The Bilingual Leader

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Transformational leadership has consistently shown to result in high follower satisfaction, high follower assessment of the leader’s effectiveness, and high follower willingness to give extra effort at work. Because it is so effective, an array of studies exist that search for correlates and predictors of transformational leadership. Meta-analytic studies by Lord, Vader and Alliger (1986) and Judge, Colbert, and Ilies (2004), have both found a relationship between leader intelligence and effective leadership. Several studies show a direct correlation between learning more than one language and cognitive development. Adesope et al. (2010) conducted a meta-analysis which included 63 studies representing 6,022 participants, about the correlation between bilingualism and cognition. The meta-analysis found that bilingualism was positively associated with several cognitive outcomes. One area of research related to transformational leadership that has not been explored is how the number of languages a leader speaks might be related to her or his style of leadership. This study evaluates if there is a difference in the leadership style as a result of whether the leader was monolingual or bilingual. One hundred sixteen participants in executive leadership training and graduate programs in leadership provided an evaluation packet to two peers, two followers and a supervisor using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, often referred to as a “360 degree” assessment, as the leader is being rated from three different organizational viewpoints. The participants in turn completed a language use questionnaire modeled after the Language History Questionnaire (Li, P., Sepanski, S. and Zhao, X., 2006). A three-way analysis of variance was run with 360 degree ratings of transformational leadership as the dependent variable and leader gender, ethnicity, and whether the leader was bilingual as the independent variables. None of the main effects were significant. There was, however, a significant interaction effect for ethnicity and whether the leader was bilingual.