Open Journal of Leadership
2013. Vol.2, No.1, 1-10
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 1
Diversity Leadership: Influence of Ethnicity, Gender, and
Minority Status
Jean Lau Chin
Adelphi University, New York, USA
Received January 7th, 2013; revised February 8th, 2013; accepted February 16th, 2013
Leadership research is often silent about how race and ethnicity influence the exercise of leadership and
does not include the experiences of racial/ethnic minority leaders. Leaders from five racial/ethnic groups
within the US were surveyed on their endorsement of leadership dimensions as defined by the GLOBE
studies and the influence of their race, ethnicity and gender on the exercise of leadership in this explora-
tory study. While all leaders endorsed common leadership dimensions, cultural variation emerged on a
factor consistent with a humane orientation and collaborative leadership style. Leaders of color and
women leaders strongly embraced their ethnic and gender identities compared with White male leaders.
These social identities together with lived experiences associated with minority status were perceived as
influencing their exercise of leadership, presenting both challenges and strengths. Differences in the lead-
ership profile of this diverse leadership sample with the Anglo group in the GLOBE studies suggest the
importance of examining diversity in leadership. Conceptualizations of leadership need to be inclusive of
the social identities and lived experiences that leaders and followers both bring to the contexts of leader-
Keywords: Diversity Leadership; Social Identities and Leadership; Minority Status and Leadership
As societies and organizations become increasingly diverse
in the US and globally, it becomes important to understand how
the social identities of our leaders (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender,
and minority status) interact to influence the exercise of leader-
ship. Social identities generally influence our behaviors in so-
cial and interpersonal domains and are likely to influence leader
identity and behaviors. Yet, current leadership theories are bi-
ased in reflecting the structures and cultures of North American
organizations run by White, Anglo, heterosexual men (Den
Hartog & Dickson, 2004). As more women and racial/ethnic
minorities join the ranks of leadership, leadership studies need
to be more heterogeneous in studying variations across race,
ethnicity, gender or other dimensions of diversity to understand
the complexities of behaviors associated with effective leader-
ship (Chin & Sanchez-Hucles, 2007).
Variations in sociocultural contexts and the lived experiences
of both leaders and their members may well influence the na-
ture of the leader-member exchange. Lived experiences associ-
ated with acculturation, discrimination, racism, and bicultural-
ism may well shape the values leaders bring and the goals they
pursue. Among them, cultural affiliation groups often result in
designation of dominant-minority status across different social
identities. This raises issues of power and privilege, has posed
access barriers and contributed to inter-group miscommunica-
tion among leaders with diverse social identities. Fassinger,
Shullman, & Stevenson (2010) frame the importance of affirm-
ing identity as an important leadership strategy among LGBT
leaders given their historic marginalization because of sexual
orientation. Eagly & Carli’s (2007) extensive work on women
and leadership suggest that gender does influence the exercise
of leadership. The perceived incongruity between female gen-
der roles and leadership roles has led to less favorable and pre-
judicial appraisals of women leaders compared to men (Eagly
& Karau, 2002). Women leaders also perceive a need to adapt
their behavioral style so men do not feel intimidated (Ragins,
Townsend, & Mattis, 1998) and experience a narrower range of
acceptable behavior compared to male leaders (Eagly, Makhi-
jani, & Konsky, 1992). Intersectionality of gender and ethnicity
has also been demonstrated to create dynamics that impact
leadership such as constraining stereotypes, social role expecta-
tions, power and status differentials associated with these social
identities. Pittinsky (2010) highlights how dominant-subordi-
nate group relationships shape the intergroup exchange between
leaders and members.
Most leadership studies, if inclusive of diverse leaders, treat
them as special cases rather than as a potential source for theo-
rizing from an important social context given the pervasiveness
and impact of race in social experience (Ospina & Foldy, 2009).
In a review of studies drawn from educational leadership on the
effects of race and ethnicity on leadership, they conclude that
most studies viewed race as a constraint that must be managed
(e.g., bias against and perceived marginality of leaders). A sec-
ond set of studies viewed race as a personal resource in which
leaders turn negative experiences (e.g., oppression) into con-
structive change in the exercise of leadership (e.g., drawing on
their identity, trying to be more prototypic, or using code
switching techniques). These studies treat race/ethnicity not
only as an individual characteristic, but also as a social or po-
litical issue with personal and collective meaning. A third set of
studies view how collective dimensions of social identity can
also become a personal resource for many racial/ethnic leaders
which includes grappling with power dynamics and the com-
plexities of sociocultural contexts of which they are a part
(Ospina & Foldy, 2009). However, Eagly & Chin (2010) sug-
gest that current social and ecological contexts define gender
and ethnic roles and behaviors in ways that may constrain and
bias perceptions of leadership effecttiveness among women and
diverse leaders of color. These studies suggest a view of lead-
ership as a shared process embedded in social systems and or-
ganizational cultures (Yukl, 1989; Hackman & Wageman, 2007)
and the importance of social identities and lived experiences
associated with variables of race, ethnicity, gender, and minor-
ity status in our conceptualizations of leadership. Despite these
dimensions of diversity, women and racial/ethnic minority groups
in the US share a common experience of minority status in the
US in the ranks of leadership.
