Leadership and gender in groups: An experiment

Philip Johnson Grossman, Mana Komai, James E Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


We conduct a laboratory experiment to study gender differences in leadership. We strip the concept of leadership down to its most basic elements. Questions of style and evaluations of a leader based on style of leadership adopted are made irrelevant. Our leader is an average player who is distinguished merely by occupying the leadership position. Legitimacy is conferred on the leader by the special information possessed. Followers voluntarily choose whether or not to follow the better-informed leader. The effectiveness of the leader is reduced to two simple factors: is the leader willing or not to voluntarily place him/herself in a vulnerable position to achieve an outcome beneficial to both the leader and his/her followers? Do followers trust their leaders to make the right choice? We provide experimental evidence that female leaders and followers are more cooperative than the males in most circumstances. Female leaders show a hesitation to lead in mixed-gender environments with gender signalling in circumstances where followers refusal to follow can significantly hurt them. The behaviour of the followers is the same toward the leaders regardless of their gender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368 - 388
Number of pages21
JournalCanadian Journal of Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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