The impact of organizational performance on the emergence of Asian American leaders.

Despite remarkably high levels of education and income, Asian Americans remain underrepresented at the top of the organizational hierarchy. Existing work suggests that a mismatch between the prototypical characteristics of business leaders (e.g., dominance) and stereotypes associated with Asian Americans (e.g., submissiveness) lowers the likelihood that Asian Americans will emerge as leaders. We predict that this reluctance to appoint Asian Americans will be attenuated when organizations experience performance decline because decision makers believe Asian Americans are inclined to sacrifice their self-interest to improve the welfare of others. We found support for these predictions using a multimethod approach. In an archival study of 4,951 CEOs across five decades, we find that Asian Americans were appointed almost two-and-a-half times more often during decline than nondecline (Study 1). Then, in three studies, we show that this pattern occurs because evaluators (a) prefer self-sacrificing leaders more when organizations are experiencing decline than success (Study 2); (b) expect Asian Americans leaders to behave in self-sacrificing ways in general (Study 3); and, consequently, (c) perceive that Asian Americans are better equipped to be leaders during decline than success (Study 4). We consider these findings in tandem with a set of exploratory analyses. This includes our finding that organizations experience decline only 12% of the time, suggesting that evaluators deem Asian Americans to be suitable leaders in circumstances that occur infrequently and are short-lived. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)