Purpose – The present paper is based on a cross‐cultural exploration of middle managers in two diverse cultures and aims to focus on how the leadership styles of managerial women are perceived and evaluated. In particular, female and male peer evaluations of leadership effectiveness in Malaysia and Australia are to be explored. Design/methodology/approach – Surveys from 324 middle managers from Malaysia and Australia were quantitatively analysed. The sample for the study was drawn from organisations in four industry types in both countries. Findings – Findings suggest that evaluations of female managers' leadership styles in general, and within the respondent's own organisations, were strongly culture specific, especially in Malaysia. The results reflected the strongly held values, attitudes and beliefs of each country. While this is not unexpected, it does highlight a need to be cautious when interpreting Western research results and attempting to transplant those into other cultures. In Malaysia, female managers were not seen as effective in the leadership styles they adopted in their roles when compared to the Australian female managers' evaluations. Such an evaluation may have had little to do with an objective appraisal of the female managers' capability, but rather with a strongly held cultural belief about the appropriate role of women in society, and in organisations in particular. Research limitations/implications – It is suggested that national culture manifests itself in the values, attitudes and behaviours of people. Cultural influences are therefore likely to impact on the way women and men behave in the workplace, particularly when roles of authority and power are evident, and the way in which that behaviour will be evaluated by others. Further research using different samples in different cultures are recommended. In addition, the influence of ethnicity, race or religion in plural countries such as Malaysia and Australia is also worthy of investigation. Practical implications – This research suggests that values and attitudes are strongly culture‐specific and therefore have the ability to influence evaluations at an organisational level. Such an awareness of cultural influences should guide appropriate human resource practices, particularly within a globalized environment. Originality/value – The inclusion of a gender comparison in the data analysis in this paper is a significant attempt to add to the extant knowledge of the cross‐cultural research. This is a unique contribution because of the omission of a gender perspective in the previous two seminal studies in culture literature (i.e. Hofstede and House et al. ). In addition, the findings suggest that culture‐specific influences are important determinants that impose expectations on the role of women differently from men in society and within organisations hence, making the gender comparison of the findings more significant.
Leadership & Organization Development Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 19, 2008
Keywords: National cultures; Gender; Leadership; Management styles; Malaysia; Australia
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