Cross-cultural studies of leadership have not addressed these
variables of diversity or minority status since they have gene
rally been limited to leaders operating under traditional Western
cultural norms interacting with a non-Western workforce within
multinational corporations (Kao, Sinha, & Wilpert, 1999); in
this sense, they have focused on dominant, Western, male lead-
ers who need to alter their Western leadership styles to be ef-
fective with non-Western workforces.
Cultural variation in leadership is shown in a comprehensive
series of cross-cultural studies known as the GLOBE studies
(House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004), which
examine the leadership styles and national cultures of 62 coun-
tries via a survey of 17,000 middle managers from 951 organi-
zations in the food processing, finance, and telecommunications
industries. The GLOBE studies identified nine “universal” cul-
tural orientation value dimensions (COV) that were empirically
validated (see Table 1). The COV dimensions were then linked
to six culturally endorsed leadership dimensions (CLT) associ-
ated with outstanding leadership (see Table 2).
The GLOBE studies draw on Implicit Leadership theory
which posits that implicit beliefs and assumptions distinguish
effective leaders from ineffective leaders (Lord & Maher, 1991).
Beliefs about leadership are viewed as related to cultural values
and beliefs, and the cultural background or social context of the
perceiver (Hofstede, 2001; Triandis, 1995). Cultural orientation
values shared by members of a culture will result in variations
in defining leadership prototypes (Gertsner & Day, 1994). Lead-
ership profiles for 10 regional clusters or societies identified by
the GLOBE CLT dimensions and COV dimensions were shown
to vary across cultures including a GLOBE Anglo profile and
US profile presumably reflecting prototypic leader dimensions
that are perceived to contribute to or impede outstanding lead-
ership within Anglo cultures.
However, the GLOBE studies did not study subgroup pro-
files within countries. In fact, the methodology minimized di-
versity and within country variability by excluding multina-
tional organizations, and sampling only leaders from the domi-
nant subculture “in order to predict national level behaviors”.
The GLOBE studies were silent on demographics of race, eth-
nicity, age and educational levels of the leaders; racial/ethnic
composition of the organizations that they lead; or demograph
Table 1.
Leadership style: cultural orientation value dimensions (COV).
COV Dimension
Group Collectivism (GC1): I encourage group pride, loyalty and group cohesiveness even if individual goals suffer.
GC2: I encourage individuals to take pride in their individual accomplishments even if this is contrary to the group’s wishes.
Institutional Collectivism (IC1): I try to maximize individual interests and accomplishments over that of the group in my pay and reward systems.
IC2: I engage in practices which encourage and reward collective action and group members taking pride in the accomplishments of the group.
Future Orientation (FO1): I emphasize planning ahead and planning for the future.
FO2: I emphasize having immediate rewards, and getting employees to focus on getting things done and solving immediate problems.
Performance Orientation (PO1): I encourage employees to strive for continuously improving their performance at all costs.
PO2: I cultivate a sense of loyalty and belongingness to the organization and encourage employees to work together in harmony with one another.
Humane Orientation (HO1): I try to be benevolent and compassionate, and feel responsible for promoting the well-being of my employees.
HO2: Individual responsibility and accomplishments are what counts; I expect individuals to take care of themselves.
Uncertainty Avoidance (UA1): Orderliness and consistency are important as well as reliance on social norms and rules for an organization to run well.
UA2: It is important to experiment to be innovative and to be more informal rather relying on contracts and formal rules to dictate behavior.
Assertiveness (A1): It is important to be assertive, confrontational and direct to get things done and communicate what I mean.
A2: It is important to emphasize cooperation and social relationships; this may mean being indirect to communicate what I mean.
Power distance (PD1): I expect subordinates to obey orders without question and respect the lines of authority.
PD2: I believe all members can contribute equally to an organization, and that a person’s influence should be based on what they contribute irrespective of
their position.
Gender egalitarianism (GE1): Men and women should participate differently according to socially prescribed norms.
GE2: Women should be given opportunities to redress past discrimination.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 2.
Cultural endorsed leadership dimensions.
CLT Dimension GLOBE Anglo Mean Diverse Group Mean (SD)
Charismatic/Valued based
Inspiring, motivating, and expecting high performance from others based on your core values 6.05 5.90 (1.26)*
Team oriented
Emphasizing team building and implementing a common purpose or goal among team members 5.74 5.83 (1.25)
Involving others in making and implementing decisions 5.73 6.07 (1.07)**
Being individualistic, independent, and unique in your leadership style 3.82 3.95 (1.67)
Ensuring the safety and security of yourself in your role as leader 3.08 3.45 (1.60)**
Humane Oriented
Being supportive and considerate of your employees including compassion and being generous 5.08 6.13 (1.03)**
Note: Higher score indicates greater agreement. using one-sample t-tests, *p < .05; **p < .001.
ics of the researchers collecting the data. Survey items which
showed semantic variation across countries were deleted.
Research Question
This exploratory study examines leadership style, social
identities, and lived experiences of diverse leaders in the US. It
draws on Implicit Leadership theory to identify how diverse
leaders perceive and experience their leadership. Specific re-
search questions include:
1) What leadership styles do diverse racial/ethnic leaders
2) How do diverse racial/ethnic leaders perceive their leader,
racial/ethnic, and gender identities and their influence of social
identities on their leadership?
3) Do lived experiences associated with race, ethnicity, gen-
der, and dominant-minority status influence their leadership?
4) Does the leadership profile of this diverse group parallel
GLOBE Anglo profile?
