‘Your situation is critical…’

The discursive enactment of leadership by business women in Middle Eastern and Western European contexts


  • Judith Baxter Aston University
  • Haleema Al-A'ali Aston University




Leadership, Gender, Relational Practices, Interactional Sociolinguistic Analysis


Women remain in a small minority as business leaders in both Middle Eastern (ME) and Western European (WE) regions, and indeed, past research indicates that ME women face even greater challenges as leaders than their Western counterparts. This article explores sample findings from two separate case studies, the first of a ME woman leader and the second of a WE woman leader, each conducting a management meeting with their teams. Using interactional sociolinguistic analysis, we examine the ‘contextualisation cues’ that index how each woman performs leadership in their respective meetings. We found that both women utilise relational practices in order to enact leadership with their subordinates, but with varying results. Whereas the ME leader deploys a confident and commanding interactional style with her colleagues, the WE leader’s style is evasive and uncertain. On the basis of these two cases, the WE leader appears to face greater challenges in a male-dominated business world than the ME leader. Whereas the ME leader can rely on long-established ties of loyalty and organisation-as-family, the Western leader, within an apparently more open, democratic context, has to negotiate overwhelming turbulence and change within her company.

Author Biographies

Judith Baxter, Aston University

Judith Baxter is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Head of English at Aston University, UK.

Haleema Al-A'ali, Aston University

Haleema Al-A'ali has recently completed her PhD at Aston University, and currently teaches at the University of Bahrain.


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How to Cite

Baxter, J., & Al-A’ali, H. (2014). ‘Your situation is critical…’: The discursive enactment of leadership by business women in Middle Eastern and Western European contexts. Gender and Language, 8(1), 91–116. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i1.91




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