Theses Doctoral

Global Leader or Cultural Outsider? The Divergent Effects of International Experiences on Leadership Effectiveness vs. Leadership Selection

Lu, Jackson

As globalization rises, international experiences are increasingly valued by individuals and organizations. It is commonly assumed that international experiences are conducive to leadership, yet little empirical research has tested this assumption. This omission is critical for several important reasons. First, international experiences are costly. Second, many repatriates actually report that international experiences had a negative impact on their leadership careers.
To understand the effects of international experiences on leadership, my dissertation theoretically distinguishes between leadership effectiveness and leadership selection. I theorize that international experiences can increase an individual's leadership effectiveness; I refer to this phenomenon as the global leader effect. At the same time, however, I theorize that international experiences can decrease an individual's likelihood of being selected as a leader by his/her national in-group members; I refer to this phenomenon as the cultural outsider effect. In other words, the same international experiences that make an individual a global leader may also render him/her a cultural outsider in the eyes of national in-group members.
Using different populations (e.g., MBA students, current employees, soccer managers) and mixed methods (e.g., field survey, archival panel, lab experiment), my dissertation explores the divergent effects of international experiences on leadership effectiveness vs. leadership selection-that is, the global leader effect vs. the cultural outsider effect.
To examine the global leader effect, I conducted four studies. Using MBA and field surveys, Studies 1 and 2 found that individuals with broader international experiences were rated as more competent communicators and more effective leaders. Study 3 established that communication competence is considered more important for leading multinational teams than for leading mono-national teams. Analyzing a 25-year archival panel of soccer managers, Study 4 not only replicated the global leader effect using an objective measure of leadership effectiveness (team performance), but also mitigated endogeneity concerns via instrumental variable analysis. Moreover, Study 4 demonstrated that the global leader effect was moderated by team national diversity: Soccer managers with broader international experiences were particularly effective when leading more (vs. less) multinational teams.
To examine the cultural outsider effect, I conducted a leader selection survey on a cohort of entering MBA students (Study 5) and a lab experiment (Study 6). Results revealed that the longer a person had lived abroad, the less likely he/she was selected as a leader by national in-group members because they perceived him/her as less similar to themselves. These studies suggest that the repatriation challenge is not simply a personal matter of the repatriates, but rather an interpersonal process that may require organization-based solutions.
By simultaneously identifying an upside of international experiences for leadership effectiveness but a downside for leadership selection, the present research offers important theoretical contributions and practical implications for leadership, culture, diversity, teams, human resources, and international management in an increasingly globalized world.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Galinsky, Adam D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 13, 2018