The study uses grounded theory research as a phenomenol-
ogical method to generate a theory of leadership that is inclu-
sive of dimensions of diversity rather than testing any existing
theory since we are uncertain of any that are or are not suited
for the population under investigation (Corbin & Strauss, 2007;
Lester, 1999). In examining leader experiences and perceptions,
common themes associating leadership with social identities
and lived experiences will be identified from the leaders’ per-
spectives and do not want to privilege certain types of scientific
knowledge or marginalize other viewpoints. Hence, the lived
experiences or social situations form our unit of analysis using
grounded theory research as a method to emphasize diverse
local worlds, multiple realities, and their complexities (Char-
maz, 2006) to study diverse racial/ethnic minority leaders in the
US rather than drawing on theories that favor white males who
are both dominant in leadership position and reflected in exist-
ing leadership theories.
An 85 item questionnaire on Survey Monkey was used to
collect the data. This included 19 demographic questions on:
age, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status,
number of generations in the US, highest educational degree,
job title, and leadership experience. Leader was operationally
defined as having (or having had) a title or formal position of
managerial responsibility within an organization.
Perception and experience of leadership were measured by: 1)
32 questions on how they perceived and endorsed GLOBE CLT
and COV leadership dimensions, and different leadership styles;
2) 19 questions on their perception of leader, ethnic, and gender
identities; and 3) 15 questions on lived experiences associated
with ethnicity, gender, and leadership using a 7-point Likert
scale. Leaders were asked to rate: 1) their endorsement of
leadership dimensions and leadership styles (see Tables 1 and
2); 2) strength of their social identities and their influence on
leadership; and 3) statements of lived experience about their
motivation, aspirations, perceptions, and challenges to leader-
ship, and if these experiences were related to their gender or
racial/ethnic statuses.
An invitation with a link to Survey Monkey was sent out by
the principal investigator to listserves of ethnic minority asso-
ciations, divisions of the American Psychological Association
(membership of 160,000, and a public Facebook page on Di-
versity and Leadership. The goal was to reach a diverse sample
of racial/ethnic leaders. The invitation called for leaders to
“participate in a Leadership Survey to identify self-perceptions
of leadership style, leadership experience, and identity”. Par-
ticipants were informed that the purpose of the study was “to
identify factors which influence the exercise of leadership, and
to examine if there are differences in the exercise of leadership
that vary by race/ethnicity and gender”.
A total of 367 respondents completed the surveys out of the
535 who signed in to Survey Monkey. There were 124 (33.9%)
males, and 240 (65.3%) females; 3 (0.8%) did not identify their
gender. Of the total sample, 84.3% identified as heterosexual,
7.8% as gay/lesbian, and 3.0% as bisexual.
Breakdown by the five racial/ethnic groups in the sample is
shown on Table 3. Asian Americans were overrepresented
compared to US census. This response rate may have been
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 3
Table 3.
Demographic data of the sample.
Ethnic Group Frequency Percent Mean Age (SD) Leader Experience (Yrs) Work Experience (Yrs)
Black/African Americans 40 10.8 50.23 (11.43) 12.5 19.8
White/Euro Americans 185 50.0 54.53 (11.52) 13.16 23.03
Asian Americans 78 21.1 43.2 (12.85)* 9.14* 13.8**
Latino Americans 37 10.0 51.66 (10.82) 12.99 19.5
Native Americans 18 4.9 55.94 (7.59) 16.7 15.5
Total 367 99.2 51.44 (12.30) 12.5 20.2
Note: F (df = 5, MS = 1482) = 11.18, *p < .01; **p < .001.
skewed by the fact that the principal investigator is an Asian
American psychologist known in the professional community.
Age of leaders in the sample ranged from 20 years to 88 years
with a mean age of 51.4 years. Asians were significantly youn-
ger than all other groups by eight years; and Native Ameri-
cans were older by four and a half years.
On immigration status, 62.8% of the Asian sample and
44.4% of Latino sample were first generation immigrants.
Asians made up 54.4% of those who were first generation im-
migrants while Whites made up 63.5% of those who have been
in the US for more than two generations; X2 (15, N = 364) =
134.5, p < .001.
Of the total sample, 65.7% was married; 18.5% was single
with significant between group differences, X2 (20, N = 367) =
46.0, p < .001. More Asians (33.8%) and Blacks (20.6%) were
single, and more Native Americans (10%) were divorced. Age
and marital status was significantly correlated (p < .001);
Leadership Experience
Those filling out the questionnaire with no leadership ex-
perience were eliminated from the analyses. Most of the lead-
ers (80.3%) were currently in a position of leadership; the re-
maining 18.9% had all been in leadership positions. Mean
number of years in a leadership position for the total sample
was 12.5 years (SD = 10.03). Asians had the fewest years of
leadership experience, (p < .01) and Native Americans had the
most (see Table 3).
Mean numbers of years of work experience was 20.2 years
(SD = 12.2) with significant between group differences. Asians
worked 10 years fewer than Whites who worked the most num-
ber of years (see Table 3); this is related to the age differences
in the sample. One quarter (26.5%) of the leaders also served in
a volunteer service leadership position (e.g., professional or
non-profit community board or association). Their service lead-
ership roles included being president, board chair, division
chair or executive committee member.
