Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Perceptions of Transformational Leadership among Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans: A Level of Analysis Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Perceptions of Transformational Leadership among Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans: A Level of Analysis Perspective

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This study asserted a theoretical framework of transformational leadership and its effects on several process and outcome variables among Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans from a levels of analysis perspective. Nomological relationships among the constructs of interest also were tested. Results indicated that effects of transformational leadership were positive, but generally stronger among Asian Americans than among Caucasian Americans. Results from Within and Between Analysis indicated that variation in perceptions of transformational leadership and other measured variables in the two ethnic groups was mainly due to individual differences. Based on these results, we offer several theoretical and practical implications.

The Asian American population in the U.S. has grown substantially, and Asian Americans have been considered one of the most successful ethnic minority groups, even referred to as the model minority. Yet research on this ethnic group in management in general has been scarce (Cheng & Thatchenkery, 1997; Yammarino & Jung, 1998). In particular, previous leadership research on Asian Americans has been very limited. For example, after summarizing research on demographic diversity and leadership, Hooijberg and DiTomaso (1996) concluded that previous studies on this issue have predominantly focused on the differences between whites and blacks. Bass also (1990) pointed out that Asian Americans are underrepresented in managerial and leadership research as well as in practice despite the high level of educational and professional attainment in general. The dearth of research on Asian Americans and leadership is reflected by a mere three-paragraph mention in the most comprehensive review of the literature, the Handbook of Leadership (Bass, 1990). As such, little is really known about Asian Americans and leadership per se (Yammarino & Jung, 1998) despite the vastly different cultural values from their Caucasian American counterparts. As the workforce in the U.S. becomes increasingly diverse and Asian Americans becomes more salient in the workforce, accurate understanding of Asian Americans in management settings and their perceptions and behaviors toward leadership processes may provide several important implications for organizational behavior researchers and practioners (Xin & Tsui, 1996).

As such, the current study is a preliminary step in filling this gap in the literature by examining the different effects that transformational leadership may have on Asian Americans vis-a-vis Caucasian Americans. Specifically, we explored how Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans, working on a special project under a Caucasian American leader, perceived leadership and how such different perceptions correlated with measured outcome variables. In addition, the current study examined participants' perceptions of leadership and other measured variables from a levels of analysis perspective. The following section discusses the theoretical background and hypotheses tested in the current study.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

Asian Americans and Leadership Research

Asian Americans currently represent one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population (Kim & Kim, 1997). If this trend continues, there will be almost 10 million Asian Americans in the U.S. within the next decade (Exter, 1992), and they have already outnumbered African Americans in several states including California, Hawaii and Oregon (Wu, 1995). As the number of Asian Americans has substantially increased from 5.5 million in 1980 to 7.3 million in 1990 in the U.S., so has their participation in socioeconomic activities (Kim & Kim, 1997).

Despite the emerging presence of Asian Americans in the U.S. workforce, they have been largely ignored by management scholars in general and leadership scholars in particular. In a recent article search we conducted on Asian Americans and leadership using one of the most extensive databases in management and leadership research, PsycINFO, fewer than ten references were found. …

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