Leaders are not created equal: re-examining the assumptions of effective leadership in the context of power distance

Hu, Xiaoran (2020) Leaders are not created equal: re-examining the assumptions of effective leadership in the context of power distance. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School.


People give meaning to their experience through sense-making devices such as culture. Power distance, for example, is a critically important sense-making mechanism (Hofstede, 1980). Leadership can also be seen as a sense-making device that helps people understand organizational outcomes (Meindl, Ehrlich, & Dukerich, 1985). This thesis explores the intersection of these two things. Using both experimental and field research designs, I test whether and how understanding follower power distance values encourages us to rethink some of the classical assumptions scholars have made about leadership. In one empirical paper, I re-examine the assumption that election, as compared with appointment, grants a leader more legitimacy in the eyes of followers. Through correlational and experimental designs, I find that power distance is positively (negatively) associated with the legitimacy of appointed (elected) leaders. In my second empirical paper, I address the dark side of leader humor expression. Across a series of studies involving multiple cultural samples, I demonstrate the potential emotional cost, in the form of employee emotional labor (surface acting), posed by leader humor expression at work. I also find the effect of leader humor expression on employee surface acting to be particularly strong among people with high power distance values. The third empirical paper highlights the role of power distance at team levels. Using multi-source top management team data that were collected at different time points, I show that leaders who seek prestige in the eyes of group members reduce task-related debates in high power distance groups. Together, these findings explain how and why many 'effective' leadership characteristics and practices may have entirely different consequences for followers with different cultural programming.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 18:14
Date of first compliant deposit: 09 Feb 2022
Subjects: Organisational behaviour
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2022 06:13
URI: https://lbsresearch.london.edu/id/eprint/2231

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