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How do Leaders Behave When Their Position Is Under Threat? Gender-Dependent Responses To Leader Positional Insecurity and Implications For Team Information Exchange and Performance
Leaders are increasingly in situations where their position is insecure due to competition, downsizing, or restructuring, among other changes. In this paper, we examine how the experience of positional insecurity impacts how leaders engage with their team and how those behaviors affect team functioning. We propose that positional insecurity motivates leaders to demonstrate their value to improving performance, but how they do so is influenced by their gender. We test our predictions in the lab (93 teams) and the field (47 teams), focusing on how leaders facilitate information exchange within the team. In both studies, we find that male and female leaders facilitate the process of team information exchange differently when they are positionally insecure, and that teams respond differently to the information exchange facilitation efforts of male and female leaders. In this way, our results suggest distinct gender-dependent pathways through which leader positional insecurity can enhance team functioning.