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Analysis of the Leadership Style Traits Among Chinese Female Students Studying in the Uk

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

Chinese students in the UK

Chinese students in the UK


This review seeks to explore the leadership style traits among Chinese female students studying in the UK. Among the aspects to be reviewed include the attitude of Chinese female students who are studying in UK toward different leadership style. The review will also look at the characteristics of Chinese female students who are studying in UK and their different leadership styles. Finally, this literature review will explore how the experience of learning in UK affects Chinese female students’ leadership style. The last part will be a conclusion of the review, which basically summarizes the findings of this review.

2.2 Leadership styles

Leadership style refers to the approach and manner of providing offering guidance, motivating people and even implementing plans. As observed by the employees, it also entails the whole pattern of implicit and explicit actions that the leader performs. Influential studies have established three major styles of leadership (Martindale, 2011). These include autocratic/authoritarian, democratic/participative, and laissez-fair/delagative. Autocratic or authoritarian style of leadership is whereby; a leader orders an employee or employees on what to do or how they should do it without seeking their opinions on the same. In other words, it is commanding people to do what you want without questions. Participatory/democratic form of leadership which is also called transformational leadership on the other hand, relates to a kind of leadership where a leader engages his or her employees in the decision making process. This styles involves a leader working together with employees to solve a common issue. However, the final decision making authority is usually maintained by the leader. Finally, the laissez-fair or delegative style of leadership is where a leader allows his or her employees to make their own decisions and may go on to implement them. However, the leader still holds responsibilities for the decisions so made (Kaleem, 2016). Figure 1.1 below presents an emphasis on three common leadership styles.

Figure 1.1 power styles source: (nwlink.com, 2015).

In most cases, good leaders normally employ all the three styles, although one of them is usually dominant(Kaleem, 2016). On the other hand, bad leaders only use autocratic form of leadership which is to order and command employees around without giving them an opportunity to air their views or make their decisions. Each of this style may be appropriate in a particular context or situation. However, the kind of style a leader chooses to apply largely depends on the forces involved between the leader, the subjects and the situation (Martindale, 2011).

2.3 Attitude toward different leadership style by Chinese female students

Foti et al. (2012) explains that there is a tendency of people endorsing certain leadership features based on what they believe is positive and they possess them themselves. In China’s history, preparation of leaders on moral grounds and in practice is a valued norm. Zhao, Tan and Urhahne (2011) observed that Chinese undergraduate students had high regard for change and transformational leadership styles. The Chinese society takes value in promoting morality and harmony, characters that are expected to be part of a leader’s behaviour and attitudes. Zhao et al’s findings revealed that Chinese women students appreciate leaders whom they perceive to be receptive to group and team goals and those who are visionary. They also rated interpersonal competency highly, a reflection of social competency in a society that is collective in nature. In summary, the outcome of the research by Zhao et al depicts Chinese women students as supporting leadership styles that align with the morality and values of a society which they were raised in. Particularly, there are two key virtues which are prominent in Chinese context; leading by example and unselfishness. Chinese women students and by extension Chinese people expect leaders who act as an example to their followers and those who do not abuse their powers. This expectation originates from the women’s need for wellbeing, opportunities and development as well as from Confucianism. According to Confucianism tradition, moral examples and principles ought to be applied in social contexts. On the other hand, punishment and use of law can only be used to manage explicit behaviours, whereas moral persuasion can work towards governing inner thought. In this respect, Chinese women students can support leadership styles that allow subjects to make their own decisions and be part of the team/group. On the other hand, Sun and Lin and Sun (2018) find that authoritarian style of leadership is the least preferred among Chinese women.

