Leadership and Diversity: What is the Best Way to Lead a Diverse Team?
01 / 2011 - 01 / 2015
Organizations increasingly turn to team-based ways of organizing the work. An important reason to do this is the expectation that by bringing team members with different backgrounds together, the team can benefit from this diversity and reach levels of performance that are superior to those of individuals and less diverse teams. Team diversity (i.e., in functional background as well as in demographic background) is seen as key in this respect it is the diversity of information, expertise, and perspectives that should result in synergetic team processes that lead to superior performance on complex, knowledge-intensive tasks. While the argument for the benefits in diversity might be intuitively appealing, 50 years of diversity research shows that the benefits in diversity are not easily achieved and that diversity as likely as not may be associated with conflict, lowered morale, and suboptimal group performance. How to managing diversity thus is a key question in team research. Team leadership should assume center-stage in the answer to this question, as team leaders should be especially well-positioned to wield the double-edged sword of diversity. Surprisingly, however, we know very little about leadership of diverse teams. The present study aims to fill this gap. In an integration of a comprehesive model of team diversity and performance with social identity analysis of leadership and fairness, the project develops and tests hypotheses about the role of leadership in both stimulating positive engagement with diversity and preventing disruptive consequences of diversity. These team leadership processes are studied in a series of controlled laboratory experiments complemented by surveys of teams in organizations.