The influence of societal norms on leader categorization
Levine, Benjamin Ryan
Grand, James A
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Leadership prototypes, cognitive structures representing organized knowledge about the ideal leader, are central to the process of leader categorization. Culture is believed to influence the content and structure of leadership prototypes, however the majority of existing research centered on the influence of cultural values. The purpose of this research was to incorporate societal norms, specifically cultural tightness-looseness, the strength of norms and acceptance for deviance in a society, into the study of leadership prototypes. Drawing from literatures on Leader Categorization Theory, leadership prototypes, and cultural tightness-looseness, the current research investigated the influence of tightness-looseness on the structure and content of leadership prototypes across cultures. Study 1 examined the structure of leadership prototypes as a function of cultural tightness within a country using a large archival data set. It suggested that individuals in tighter cultures were less discriminating in the attributes they valued in leadership prototypes than individuals in looser cultures. Study 2 utilized a policy capture methodology to evaluate the influence of tightness-looseness on the importance of singular attributes in leadership prototypes. Results indicated that individuals who endorsed tighter norms were more willing to categorize individuals as leaders than individuals who endorsed looser norms. Implications of these findings for understanding leader categorization and its relationship to cultural tightness-looseness in particular are discussed.