Effects of Gender and Communication on Leadership Emergence in Small Task-Oriented







Effects of Gender and Communication on Leadership Emergence in Small Task-Oriented Groups











Effects of Gender and Communication on Leadership Emergence in Small Task-Oriented Groups

The concept of leadership has always received much attention and spawned research in a bid to cultivate effectiveness. A host of factors that determine the success of leadership has been perceived differently across varying contexts and through time. Generally, scholars establish the connection between leadership and surrounding factors due to the leadership environment and come up with virtues that can aid leadership success. Gender and communication have been held as factors determining the emergence of leaders. This study seeks to elucidate the nature of the relationship between gender, communication, and emergent leadership in small task-oriented groups.

Hawkins (1995) conducted a tailored research to address the connection of gender and communication to the emergence of leadership. She carried out a review on past literature seeking to gather relevant information with which to build her research. Among the reviews included the works of authors like Owen (1986), and Marby (1989). However, Hawkins identified flaws in these studies significant enough to distort reality. The summaries of the works pointed to a notion that men were likely to emerge as leaders as compared to women in small task groups. In addition, the literature suggested that little discrepancies in task-relevant communication existed between male and female leaders.

Hawkins explains that these studies did not meet criteria and, thus, lacked validity for two reasons. First, adequate communication, investigation requires one to focus on actual communication rather than that which is rated by self (the emergent leader) or others (such as the followers). Therefore, instead of evaluating the ratings by followers, these researchers would do well to evaluate the communication content itself. Secondly, investigating communication behavior in a small group requires an approximated real-world experience. Hawkins explains that an ideal small group meets four conditions. That is, it must have a history; strains and incentives to retain members; empirical lasting task; and solidarity between members.

Hawkins set a study underway that met the criteria discussed above. As such, it can be claimed that her study was realistic and focused. In the study, Hawkins (1995) found out that task-relevant communication is the single most significant determinant of emergent leadership. The implications of this finding on the traditional notion of task/social maintenance as a requirement for an effectively functioning group are profound. Traditionally, it would be due for individuals who are socially active and yet communicate their tasks effectively to emerge as leaders. The data in this research and analytical results confound this intuition absolutely. While the importance of task relevance gains approval from the findings of this study, some aspects of the same study indicate that social maintenance was also reported within the groups. Hawkins explains that self-disclosures and personal inquiry dominated task-irrelevant communication. Moreover, she points out that this was occasionally prompted by the topic discussion. The relevance of this finding is cannot be overlooked. While emergent leaders rise from their focus on tasks, social interaction can add to the welfare and progress of the entire group.

The findings on the effect of gender in this research were of secondary concern. Having established that task-relevant communication was a determining factor for emergent leadership, Hawkins further identifies that there is no significant difference in the content of communication by both genders. Females were as much capable of engendering task-relevant communication as males. The implication of this finding is that females and males have equal capabilities or probabilities of emerging as leaders as long as their communication behavior is task-relevant.

In conclusion, the findings of this research confound the traditional notions of male superiority over females with respect to leadership. The most important implication of this research with regard to the traditional notion is that task-irrelevant communication behaviors by males would risk their chance to emerge as leaders much as it would to females.
















Hawkins, K. W. (1995). Effects of gender and communication content on leadership emergence in small task-oriented groups. Small Group Research, 26(2), 234-249.

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