Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Transcending Communication Barriers: A Case for Hybrid Communication Style by a Woman School Principal within a Rural Setting

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Transcending Communication Barriers: A Case for Hybrid Communication Style by a Woman School Principal within a Rural Setting

Article excerpt

The theory of a "female" style of management is hotly debated globally. In the same sense that women are not a homogenous group, women managers are also not a homogeneous group and may operate, using a variety of managerial styles depending on the different situations in which they find themselves. The theory of the risks of a woman's management style creates a meta-narrative, which universalises the category of women and idealises characteristics such as self-sacrificing and caring (Blackmore, 1999:58). Moreover, many women managers are forced to adopt the male modus operandi in order to succeed in male-dominated environments (Wolpe, 2011). Similarly, researchers caution about formulating sociolinguistic universals (Holmes, 1998:478). However, as indicated earlier, a large body of research confirms the distinctive c o m m u n i c a t i o n patterns of women across diverse contexts (Holmes, 2013). Mangers have to communicate in order to discharge their responsibilities. For communication to be effective, educational managers have to overcome communication barriers constantly and effectively.

There are diverse communication barriers and principals need to overcome all of them in order to succeed. African women have to work even harder to overcome such barriers given that for a long time the essentialist position of the "powerlessness" of female speech patterns existed only relative to the power of so-called masculine patterns and the relatively weaker social position of women (Wetzel, 1988). For as long as the traditionalist classification of communication with stereotypical male attributes continues and is influential in public perceptions, women will be disadvantaged, since they define women's communication styles as deficient (Coleman, 2001). Currently, there is a move towards recognising female communication styles as effective and critical for organisations to succeed. This is because female communication styles are said to be more in agreement with the transformational style of management (Lopez-Zafra & Morales, 1999; Vinkenburg, Engen, Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, 2011; Lopez-Zafra, 2012: 98).

Research in leadership and management argues that transformational leadership is associated with successful contemporary organisations and incorporates both feminine and masculine behaviours (Eagly, 2013). Women communicators are able to transcend communication barriers because they are able to combine female and male communication styles successfully. Thus, they practice transformational leadership.

The findings of a qualitative study conducted into a woman principal in South Africa demonstrate that women principals in a rural setting are able to transcend communication barriers firstly by transcending cultural barriers to communication in management where necessary; and secondly by using a hybrid communication style with diverse channels of communication, including personal encounters. This paper argues that the woman principal practices transformational leadership by following a hybrid communication style, given that transformational leadership involves mobilising social interactions in support of institutional goals. In this case she displayed both feminine communication styles and traditional male characteristics of independence and strength in the public sphere, yet teachers in her school do not associate her character with masculinity.

The study on which this article is based extends the current literature by investigating the extent to which the principal's communication in the school reflects transformational leadership. By doing so, this article contributes to a deeper understanding of the tools that interact with transformational leadership to enhance school effectiveness.

Conceptualising Barriers to Effective Communication

Effective communication is hampered by various factors. Sometimes the meaning which is received by the receiver may not be what the sender intended to send. The researcher, therefore, wants to look at some barriers to effective communication. …

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