed to contradict traditional religious beliefs and the patriarchal culture. Women are underestimated, disrespected and still restrained by gender stereotypes, patriarchal and religious beliefs. However, female managers performed equally well in leading meetings. Despite the dual role expected of Indonesian women, being a mother/ wife and a professional, they performed as well as male managers. This suggests gender roles are changing and forces of globalisation influence the Indonesian highly paternalistic society. The thesis concludes with recommendations for awareness raising and empowering women leaders.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorEleni Petraki (Supervisor) & Deborah Hill (Supervisor)

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