Do I Dare? The Psychodynamics of Anticipated Image Risk, Leader Identity Endorsement, and Leader Emergence
Lee Cunningham, J., Sonday, L., & Ashford, S. J. (in press). Do I Dare? The Psychodynamics of Anticipated Image Risk, Leader Identity Endorsement, and Leader Emergence. Academy of Management Journal. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2018.1258
Although many organizations value leadership across levels, individuals are reluctant to step up and lead. We explore how anticipated image risk (i.e., individuals’ beliefs that the act of leading might harm their image with others) and lay beliefs about leadership ability (i.e., that this ability is fixed versus malleable) may diminish individuals’ endorsement of a leader identity and thus their leadership emergence. Across MBA consulting teams, supervisor-employee dyads, and virtual workers, we find that lay theories of leadership ability moderate the negative relationship between anticipated image risk in leadership and leader-identity endorsement, which in turn affects subsequent leadership emergence (Study 1). Using qualitative survey data, Study 2 identifies three specific image concerns that individuals associated with leading: seeming bossy, seeming unqualified, and seeming different from one’s peers. Study 3 tests whether a newly developed measure of three specific image risks similarly predicts leader-identity endorsement and emergence. Last, in Study 4 we experimentally manipulate the anticipation of image risk to show its causal impact on leader-identity endorsement and emergence.