Bamber (2014) found out that many Chinese women were seeking higher education abroad and specifically in the United Kingdom and the United States out of the increasing displeasure with their sub-ordinate gender status back in their home country. According to this study, upwardly mobile and young women were seeking out language and advanced degree study overseas because they wanted to escape gendered expectations as women in the society and as daughters at home. In addition, many were also focused at overcoming the barriers of the glass ceiling which is common in Chinese sex-segmented workplaces. For these Chinese women, they believe that these countries not only accords women opportunities in employment and leadership but also empowers them to exploit their potentials accordingly. Similarly, statistics from Chinas ministry of Education indicated that over 90% of the nation’s international students were footing their tuition fees through their parents. This is despite the fact that most colleges in these western countries had high fees. However, the motivation behind that was due to the view that studying abroad was a means of making these women to be more competitive both socially and economically (Mengwei, 2018).

2.4 Leadership style and characteristics of Chinese female students studying in UK

Chinese student’s cultural beliefs and values alongside their predominant mindset created in the course of their socialization greatly influence their academic coping in the United Kingdom. Particularly, these students believe in effort and hard work as an avenue for success(Wu, 2015). This character which is considered as a (growth mindset) is regarded by the UK educators as an asset that can be used to build in (Chen, and Wong, 2015). As such, Chinese students are mostly found to be working hard even in the classroom settings. For instance, they can spend all their working hours while studying. Furthermore, a part from effort attribution, Chinese female students show greater perseverance owing to their socialized value for education as compared to their Western counterparts (Pilcher, Cortazzi, and Jin, 2011).

In his analysis of Chinese students in the west countries, Ku and Ho (2010) found out that the Confucian-heritage culture had a huge influence on their mindset and lifestyle. Though this culture had influenced them positively such as motivating them to learn and work hard, it also harboured negative implications such as the reliance of teachers to provide direction, and the unwillingness to take part in group discussions. Furthermore, a part from lacking critical thinking, many of these Chinese female students also have a tendency of not asking leaders including teachers, university presidents among others questions or engaging them in arguments. Teachers are expected to design the curriculum, set the learning objective, and make assessments (Gram et al, 2013). In addition, they are also expected to harbour competency in the subjects they are teaching. The student’s goal choices are largely shaped by teacher’s beliefs concerning achievement goals through interpersonal relationship, instructional practices, and assessments and feedback. In this regard, they prefer leaders who are equally competent, can be able to offer guidance and direction as effectively as possible. Nonetheless, such as a leader must be accountable and morally sound in her or his leadership (Iannelli, and Huang, 2014).

Cook and Glass (2014) found out that Chinese female students in the United Kingdom aspired to be in leadership positions. This is because the gender policies back home had empowered them socially, politically and economically. Accordingly, Chinese women students in the UK are increasingly being appointed to leadership positions although their male counterparts continue to dominate in these positions. Cook and Glass (2014) also reports that these women are even seeking risky-positions as a means of proving their capability as leaders as well as in gaining reputation as transformational leaders. Again, these women, according to BlackChen (2015) depict general characteristics such as collaborative traits, motivation and accountability. In other words, the leadership strategies depicted by these Chinese women leaders are that of servant leadership style roles compared to transactional or more direct roles.

2.5 The impact of learning in UK experience on Chinese female students’ leadership style

2.5.1 Experience in learning in UK

The historical, social and cultural differences between the Chinese society from which the Chinese women students were drawn and the British society where the students were based certainly led to an uphill struggle for them to fully participate in class, social and political activities (Schweisfurth, 2009). This is more particular during the initial phases of their studies. Additionally, their stress level in copying with unknown linguistic learning context further added to these initial changes. In this regard, learning shock can be considered to be part of the cultural shock. In particular, the Chinese students in general found language to be a problem. Moreover, some students become intimated, worried and confused by the change in responsibility. While most Chinese women students expect to be told what they are supposed to learn, read or the kind of answers expected of them, and they are ready to work hard to achieve these expectations, they find that the British system is different(Wu, 2015). This is in the sense that the system encourages an autonomous approach to learning. Accordingly, this creates difficulty for the Chinese students to adjust as per the expectations of the British system. Applying Hofstede’s (1986) cultural dimensions in the learning and teaching systems, it can be noted that in collective societies such as China, there are expectations for students to learn ‘how to do’ whereas; in the UK which is an individualistic society, students expect to know ‘how to learn’.

