Original Research

Gender-based leadership perceptions and preferences of Generation Z as future business leaders in South Africa

Dawie A.J. Bornman
Acta Commercii | Vol 19, No 1 | a708 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v19i1.708 | © 2019 Dawie A.J. Bornman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 September 2018 | Published: 28 October 2019

About the author(s)

Dawie A.J. Bornman, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Given South Africa’s vast diversity, there is little clarity surrounding the most prominent leadership style amongst young male and female (i.e. Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2015) potential leaders.

Research purpose: To investigate the perceptions of Generation Z male and female undergraduate business management students at a tertiary institution in South Africa, towards leadership and its link to gender specific leadership traits.

Motivation for the study: This study is vital as the importance of gender equality and the fair distribution of organisational opportunities are increasing, and due to undergraduate business management students forming part of Generation Z and being the next generation of possible business leaders.

Research design, approach and method: A self-developed questionnaire by the author was distributed to 469 students, and the final realised sample included a total of 320 usable questionnaires. After a comparative descriptive data analysis, SPSS statistical software was utilised to conduct a Wilcoxon’s signed rank test, a Mann-Whitney U test and a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test for normality, respectively of the study’s formulated hypotheses.

Main findings: Male and female Generation Z students favour transformational leadership over transactional leadership, and both gender groups perceive feminine traits as more important for a business leader to exhibit. This contradicts previous research findings where masculine traits were perceived as more important for business and leadership success.

Practical/managerial implications: As transformational leadership has been most frequently cited in literature as the prominent and successful leadership style of the 21st century, all leadership education development should encourage future leaders to develop a transformational leadership style while implementing the inclusion of the feminine trait theory.

Contribution/value-add: These findings help determine which leadership style is favoured by potential future leaders (i.e. Generation Z) at a higher education institution in South Africa and provides guidance in terms of leadership education development.


business management; Generation Z; gender; gender-based leadership; leadership perceptions; leadership characteristics; survey; South Africa; undergraduate students


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