Leaders were primarily human services professionals from:
education (47.8%); health care practice (14.1%); management
(11.9%); and social sciences (11%). Their primary work set-
tings included: higher education (53.9%), psychology (34.1%),
government (11.7%), non-profit community agencies (12.0%),
and corporate/business sector (13.5%). More Native Americans
(25.8%) worked in government settings. More Asian Ameri-
cans worked in non-profit (22.9%) settings and fewer worked in
higher education (28.1%) compared to the other racial/ethnic
The educational level of all leaders was at the MA level or
higher; 76.8% had completed a doctorate. Fewer Asians (53.8%)
and Latinos (67.6%) had a doctoral degree compared with the
other groups where more than 80% had doctoral degrees, X2 (df
= 5, N = 367) = 37.08, p < .000.
Leadership Style: Culturally Endorsed Leadership
Dimensions (CLT)
Leaders from all five groups highly endorsed four of the six
CLT leadership dimensions (Charismatic/value based, Team
oriented, Participative, and Humane oriented) as reflective of
how they lead (M = 5.83 to 6.13), and eschewed two (Autono-
mous and Self-Protective), (X2 = 376, df = 14, N = 267, p
< .001) as not consistent with good leadership with no signifi-
cant between group differences. The total group CLT Leader
Profile differed significantly from the GLOBE Anglo profile;
total group means were higher on Humane Oriented, Self-Pro-
tective, and Participative CLT dimensions (t-test, p < .001) and
lower on Charismatic/Value based (t-test, p < .05) (see Table
Advocacy and Service Leadership
Those leaders also serving on some volunteer leadership po-
sition were significantly lower on two of the CLT dimensions.
They were less likely to endorse the Autonomous (M = 3.53,
SD = 1.55 vs. M = 4.10, SD = 1.68, t-test, p < .01), and the
Self-Protective dimensions (M = 3.16, SD = 1.58 vs. M = 3.56,
SD = 1.61, t-test p < .05).
Aspirational Leadership Style
48.1% of all leaders aspired to be collaborative in their lead-
ership style while 35.9% aspired to be transformational in their
leadership style. Few chose charismatic or self-reflection lead-
ership styles.
Leadership St yl e: C ul t ura l Ori e nt ati on Value
Dimensions (COV)
Means and standard deviations for COV dimensions are
shown on Table 4. As a group, leaders endorsed dimensions
with ratings of 5 and above that were associated with encour-
aging group pride and collective action; getting things done and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 4.
Cultural orientation value dimensions (COV).
COV Dimension GLOBE US
Mean (SD) Total Group
Mean (SD)
Group Collectivism1 5.77** 4.93 (1.46)
Group Collectivism2 5.77** 3.84 (1.58)
Institutional Collectivism1 4.17** 3.37 (1.58)
Institutional Collectivism2 4.17** 5.41 (1.29)
Future Orientation1 5.31** 4.41 (1.36)
Future Orientation2 5.31** 5.84 (1.10)
Performance Orientation1 6.14 5.87 (1.15)
Performance Orientation2 6.14** 4.12 (1.53)
Humane Orientation1 5.53** 3.84 (1.58)
Humane Orientation2 5.53** 6.03 (1.13)
Uncertainty Avoidance1 4.0** 5.16 (1.31)
Uncertainty Avoidance2 4.0** 4.82 (1.25)
Assertiveness1 4.32** 4.72 (1.53)
Assertiveness2 4.32* 3.62 (1.56)3
Power Distance1 2.85** 5.27 (1.41)
Power Distance2 2.85* 2.55 (1.49)1
Gender Egalitarianism1 5.06 4.90 (1.85)
Gender Egalitarianism2 5.06** 1.71 (1.25)
Note: Globe vs. total group 1-sample t-tests *p < .05, **p < .001. ethnic group
differences ANOVA 1p < .05, 2p < .005, 3p < .001.
solving immediate problems, encouraging employees to strive
for continuous improvement, emphasizing individual and social
responsibility, orderliness and reliance on social norms, and
expecting subordinates to obey orders and respect authority.
Factor analysis of the COV dimensions yielded five factors;
Factor 1 accounted for 23.9% and Factor 2 accounted for 13.5%
of the variance. ANOVA tests showed no significant differ-
ences between groups on Factor 1 although White means (M =
.128, SD = .71) were negative compared to all other groups
which were positive (ranging from .017 to .170). Factor 1 had
high loadings on most COV dimensions, but was low for ex-
pecting women and men to follow socially prescribed roles or
maximizing individual interests over that of the group. Factor 2
had high positive loadings on Humane Orientation of benevo-
lence and compassion, maximizing individual accomplishments
and pride, and believing all members can contribute equally to
an organization, and high negative loadings Collectivism di-
mensions when they meant going against individual or group
interests, and Performance Orientation: continuous improve-
ment at all costs; ANOVA tests showed significant between
group differences, F (df = 5, MS = 2.37) = 2.43, p < .05. Asians
ranked highest (M = .36, SD = 1.05) while Latinos ranked low-
est on this factor (M = .47, SD = .95).