In this regard, culture plays a critical role in influencing the formation and experiences of learning and teaching in a foreign land. Generally, upon arriving in the United Kingdom, a majority if Chinese female students encounter a shocking culture and learning shock as well. The UK class environment looks like something different to these Chinese students since most of the things are alien to them(Andy-Wali and Wali,2018). This is confirmed by a study conducted by Yun and Moskal (2019) who noted that many Chinese female students found it hard to adapt to the UKs educational and social systems. Due to the different forms of essays needed by the tutors, the educational curriculum and pedagogy, many students were in the dark of what is expected of them. This is why they sometimes felt disappointed, and desperate.

2.5.2 The Impact of learning in UK experience on Chinese female students’ leadership style

While cultural variations plays a critical part in the Chinese female students early frustrations and challenges when coping to a British learning environment, a study by Schweisfurth (2009) indicated that a majority of Chinese students (including female) experienced positive development and adaptation in their academic studies as time went by. This is seen in their linguistic competency which improves with time, greater involvement in class and social activities, improved self-confidence and a stronger sense of autonomy in learning. Accordingly, once these students complete their studies, there is less likelihood that culture continues to operate as an obstacle, source of struggle, stress or conflict in line with Hofstede’s stipulation. Instead, different fabrics of the host culture where teaching and learning takes place becomes personalized, integrated and absorbed by the individual students. These students go on to take different forms which makes it possible for them to perform their studies and duties well while also being fuelled with power, strength and confidence. In other words, while culture shock turns into alienation, it also pushes students into developing new interests and capabilities (Andy-Wali and Wali,2018).

In China, it is almost impractical for students to expect academic staff to take responsibility for their personal wellbeing. In fact, many of these students do not even imagine engaging their tutors on personal issues (Andy-Wali and Wali, 2018). However, this is a different case in the UK where students talk with their tutors on problems affecting them and seeking advice on them. Learners found it overwhelming that a professor can offer himself or herself to help students who are faced with emotional issues. Consequently, this experience changes the student’s mindset about the role of teachers and especially the need to take responsibilities for the subject’s general wellbeing. In this process, students come to learn the virtues of leadership which entails engaging the subjects, taking value in their opinions, and also being responsible for their general wellbeing.


This review has discussed different leadership styles mainly autocratic/authoritarian, democratic/participative (also known as transformative) and laissez-fair/delagative. Regarding the Chinese females students attitude on different leadership styles, it is noted that many prefer transformational leadership styles (democratic/participative and laissez-fair/delagative) as opposed to authoritarian style of leadership. Furthermore, they were also concerned on leadership that had high regard for morality, accountability and harmony. Moreover, Chinese female students also appreciate leaders whom they perceive to be receptive to group and team goals and those who are visionary. This owes to their cultural background (Confucianism in particular) which stipulates the application of moral examples and principles in the societal settings. Despite this belief, the Chinese student’s characters are centered on hard work and effort and endeavor to work hard even in the classroom settings. However, the Confucianism culture had made them belief that a teacher is there to give direction and guidance but not to be engaged personally. They also depend on the teachers to define their goal choices through instructional practices, assessments and feedback. However, upon arriving in the UK, they are faced with culture and learning shock owing to the differences of educational and cultural systems. Nonetheless, they come to adapt to the system which encourages engagement of students and tutors as well as the concern of these tutors on the student’s welfare. Consequently, students come to embrace this form of leadership which encourages personal engagement and being concerned about the subject’s welfare.

The next chapter will define the methodology to be applied including the sample, data collection tools, analysis procedure, ethical considerations and sampling strategy.


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Silas Nyamweya (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on December 25, 2020:

Thank you MG Singh for your informed opinion, let me look into that aspect.

MG Singh from UAE on December 25, 2020:

This is a very exhaustive and informative article. You must take credit for taking some pains and analyzing the Chinese women students in the UK. I wonder if you have could have touched on the fact whether the students go back to China after education or remain in the UK?