Action Intent: Getting closer to leadership behavior in 22 countries

New book chapter on how "close-to-action" leadership scenarios can be used to study leadership across cultures

I have been working with Lena Zander and Audra Mockaitis since the early 2000s and we have published a number of articles together, discussed in this blogpost: Language effects in international mail surveys. Today I am happy to announce a new book chapter based on our large-scale cross-national data collection of leadership behaviours through the use of leadership scenarios.

Lena Zander, Audra I. Mockaitis, and Anne-Wil Harzing (2020) Action Intent: Getting closer to leadership behavior in 22 countries, in Zander, L. (Ed.) Research Handbook of Global Leadership: Making a difference, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 54-75. Available online... - Related blogpost

[with country co-investigators Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, Cordula Barzantny, Anabella Davila, Joyce De Leon, Alvaro Espejo, Rita Ferreira, Axele Giroud, Kathrin Koester, Yung-Kuei Liang, Michael J Morley, Barbara Myloni, Joseph O. T. Odusanya, Sharon Leiba O'Sullivan, Ananda Kumar Palaniappan, Paulo Prochno, Srabani Roy Choudhury, Ayse Saka-Helmhout, Sununta Siengthai, and Ayda Uzuncarsili Soydas] 


The field of cross-cultural leadership has seen a boom in empirical research over the last few decades, yet we know very little about actual leadership behavior. Extant research has provided knowledge and awareness about differences and similarities in leadership attitudes, ideals, perceptions and preferences across countries and cultures. Managers’ sources of guidance and handling of events have also been studied, but to predict leadership behavior remains difficult.

In this chapter, we propose leader’s ‘action intent’ as a ‘close-to-action’ concept in contrast to the more ‘far-from-action’ concepts used in earlier leadership research. Findings from 1,868 leaders in 22 countries are presented and discussed. The respondents have ranked their preferred action alternatives for each of six leadership scenarios. For a ‘close-to-action’ concept it is important to provide contextual and situational details, which is done in the scenarios and action alternatives used in our study.

We observed both intra-country and inter-country variation in leaders’ action choices when comparing across countries. The inter-country differences in action intent were significantly correlated with the culturally endorsed GLOBE leadership dimensions, supporting implicit leadership theory. Our findings demonstrate the usefulness of leadership scenarios in large-scale multi-country research and help shape a more fine-grained understanding of how leaders from different national cultures are likely to behave in common and salient leadership situations. And although there are no simple answers as to how to predict leadership behavior, we posit that using ‘action intent’ as a leadership measure will have positive implications for global leadership.

Related blogposts

Further resources

Journal of International Business Studies articles on methodological issues [From the AIB SIG Research Methods website:]