Significant between group differences emerged on three of
the Cultural Orientation Value dimensions: Assertiveness, em-
phasizing cooperation and social relationships; Power Distance,
all members can contribute equally; and Gender Egalitarianism,
men and women should participate differently according to
socially prescribed norms. Asians differed from other groups on
all three dimensions (p < .001) with an emphasis on egalitari-
anism, and endorsed benevolence, communication and being
indirect, planning for the future, individual accomplishments,
and loyalty to the group. Native Americans endorsed Collectiv-
ism and Humane orientations more highly than all other groups,
expecting respect for authority, Assertiveness, being more di-
rect and confrontational, while eschewing orderliness and not
relying on social norms and rules for an organization to run
well. Latinos endorsed Collectivism-emphasizing group pride
and collective action over emphasizing individual interests
although they emphasized individual responsibility; they also
emphasized the present and getting things done. Blacks deem-
phasized reliance on rules and social norms and positions but
endorsed being innovative and informal more highly than the
other groups; they also emphasized cooperation and loyalty to
the group. Blacks and Latinos were more likely to endorse the
statement that men and women need to follow socially pre-
scribed norms. Whites were low on Collectivism, put less em-
phasis on action and planning, and on respect for authority and
social position. Comparison of differences between COV lead-
ership profiles of the Total group with the GLOBE US profile
using 1-sample T-test were all significant (p < .001) except for
two dimensions (see Table 4).
Social Identities: Intersectionality of Leader, Ethnic,
and Gender Identity
Most leaders strongly identified themselves as a leader (M =
5.35, SD = 1.36) with no significant differences between groups.
Diverse leaders of color, however, differed significantly from
White leaders in how strongly they identified with their ethnic
identity and whether they felt it influenced their exercise of
leadership (t-test, p < .001). They were more likely to view
their ethnicity as a strength, but not as a weakness. They were
more like to feel their ethnicity posed significant barriers in
accessing leadership roles. Asians were significantly more
likely to experience their ethnicity as a weakness while Latinos
were significantly more likely to feel ethnicity posed access
barriers compared to other groups. White male leaders consis-
tently rated all five questions related to ethnicity lower (M =
1.90 to 3.70) compared with diverse leaders of color (M = 2.79
to 6.07), see Table 5.
Women leaders identified more strongly with their gender
than men (t-test, p < .001). They were more likely to feel their
gender influenced their exercise of leadership, and was a
strength in their exercise of leadership. There were significant
interaction effects between gender and ethnicity. White and
Asian males felt gender did not influence their exercise leader-
ship while Latino males did. White female leaders were less
likely to feel that gender influenced their leadership while
Black males were less likely to feel gender was a weakness
compared with other groups (see Table 6).
Lived Experiences: Perceptions and Expectations of
Cultural and gender variation was evident in the lived ex-
periences despite many group commonalities. Leaders chose
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 5
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 5.
Ethnic identity and leadership.
Ethnic Identity Mean (SD) White Mean (SD) Diverse Ethnic Group Means1
How strongly do you identify with your primary ethnicity? 3.70 (1.74) 6.07 (1.22)***
White (3.71) Asian (5.66)
Hispanic (6.25) Black (6.38)
Native (6.53)
Feel your ethnicity is a strength in your exercise of
leadership? 3.03 (1.82) 5.35 (1.75)***
White (3.03) Asian (4.84)
Hispanic (5.36) Black (5.45)
Native (6.67)
Feel your ethnicity is a weakness in your exercise of
leadership? 1.98 (1.27) 2.79 (1.78) White (1.98) vs. Asian (2.96)**
Feel your ethnicity posed barriers in your access to your
position(s) of leadership? 1.90 (1.35) 4.16 (2.03)*** Asian (3.51) vs. Latino (5.11)**
Feel your ethnicity influences your exercise of leadership? 3.03 (1.77) 5.14 (1.64)***
White (3.02) Asian (4.55)
Black (5.24) Hispanic (5.62)
Native (6.00)
Note: Higher scores indicate greater agreement. 1ANOVA between group differences significant at p < .001 on all questions with whites differing from all groups of color.
Other significant between group differences are noted.
Table 6.
Gender identity and leadership.
Gender Identity Mean (SD) Male Mean (SD) Female Mean (SD) Total F1
How strongly do you identify with your gender? 5.10 (1.61) 5.76 (1.43) 5.54 (1.52)** 7.0
Felt gender influenced access to leadership 3.99 (1.88) 3.94 (2.06) 3.96 (1.99) 0.3
Felt gender influenced exercise of leadership 3.91 (1.76)2 5.07 (1.61)3 4.67 (1.75)*** 15.5
Feel gender is a strength 3.83 (1.73) 4.86 (1.72) 4.51 (1.79)*** 11.5
Feel gender is a weakness 2.55 (1.38) 3.09 (1.71)4 2.90 (1.62)* 3.6
Note. Higher means indicate a greater level of agreement. 1 ANOVA (2, df within), *p < .01; **p < .001; ***p < .000. 2 white and asian males low vs. latino males high***. 3
white females were low***. 4 black males were low**.
“the opportunity to make a difference” (89.6%) as the most
important reason for their motivation to be in a leadership role.
“Competitive goals” (25.7%) and “fell into the role” (27.8%)
were the next most important reasons. 37.5% of Native Ameri-
cans and 48.8% of Asians chose “fell into the role” as reasons,
higher than all other groups. While other reasons were chosen
less than 16% of the time among all groups,
Blacks and Latinos chose “power”, status”, “monetary re-
wards”, and “competitive” more often (20% - 28%); Native
Americans were remarkably low copared to other groups (1% -
4%), and high on choosing “opportunity to make a difference”
and “fell into the role” (38.5%) as their primary reasons.
