Increasingly, scholars are contesting the value of grand theories of leadership in favour of a social constructionist approach that posits the centrality of language for ‘doing’ leadership. This article investigates the extent to which the linguistic enactment of leadership is often gendered, which may have consequences for the career progression of women business leaders. Drawing on a UK-based study of three teams with different gender compositions (men-only; women-only and mixed gender), I use an Interactional Sociolinguistic framework to compare what leadership ‘looks and sounds like’ during the course of a competitive, leadership task. My findings show that the linguistic construction of leadership varies considerably within each team although not always in conventionally gendered ways. The study potentially provides linguistic insights on the business issue of why so few women progress from middle management to senior leadership roles.
- social constructionism
- feminist linguistics