Doing gender and leadership : a discursive analysis of media representations in a reality TV show

Chit Cheung SUNG, Lancaster University

Copyright © John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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This article examines the media representations of gender and leadership discourse in the debut season of the American reality TV show The Apprentice. By drawing upon the method of discourse analysis, I analyse the leadership styles that two male and two female project managers employ in ‘doing leadership’. The analysis shows that two of the managers display discourse styles of leadership which largely conform to traditional gendered expectations, and that two other managers employ a ‘mixed’ leadership style by making use of some discourse features that are indirectly indexed for the other gender. It is revealed that a masculine discourse style is still represented as the preferred, default way of doing leadership, and that the combination of discourse strategies which are stereotypically coded as masculine and feminine in ‘doing leadership’ is represented most favourably in the reality TV show. Based on the data analysis, it is also argued that female managers may be under more constraints in using ‘mixed’ gendered strategies and in violating stereotypically gendered speech norms when enacting leadership at work.