Leaders rated a “personal trait (i.e., self-determination)” as
the most influential factor in their access to or exercise of lead-
ership (M = 5.69, SD = 1.35), and “being mentored” as second
most important (M = 4.70, SD 2.09). Female leaders and lead-
ers of color were significantly more likely to feel that having a
role model of the same gender or ethnicity respectively was
influential on their leadership (see Tables 7 and 8). This was
most important to Black leaders and least important to White
leaders, F = 3.855 (df = 5, MS = 18.06), p < .001.
While all leaders felt they were effective as leaders (M =
5.48, SD = .98), all group moderately worried about their leader
behaviors (M = 4.33, SD = 1.75). Although all ratings of per-
ceptions and role expectations were less than 3, diverse leaders
of color felt greater challenges to their leadership, negativity of
these challenges, and expectations to behave according to so-
cially prescribed perceptions of ethnicity compared to White
leaders, F = 18.37, (df = 5, MS = 59.78), p < .001. Diverse
leaders of color felt they had to prove themselves, and experi-
enced greater discrepancies between self-appraisals and others’
appraisals; these were all significant (see Table 7).
Asians felt “their ethnicity was a weakness” while all feeling
less challenged compared to other leaders of color. Asians and
Latinos were less likely to “feel they were effective as a leader”
and felt a greater discrepancy compared to Blacks and Whites,
F = 2.8 (df = 5, MS = 6.68), p < .01). Asians, Latinos, and
Blacks “worried about their leader behaviors” more, and “felt
they had to prove themselves as leaders” more compared with
Whites and Native Americans.
While there were no between ethnic group differences on
gender, women leaders were more likely to experience the in-
fluence of gender on their leadership experiences. They were
more likely to feel challenged as to their effectiveness, more
likely to feel they were expected to behave according gender
roles, and to feel these expectations and challenges to their
effectiveness as leaders were more negative (see Table 8).
Using an Implicit Leadership framework, common themes
emerged which support the importance of cultural values and
Table 7.
Influence of ethnicity on leadership experiences.
Lived Experiences Mean (SD) White Mean (SD) Diverse t (df)
Worry about leader behaviors? 4.03 (1.79) 4.33 (1.75) .44 (281)
Feel you have to prove yourself? 3.05 (1.67) 3.47 (1.82)* 2.13 (280)
Feel you are effective as a leader? 5.48 (.98) 5.36 (1.07) .81 (280)
Discrepancy between how others rate you and yourself? 2.98 (1.48) 3.66 (1.52)*** 5.98 (280)
Felt ethnicity contributed to performance appraisals of your
effectiveness? 2.16 (1.39) 4.42 (2.01)*** 6.16 (280)
Felt challenged on effectiveness because of ethnicity? 1.71 (1.37) 3.86 (2.07)*** 5.83 (271)
Felt challenged on leadership style because of gender or
ethnicity? 2.90 (2.00) 3.76 (2.00)* 2.16 (269)
How negative were these challenges on leadership style because
of your ethnicity? 1.62 (1.15) 3.98 (2.04)*** 6.27 (270)
Expected to behave in way related to perception of ethnicity? 1.89 (1.54) 3.93 (2.07)** 5.47 (269)
How negative were these expectations according to the
perception of your ethnicity? 1.78 (1.37) 3.87 (2.02)*** 5.58 (268)
How influential or beneficial was having a role model of your
own ethnicity? 3.24 (2.16) 3.69 (2.21)* 2.17 (267)
Note: Higher scores indicate greater level of agreement. white vs. diverse *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
Table 8.
Influence of gender on leadership experiences.
Lived Experience Mean (SD) Male Mean (SD) Female Mean (SD) Total Group t (df)
Felt gender contributed to performance
appraisal? 3.52 (1.84) 4.31 (1.92) 4.05 (1.93)** 3.32 (276)
Felt challenged on effectiveness because of
gender? 1.94 (1.37) 3.61 (2.03) 3.06 (2.02) 7.10 (268)
How negative were these challenges
because of your gender? 2.09 (1.52) 3.72 (2.04) 3.17 (2.03)** 6.73 (267)
Expected to behave in way related to
perceptions of gender roles? 2.62 (1.85) 3.84 (2.18) 3.44 (2.16)** 4.56 (267)
How negative were these expectations to
behave? 2.40 (1.62) 3.88 (2.08) 3.40 (2.07)** 5.91 (266)
How influential or beneficial was having a
role model of your own gender? 4.02 (1.95) 4.85 (2.05) 4.54 (2.06)** 3.15 (260)
Note: Higher scores indicate greater level of agreement. **p < .001.
beliefs, social contexts as well as minority status in shaping the
leadership experiences of leaders in this study. Leaders in this
study differed from leaders in the GLOBE studies in several
significant ways. GLOBE leaders were drawn to be homoge-
nous within their countries, and from food processing, finance,
and telecommunications industries. This study was intention-
ally heterogeneous in recruiting diverse racial/ethnic leaders. It
yielded a sample of 50% racial/ethnic minority leaders and 65%
female leaders drawn from human service industries within the
US. While the five groups differed in terms of race and ethnic-
ity, four of the groups shared experiences of minority status
within the US.
