'Doing power' at work: Responding to male and female management styles in a global business corporation

Hans J. Ladegaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


In the literature on professional management, it is argued that female leaders prefer a more indirect, people-oriented, democratic management style, whereas male leaders are more likely to favor a direct, task-oriented and authoritarian approach. This paper reports on an empirical study of communication in business organizations, and the focus is on the actual sociolinguistic behaviour of male and female leaders performing similar tasks. Executive managers of both sexes in a large Danish corporation were asked to record themselves during a typical day at work while performing a range of tasks, such as giving directives to their staff and chairing meetings. The analyses show that both male and female leaders tend to prefer an indirect, normatively feminine management style. They also show that male leaders are more likely to use a wide verbal repertoire style drawing on elements in their speech that are both normatively male and normatively female. However, the most significant difference is how male and female leaders' management styles are perceived and responded to by male and female employees. While the authority of male leaders is never questioned, several examples in the data show that female leaders are often challenged, and their authority questioned, by their male colleagues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-19
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number1
Early online date20 Oct 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

User-Defined Keywords

  • Male–female management styles
  • Organizational communication
  • Language and power
  • Critical Discourse Analysis


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