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Gender and race differences in leader behaviour preferences in South Africa

Romie F. Littrell (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Stella M. Nkomo (Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)

Women in Management Review

ISSN: 0964-9425

Article publication date: 1 December 2005



This research was undertaken to investigate the differences in preferred managerial leadership behaviour among genders and racial groups in South Africa.


Data were collected from part time MBA students in South Africa, and subjects' preferences for explicit leader behaviour was assessed by the Leader Behaviour Description Questionnaire XII, with samples of Asian[1], black, coloured[2], and White South Africans further categorized by gender.


Coloured sample subjects were most dissimilar from the other samples as to preferred leader behaviours. The most similar grouping was black males with white males and females.

Research limitations/implications

Different results were obtained than predicted by past studies comparing only black and white subjects. Studies comparing only those two racial groups could yield misleading interpretations of the actual managerial leader race and gender dynamics in South Africa. Owing to the small samples obtained for coloureds and Asian women, a follow‐up study is underway to increase these sample sizes.

Practical implications

Implications of this study for practice are that programmes of managerial leadership development and practice need to consider that the race and gender dynamics in South Africa extend beyond the majority blacks and whites, and need to be more inclusive of all groups.


The results tend to contradict the interpretations of past studies of management and leadership that have indicated significant differences between the behaviours of blacks and whites in the business environment. These two groups were found to be most similar in preferences.



Littrell, R.F. and Nkomo, S.M. (2005), "Gender and race differences in leader behaviour preferences in South Africa", Women in Management Review, Vol. 20 No. 8, pp. 562-580.



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