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Leadership attributes, masculinity and risk taking as predictors of crisis pronenessZachary SheafferDepartment of Management and Economics, Ariel University Centre, Ariel, Israel

Leadership attributes


Ronit BoglerDepartment of Psychology and Education, The Open University of Israel, Raanana, Israel, and

Samuel SarfatyProt Group, Tel Aviv, IsraelAbstractPurpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which leadership attributes, masculinity, risk taking and decision making affect perceived crisis proneness. Design/methodology/approach The paper draws mainly on the literature about gender, leadership and organizational crisis to explore whether masculinity predicts crisis proneness, and the extent to which leadership attributes as well as risk-taking and decision-making style are efcient predictors of perceived crisis preparedness (CP). Utilizing pertinent literature and concepts, the paper evaluates a database of 231 female and male managers. Findings As hypothesized, masculinity is positively associated, whereas transformational leadership is inversely associated with perceived crisis proneness. Both participative decision making and passive management predict higher degree of perceived crisis proneness and so does risk taking. Research limitations/implications More in-depth research as well as larger and more diverse sample is required to explore more denitively why and how masculinity is positively associated with crisis proneness. Practical implications The paper provides preliminary evidence regarding the merits of feminine leadership traits as facilitators of CP This nding does not, however, preclude the usefulness of masculine attributes in managing actual organizational crises. The ndings appear particularly relevant given the current turbulent business environments and the increasing frequency and magnitude of corporate crises. Originality/value The paper synthesizes evidence on CP proneness and gender, and the evidence of feminine attributes as an important antidote to perceived crisis proneness. The paper outlines reasons for this phenomenon and implications for placement of managers in current business arenas. Keywords Gender, Leadership, Risk management, Decision making Paper type Research paper

Sheaffer (corresponding author) and Bogler have contributed equally to the writing of this paper. The authors appreciate the helpful comments of Avi Carmeli on earlier versions of this paper and thank Jean Vermel for her assistance. They are also grateful to Editor Sandra Fielden for constructive feedback and guidance and to two anonymous reviewers for their insightful suggestions.

Gender in Management: An International Journal Vol. 26 No. 2, 2011 pp. 163-187 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1754-2413 DOI 10.1108/17542411111116563

GM 26,2


Repercussions of the current global recession accentuate the indispensable role of crisis management (CM) in post-modern organizational arenas. Despite a plethora of scholarly work addressing corporate downturns in recent years, organizations nd themselves devoid of coping mechanisms intended to address crises (Stern, 2009). Consequently, organizations often fail in developing comprehensive CM programs (Wang et al., 2009, p. 26) since they fail in implementing systematic planning across increasingly fragmented and often dispersed units (McConnell and Drennan, 2006). Concurrent with the prevalence of crises, ascendance of women to higher managerial echelons (Avolio et al., 2009) is also becoming normative in business and non-prot organizations (Sampson and Moore, 2008). This has taken place despite the fact that the percentage of women decreases gradually but sharply towards the highest echelons (Haslam and Ryan, 2008, p. 531). Increasing awareness as to the centrality of gender in management (Broadbridge and Hearn, 2008) and women executives in particular coalesces in a timely manner with the ascendance of CM as an indispensable coping mechanism. However, the relationship between gender and crisis proneness or preparedness has attracted but a marginal scholarly attention. Moreover, intuitively CM requires seemingly quintessential masculine traits and thus we will examine this relationship by focusing on masculine traits as forerunners of crisis preparedness (CP) or proneness. Key to understanding managerial functioning in crises is which leadership style(s) would be conducive to CP. Leadership characteristics have long been associated with a variety of adverse corporate circumstances, yet little empirical evidence posits them as possible predictors of crisis proneness or CP. The purpose of this study is to test leadership, decision making, masculinity and risk-taking literatures regarding their ability to explain potential variance in the managerial perception of CP proneness. Building on these literatures, we aim at testing a model on a group composed of the sample of managers and on the two subgroups in this sample: male and female managers, respectively. Specically, and following Mano-Negrin and Sheaffer (2004), we propose that masculine traits is instrumental in explaining crisis proneness as but not necessarily CP. We also argue that key leadership traits, primarily those associated with transformational and transactional types, decision-making style and risk-taking propensities constitute conspicuous antecedents of perceived crisis proneness or preparedness. While predicting perceived rather than actual effectiveness of CM, we posit a number of instrumentally important organizational crisis predictors that point more accurately to potential crisis proneness. Most organizational crisis studies have accentuated exogenous forerunners of crisis (Yu et al., 2008) with fewer empirical studies (Carmeli and Halevi, 2007; Sheaffer and Mano-Negrin, 2003) addressing internally and managerially induced crises. We focus, therefore, on a lacuna the relationship between gender and CP and proneness in the extant organizational crisis literature, primarily by incorporating the hitherto marginally studied effect of masculine traits and archetypal leadership styles on CP proneness. Our motivation in highlighting key managerial characteristics as a backdrop against which to explicate ingrained, albeit perceived CP proneness derives from the need to delineate a comprehensive research model in which autogenic or endogenously engendered factors form the key predictors. Following this preliminary discussion, our research question ensues: to what extent do leadership and managerial attributes, masculinity and risk taking predict perceived crisis proneness in a population of 231 Israel top executives?

