Perceptions of authority and leadership: a cross-national, cross-generational investigation

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Common wisdom suggests that social, technological, political and economic events have led to unusually distinct cultural identities among the generations, and that these identities are going to cause substantial upheaval within companies as large cohorts of older employees retire and a new cadre of younger workers replaces them. As the younger generation has been entering the workplace, there is an emerging belief in organizations around the world that these workers are different from the older generations especially with regard to perceptions of authority relationships and beliefs about what makes a leader effective. In the context of this chapter, we define perceptions of authority relationships as the extent to which a respondent believes it is important to defer to authority figures.We also define beliefs about leadership as beliefs respondents hold regarding what leadership styles most contribute to effective leadership. While it has been established that there are differences among societal cultures with regard to perceptions of authority and beliefs about leadership (for example, House et al., 2004), how those differences are affected by generation has not yet been explored. Does generation affect perceptions of authority or of what makes an effective leader? Are those perceptions the same in different countries? This chapter addresses these questions by focusing on perceptions of authority and related beliefs about leadership as expressed by those generations currently in the workforce in four different countries (India, South Africa, the UK and the US).


This chapter was originally published in Managing the New Workforce: International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Managing the New Workforce: International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation


© Eddy S. Ng, Sean T. Lyons and Linda Schweitzer 2012. All rights reserved.