Endorsement of Leadership Styles
Leaders across all five racial/ethnic groups endorsed and es-
chewed leadership dimensions consistent with the “universal”
dimensions found in the GLOBE studies as contributing to or
impeding outstanding leadership. Their CLT leadership pro-
file differed significantly from the GLOBE Anglo profile sug-
gest that differing social contexts, lived experiences, and cul-
tural subgroup differences help to shape leadership style. Lead-
ers in this study were higher on Humane, Self-Protective and
Participative CLT leadership dimensions and lower on Charis-
matic dimension compared to the GLOBE Anglo profile. A
more humane orientation can partially attributable to minority
status in which experiences of being marginalized and con-
ferred outsider status enable leaders to be more empathic with
their subordinates. At the same time, racial/ethnic minority
leaders are more likely to experience negative challenges to
their leadership style and effectiveness as we find in the section
on lived experiences which would render them to be more
self-protective. Participative leadership is consistent with fe-
male gender roles and racial/ethnic cultural roles which value
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 7
collaboration and collective action. A humane orientation is
also consistent with service and helping aspects of human ser-
vice professions; leaders in this study who were active in advo-
cacy and service leadership activities were found to be less
autonomous and self-protective, presumably being unified in
collective activity. The endorsement of a collaborative style in
the aspirational ratings together with a low endorsement of a
Charismatic orientation among these leaders may reflect the
growing importance of cultural values associated with collabo-
ration endorsed by racial/ethnic minorities and women in the
US as well as growth in their numbers within ranks of leader-
ship in contemporary society where charismatic leadership is
viewed as characteristic of white privilege and male dominance.
These findings argue for a more complex understanding of
national profiles to define leadership styles to be inclusive of
diversity and subgroup differences.
Leadership Style: Cultural Variation on Collectivism
and Humane Orientations
Cultural Orientation Value dimensions highlight both a uni-
versal set of dimensions consistent with good leadership as well
as important differences across racial/ethnic groups. Factor 1 of
the COV dimensions reflects this complexity of group pride
and collective action, a reliance on social norms and respect for
authority, an emphasis on future and performance orientation
consistent with the motivation to lead, and task orientation
skills useful to the exercise of leadership. It also includes an
emphasis on individual and social responsibility, performance
orientation and accomplishment consistent with core values of
those with higher educational levels.
Variation between the diverse racial/ethnic groups emerged
on COV factor 2 which includes benevolence and compassion
consistent with a humane orientation, and an emphasis on car-
ing for individual needs. Diverse leaders of color endorsed
collective dimensions more strongly than White leaders. How-
ever, the negative loadings on two dimensions of collectivism
suggest that collectivism was not endorsed when it meant going
against individual or group interests for the sake of the other. It
is also likely that when these rewards result in exclusion, rein-
forcing the status quo of institutions that have been prejudicial
against minorities, it is inconsistent with a social justice orien-
tation that emphasizes fairness. For racial/ethnic minorities, in-
stitutional collectivism as framed by the questions may have
been viewed with skepticism as referencing mainstream institu-
tions which have not cared for or dealt fairly with its members,
and their historical experience as an out group.
Asians differed significantly from other groups with their
emphasis on egalitarianism, individualism and collectivism.
They endorsed an emphasis on social order, benevolence, loy-
alty to the group, and social and interpersonal communication
using indirect means—all consistent with Confucian Asian va-
lues. At the same time, they endorsed planning, individual ac-
complishment, and rewarding individual effort and eschewed
emphasis on some collectivist dimensions. Their endorsement
of Assertiveness defined as emphasizing cooperation and social
relationships using indirect means of communication suggests
that these dimensions may carry different semantic meanings.
Asians in this group may be experiencing greater transition in
their sociocultural roles, both as younger, less experienced
leaders and as first generation immigrants. Their profile may
reflect an emphasis on merit as a cultural value over an empha-
sis on hierarchy as they grapple with acculturation and achieve-
ment compared with other groups in the study. Fung, Ho, Tam,
Tsai, & Zhang (2011) found age related changes in endorsing
cultural orientations which interacted with ethnicity. Older
Chinese Americans endorsed a relationship orientation (i.e., re-
fraining from offending others even at the expense of personal
pleasure) more than younger Chinese Americans; but this trend
was not found among European Americans, or was weaker
among Chinese Americans who valued Hedonism (seeking in-
dividual pleasure).
Native Americans distinguished themselves on the COV di-
mensions with a more collectivistic and humane orientation,
emphasizing group pride and accomplishments as well as be-
nevolence and compassion. They were more likely to endorse
“being confrontational and direct in getting things done” while
minimizing being indirect in their social relationships, or “ex-
pecting subordinates to obey orders and respect lines of author-
ity and respecting hierarchy”. This may reflect their adapting to
mainstream leadership contexts by both conforming to the
“rules of the game” while also maintaining their group pride
and cultural values. Given their cultural history in the US and
their greater experience as leaders, their lesser concern with
rules and order or competition may reflect their “refusal to buy
into mainstream US” rules and culture
These leadership profiles are all relative although they do re-
flect cultural values, lived experiences as well as the particular
contexts in which they are situated. Latinos emphasized Collec-
tivism even over individual interests although they also empha-
sized individual responsibility and conforming to socially pre-
scribed gender roles; this seems consistent with the importance
of familismo as a cultural value. Blacks emphasized innovation
and informality, group loyalty, and took a middle of the role
position on most of the dimensions.
