On becoming a leader: Effects of gender and cultural differences on power distance reduction


  • Experiment 1 of this paper was carried out at the 1989 Summer School of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in Tilburg, The Netherlands. We thank the dean of the school, John Rijsman, and his staff for creating this opportunity for us to meet, learn from, and argue with others who we will keep on meeting, learning from, and arguing with on many future occasions. We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of staff members of the Department of Social Psychology of Education of the University of Silesia in carrying out Experiment 2.


The present research focused on power processes in a simulated organizational structure consisting of three hierarchical levels occupied by different numbers of mules and females. Subjects were presented with a chart showing the organizational hierarchy of which they were a member placed at the lowest level, and asked to nominate any person for the leader position vacated by the current incumbent. The results of Experiment I (n = 88 Dutch male and female university students) showed that male subjects strongly overnominated themselves, whereas a majority of the female subjects nominated either self or another female. Of the others that were nominated by both males and females, almost all were occupants of positions immediately below the leader position, indicating the normative influence of a bureaucratic rule of leader succession. Experiment 2 was a replicational study carried out in a different culture (n = lOl Polish male and female university students). Polish subjects adhered to the bureaucratic rule more strongly than their Dutch counterparts, and both females and males nominated mostly males. Results are discussed with reference to gender self-stereotypes and cultural differences.