Literature review and hypotheses CP and proneness Crisis is addressed by many and varied disciplines (Pearson and Clair, 1998); hence, denitions draw on a particular point of departure. Typically, a crisis is perceived as being an uncommon event that demands swift and resolute response while constituting a considerable threat to survival. The extant crisis literature focuses on such characteristics as high vagueness with unknown causes and effects and with a low likelihood of occurrence (Sayegh et al., 2004). CM constitutes organizational procedures aimed at sustaining normal business operations, reducing stakeholders loss and managerial unlearning to improve future CM processes (Pearson and Mitroff, 1993). Irrespective of the growing awareness to the increasing probability of crises and their overwhelming impact on rms and stakeholders, organizations fall short of preparing adequate CM plans (Regester and Larkin, 2008). Fegley and Victor (2005) indicate that typically organizations prepare for highly probable events rather than addressing the issue comprehensively by visualizing worst case scenarios. Next, we elaborate on crisis proneness and preparedness. Sheaffer and Mano-Negrin (2003, p. 575) dene CP as:[. . .] a state of corporate readiness to foresee and effectively address internal or exogenous adversary circumstances with the potential to inict a multidimensional crisis, by consciously and proactively preparing for its inevitable occurrence.

Leadership attributes


Crisis proneness is dened as the lack of readiness on the part of the top echelon, in terms of awareness, and the dearth of contingency plans and coping mechanisms. According to Perrow (1984), organizations are complex and imperfect; hence, they are inherently prone to crisis. The more complex the business, the more crisis prone it is (Yu et al., 2008). Consequently, organizations should be so designed that effective CM will be effectuated whenever required. According to Sommer and Pearson (2007), CP involves contingency plans, procedures and mechanisms aimed at the detection of early warning signals and the ability to contain them prior to further escalation. Crisis-prepared organizations audit their operations continuously and proactively monitor potential aws. Crisis-prone organizations tend to let pass or discount early warning signals (Sheaffer et al., 1998). As Mitroff and Alpaslan (2003) argue, crisis-prepared organizations invest heavily in prevention and risk management, while crisis-prone ones invest in CP solely to the extent that it is short term and cost effective. Crisis proneness is often engendered endogenously, thus dubbed autogenic (Akgun et al., 2006) or a self-generated adverse occurrence negligently triggered by top leaders (Barnett and Pratt, 2000, p. 80). Crisis-prone leaders are typied by centralization, overcondence (Richardson, 1993) and risk taking (Watkins and Bazerman, 2003), generally implying a transactional style. Overcondence and paranoid tendencies in this vein disrupt aficted managers judgment (Bar-Joseph and Sheaffer, 1998). Schwartz (198


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