Social Identities: Intersection of Ethnicity, Gender
with Leader Identity
Social identities associated with gender and ethnicity and
their intersection clearly distinguished diverse leaders of color
from white leaders. While racial/ethnic and gender identities
could be used as a resource which leaders bring, they also pre-
sent challenges to authenticity. Can one be authentic and true to
oneself as urged by contemporary leadership theorists (Avolio,
Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, & May, 2004), or do diverse
leaders of color lose themselves as they negotiate across social
contexts because of different cultural orientation values, group
affiliation status, and dominant-minority status. While the abil-
ity to code switch or present “different selves” can be viewed as
adaptive, as fitting in, and may be advantageous in enabling
leaders to be more flexible or bring new perspectives, this be-
havior can also be viewed with mistrust as being inauthentic.
Diverse leaders of color felt their social identities influenced
their leadership behaviors. With Asian and Native American
leaders more likely to “fall into the role” consistent with cul-
tural values which emphasize modesty, cooperation and har-
mony with the environment, they often need to be pushed into
leadership positions, and may be perceived as less aggressive in
their leadership behaviors.
The importance of social identities among diverse leaders of
color makes for a different leadership experience. Their contri-
bution to intergroup leader-member dynamics will need further
investigation. What happens when we bring together leaders
and members with different social identities? How does the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
intersection of social identities between leaders and members
influence levels of trust, communication, teamwork, and prob-
lem solving? How do we build strategies for affirming these
identities so as to promote rather than impede effective leader-
Lived Experiences Interact with Perceptions and Role
While all groups share commonalities of perceiving them-
selves as effective leaders, racial/ethnic leaders and women
leaders share a common experience of minority status. These
lived experiences associated with minority status, gender and
ethnic roles do influence leader behaviors, perceptions, and role
expectations. Diverse leaders of color and women leaders were
more likely to feel challenges to their leadership, and to feel
expectations that they conform to stereotypic racial/ethnic or
gender roles, creating a different context for their leadership.
More energy is spent having to prove themselves, and negoti-
ating the negative impact on performance appraisals. Striking
throughout the responses was how leaders’ perceptions and
experiences reflected a tendency to use their experiences of
marginalization and minority status as a resource and strength
rather than as a weakness. Further research could identify fac-
tors contributing to resiliency to face these negative challenges,
identifying strategies for diverse leaders to adapt to leadership
contexts which demand different skills than those prescribed by
their own cultural orientation values. Some of the differences
between diverse leaders of color and White leaders in this study
may reflect coping mechanisms associated with minority status
which these leaders bring and use as personal resources for
their leadership, e.g., self-determination, high Performance Ori-
entation. COVs such as the Humane Orientation found in this
group may reflect the social justice orientation they bring to
their leadership. Does minority status confer outsider status that
cannot be bridged? Are diverse leaders of color bound by nega-
tive consequences of stereotypic role expectations? These are
questions for further research as well as the need to affirm so-
cial identities as important to the exercise of leadership.
We need to examine incongruities between socially pre-
scribed ethnic and gender roles and leadership roles. In the case
of women leaders, this incongruity has had both disadvantages
and advantages; women leaders are often praised for having
excellent skills for leadership because of their interpersonal and
communication styles while viewed as weak or indecisive when
they attempt to be collaborative (Eagly, 2007). While not yet
confirmed in leadership studies, Blacks often are viewed as
being angry when being assertive; Asians often are viewed as
passive when being modest or using indirect means of commu-
nication; Latinos often are viewed as overly emotional when
expressing enthusiasm. How do we help leaders to use these
incongruities as personal resources in their leadership? The em-
phasis on collaborative leadership over charismatic and trans-
formational leadership in this study is illuminating. While defi-
nitions may vary, does it reflect the different perspective
brought by diverse leaders of color who may view a charismatic
leader as boastful and shallow over that of a humane leader
who is viewed as self-sacrificing and benevolent?
This exploratory study identified cultural variation in leader-
ship styles, social identities and lived experiences among lead-
ers from five diverse racial/ethnic groups within the US. In
examining the experiences and perceptions of leaders from their
own perspectives, this study was intended to challenge norma-
tive assumptions and conventional wisdom that we take for
granted associated with traditional leadership paradigms. Using
Implicit Leadership theory as a framework to examine their
leadership experiences and perceptions, their social realities
was a start toward incorporating diversity into our understand-
ing of leadership. Differences between diverse leaders of color
and women leaders make for a different leadership experience
which warrants further investigation. This might include the
sharing and distribution of power when leaders hold minority
status of different cultural orientation values amidst different
member compositions and organizational contexts. Cultural
variation in semantic meaning in these “universal dimensions”
would be another fruitful direction. Is transformational leader-
ship uniformly defined and valued across cultural groups? How
is assertiveness viewed across cultural groups, as confronta-
tional and direct or as social and interpersonal engagement to
get one’s point across? How might the racial/ethnic and gender
composition of leaders and members influence the use competi-
tion or cooperation to achieve organizational outcomes?
Diversity leadership is an attention to the social identities and
larger sociocultural context of which leaders are a part as well
as the leader-member composition within different organiza-
tional contexts. Recognizing the intersectionality of gender and
ethnic identities with leader identity, and the significance of
lived experiences associated with minority status enables us to
ask questions about how social justice, humane, and collectivist
orientations informs the exercise of leadership, decision making
and managing of workgroup teams within an organization. This
use of an affirmative paradigm to reframe the leadership con-
text can be used to promote flexibility and innovation in lead-
ership behaviors and enable diverse leaders to draw on their
experiences of living in bicultural environments, needing to
code switch, and having to grapple with multiple social identi-
ties. Diversity leadership is to be inclusive of all groups and all
The author thanks Hui Mei Nan for her diligent coding and
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