Inproceedings: An article in a conference proceedings.
Selecting leaders: The effects of charisma under conditions of attributional ambiguity
Title of the conference
Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society, Basel, Switzerland
One stream of leadership theory suggests leaders are evaluated via inferential observer processes that compare the fit of the target to a prototype of an ideal (i.e., charismatic) leader. Attributional theories of leadership suggest that evaluations depend on knowledge of past organizational performance, which is attributed to the leader’s skills. We develop a novel theory showing how inferential and attributional processes simultaneously explain how leaders are evaluated and ultimately selected. We argue that observers will mostly rely on attributional mechanisms when performance signals clearly indicate good or bad performance outcomes. However, under conditions of attributional uncertainty, that is, when performance signals are ambiguous, observers will be unsure as to whether the leader is good or not. in these situations, we argue that observers will mostly rely on inferential processes. We test our theory in an unusual context—the u.s. presidential election—and find that the two processes, due to the leader’s charisma and country economic performance, interact in predicting whether a leader is selected. Our ex ante prediction for the 2012 election was correct as were 22 out of 24 out-of-sample predictions for the 1916-2008 elections. We discuss the implications of our findings for research and practice in organizational settings.
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