Cultural Intelligence and International Leadership Potential: The Importance of Contact for Members of the Majority


You Jin Kim, N402 North Business Complex, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1121, USA. Email:


Integrating distinctiveness theory and contact theory, we develop a conceptual model proposing that prior intercultural contact has mediated effects on international leadership potential via cultural intelligence—but that these effects are stronger for majorities. Results of two samples of working adults, using both self-report (n= 441, Study 1) and matched employee-observer (n= 181, Study 2) data provide strong support for the model. Cultural intelligence mediates the effects of prior intercultural contact on international leadership potential. Further, moderated mediation analyses demonstrate that cultural intelligence mediates the relationship between prior intercultural contact and international leadership potential for majorities, but not for minorities. The current study offers contributions to theory and practice in at least two ways. First, the proposed model is theoretically important because it provides a more complete picture of predictors of international leadership potential and it reconciles prior inconsistent findings by showing the mediating role of cultural intelligence and moderating role of minority status. Second, the study adds to the increasing evidence suggesting that prior intercultural contact and cultural intelligence are meaningful criteria for developing international leaders. More important, results show that prior intercultural contact is especially important for majorities.