Language and gender in a US reality TV show: An analysis of leadership discourse in single-sex interactions

Chit Cheung Matthew Sung


This paper examines issues relating to language, gender and leadership in the debut season of the reality TV show The Apprentice (USA). In particular, it looks at the ways in which two male and two female project managers ‘do leadership’ through discourse in single-sex interactions. The analysis shows that these project managers display leadership styles which are by and large in accordance with the gendered norms and expectations. It is found that while their leadership styles are not evaluated entirely positively, the male managers receive both positive and negative comments for using predominantly masculine speech styles and the female managers who ‘do leadership’ by employing a largely feminine discourse style are perceived negatively. It is also argued that the single-sex contexts of interactions can be seen as being constructed intentionally in the TV show in order to capture the gender-stereotypical speech styles of ‘doing leadership’.

Full Text: PDF