Journal article

When autocratic leaders become an option—Uncertainty and self-esteem predict implicit leadership preferences.

Schoel C, Bluemke M, Mueller P, Stahlberg D ...see all

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 101, issue 3 (2011) pp. 521-540

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We investigated the impact of uncertainty on leadership preferences and propose that the conjunction of self-esteem level and stability is an important moderator in this regard. Self-threatening uncertainty is aversive and activates the motivation to regain control. People with high and stable self-esteem should be confident of achieving this goal by self-determined amelioration of the situation and should therefore show a stronger preference for democratic leadership under conditions of uncertainty. By contrast, people with low and unstable self-esteem should place their trust and hope in the abilities of powerful others, resulting in a preference for autocratic leadership. Studies 1a and 1b validate explicit and implicit leadership measures and demonstrate a general prodemocratic default attitude under conditions of certainty. Studies 2 and 3 reveal a democratic reaction for individuals with stable high self-esteem and a submissive reaction for individuals with unstable low self-esteem under conditions of uncertainty. In Study 4, this pattern is cancelled out when individuals evaluate leadership styles from a leader instead of a follower perspective. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

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  • Christiane Schoel

  • Matthias Bluemke

  • Patrick Mueller

  • Dagmar Stahlberg

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