Date of Award

5-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Stockdale, Margaret

Abstract

Followers' perceptions of female leaders tend to be different from male leaders. For instance, the prototypes that correspond to female leaders tend to be more communal and transformational, whereas male leaders are associated with agentic and dominant leadership prototypes. Female leaders can be perceived with bias due to conflicts between the communal role expected of women and the agentic role traditionally expected of leaders. Additionally, collectivist or individualist nature of leaders' orientation, as well as organizational culture has the possibility of affecting followers' perceptions. Leader's orientations reflect either a collectivistic or individualistic personal style. Collective orientations indicate that the leader is group or team oriented, whereas an individual orientation signifies higher identification with the self and enhancing competition. Organizational cultures also theoretically have collectivistic or individualistic components. Leaders whose personal orientation (collectivist or individualist) matches the organizational culture (collectivistic or individualistic) are expected to be categorized as a leader more so than leaders whose personal orientation does not match the organizational culture. Female leaders, however, may be at a disadvantage in organizational cultures or with orientations that are incongruent with their gender roles. To examine these issues, scenarios were used in order to manipulate organizational culture and leader's orientations, and pictures were employed for leader gender manipulations. An online survey was distributed to a variety of business-related list serves, and 388 employees from U.S. based companies participated. Participants assessed the target leaders on perceptions of leader prototypicality, likability, and perceptions of mutual commitment and support. Results show that female leaders are perceived to be more transformational and less dominant than male leaders. Further, no differences between leaders were found on all dimensions of prototypicality and liking when examining the interaction between organizational culture, leader's orientation, and gender. There were main effects of leader's orientations on perceptions of mutual commitment and support with individualist leaders perceived as having lower perceptions of mutual commitment and support than collectivist leaders. Additionally, the three-way Leader Gender by Leader Orientation by Organizational Culture interaction on leader-member exchange showed that female leaders were penalized when they were embedded within individualistic organizational cultures or portrayed individual orientations. These penalties seem to be additive with female leaders depicting individual orientations within individualistic organizational cultures being rated even lower on perceptions of mutual commitment and support. This relationship was not found for male leaders; however male leaders were penalized for depicting individual orientations in collectivistic organizational cultures. An advantage was found for female leaders who depict collective orientations in collectivistic organizational cultures. These leaders were rated higher than male leaders in perceptions of mutual commitment and support, perhaps due to the congruence of the female gender role with the highly valued transformational leadership style. The implications of this study are that organizations should focus their culture on being more collectivistic, which could enhance perceptions of female leaders by their followers.

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