A Nonlinear Approach to Gender bias in Leadership Emergence Perceptions

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of the present study was to examine the perceptual processes associated with gender differences in leadership emergence recognition. Prior research has indicated that females are less likely to be identified as an emerging leader, even when they display identical leadership behaviors as that of their male counterparts. Unlike most of the previous research performed in this area which has obtained only static snapshots of leadership recognition, the present study used a nonlinear dynamic modeling technique, called cusp catastrophe theory. It was predicted that a nonlinear model would account for more variance than a linear model. Furthermore, it was also predicted that participants would be more resistant to recognizing a female as an emerging leader, as compared to a male. This effect was expected to be greater for male participants than female participants. Participants included 19 organizational members, who watched videos of either a male or female emerging as the leader of a four-person group. Participants recorded their perceptions of leadership through a dynamic measure. In accordance with cusp catastrophe theory, results were analyzed using the program GEMCAT II (General Multivariate Methodology for Estimating Catastrophe Models). Contrary to expectations, none of the predictions were supported. It is suggested that this was primarily due to methodological issues, rather than the relevance of cusp catastrophe modeling for leadership perceptions. Recommendations for future work in this area are provided.



Gender, leadership emergence, cusp catastrophe theory