Ideal Types of Leadership
as Patterns of Affective
Meaning: A Cross-cultural
and Over-time Perspective
Andreas Schneider1 and Tobias Schro¨ der2
We propose that macro-level ideal types of leadership, as described in the classic work of Max
Weber and reflected in the contemporary management literature, are mirrored in micro-level
affective meanings. Within Osgood’s three-dimensional affective space, we identify specific
patterns corresponding to leadership styles: people evaluate authoritative/transactional leadership as positive, powerful, and neither passive nor active. Charismatic/transformational
leadership is perceived as equally positive and powerful but involves a much higher degree
of activity-arousal. Finally, coercive leadership is negative, powerful, and active. Based on
Heise’s cybernetic symbolic-interactionist affect control theory, we compare cultural representations of business managers in the United States and Germany at different points in time.
We demonstrate a shift from transactional to charismatic leadership in the U.S. manager stereotype and a contrasting consolidation of coercive leadership expectations in Germany. We
discuss implications for (1) cross-cultural communication and (2) affective meaning as indicator of social change.
leadership, ideal types, computer simulation, affect control theory, cross-cultural
In our over-time and cross-cultural investigation of the business manager role, we
investigate changes in affective meanings
and how they result in different behavioral interpretations and expectations
toward corporate leaders. We compare
the manager role at two different points
in time in the United States and
Germany, providing static measurements
of affective meaning as well as dynamic
computer simulations of corresponding
leadership behaviors. Our approach is
rooted in affect control theory (Heise
1987, 2007), a cybernetic and quantitative version of symbolic interactionism,
which—as a major theoretical innovation
of this article—we tie together with established typologies of leadership (Bass
1985; Burns 1978; Weber [1921] 1972).
We argue that leadership prototypes of
authority, charisma, and coercion can be
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, USA
University of Waterloo, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Andreas Schneider, Department of Sociology,
Anthropology and Social Work, Texas Tech
University, 2500 Broadway, Holden Hall 159, Box
41012, Lubbock, TX 79409-41012, USA
Email: [email protected]
Social Psychology Quarterly
75(3) 268–287
American Sociological Association 2012
DOI: 10.1177/0190272512446755
Downloaded from by Pro Quest on October 24, 2012
mapped onto specific locations in affective
space, constituted by basic dimensions of
evaluation (good vs. bad), potency (strong
vs. weak), and activity (aroused vs.
relaxed) (Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum
1957). Our intention is to show (1) how
social representations of the manager
role have fluctuated in affective space
over time and across cultures and (2)
how these fluctuations may have resulted
in changing cultural expectations about
managerial leadership. This investigation
is important for identifying differences in
cultural expectations that are a central
source of cross-cultural conflict in multinational work environments where leaders
and followers stem from different cultures.
This article is organized as follows.
First, we provide an introduction to affect
control theory with its notion of a basic
three-dimensional affective space to lay
the conceptual ground for our study.
Second, we defend our view that three different ideal types of leadership can be
understood as specific patterns of meaning
in the affective space. Third, we turn to
the empirical part of the article where
we discuss existing data on the affective
meaning of business managers at different
points in time in the United States and
Germany and apply them to computer
simulations of expected leadership behaviors and possible cross-cultural conflict.
Fourth and finally, we discuss some limitations as well as the practical relevance
of our findings for today’s multinational
According to the three central propositions of symbolic interactionism, our
action is based on meanings we assign
to things, meanings are social since they
are achieved through interaction, and
meanings are modified through an interpretative process (Blumer 1969:2). Affect
control theory (ACT) (Heise 2007) is
a cybernetic version of symbolic interactionism that utilizes databases of
semantic differential ratings of affective
meanings of emotions, behaviors, and
identities to investigate social events.
Cybernetics is the study of recursive systems, including their communication processes, that allow for feedback and control
mechanisms (McClelland and Fararo
2006; Powers 1973). Control systems
have three components: information
about the current state of a system, the
reference level, and the mechanism that
takes the discrepancy into account to
adjust the current state.
An event puts the affective meanings of
fundamental sentiments, our reference
level for identities, behaviors, and emotions, into situational context. This context changes the affective meanings of
the components of the event into transient
impressions, the current state. The degree
to which transient impressions depart
from fundamental sentiments, the deflection, informs us about the affective discrepancy created in an event.
Deflection can be interpreted as a measure of the goodness of fit of all the connotations involved in the verbal description
of a social event. Via minimizing deflection, people adjust the current state and
hereby strive for affective coherence of
their experiences. If an event is perceived
as coherent, it follows Heider’s (1946) psychological principles of balance and hereby
generates Gestalt, a meaningful entity.
Occupied with sense-making, we are motivated to perceive meaningful entities.
Since meaningful entities appear plausible
and can be easily recognized and recalled,
they are perceived as likely. In contrast,
events that disconfirm identities, behaviors, and emotions of the participants
have high deflections and are seen as
unlikely. Minimizing deflections is the
cybernetic control mechanism that takes
this discrepancy into account and creates
events that adjust the current state. This
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mechanism follows the U.S. pragmatism of
Pierce’s (1878), James’s (1910), Cooley’s
(1926), and Mead’s (1922) deep roots of
symbolic interactionism (Charon 2007).
The individual is seen as an active, knowledge-seeking, and goal-oriented being. The
individual creates ‘‘truths’’ of limited scope
and duration and hereby adapts to ‘‘the
Truth,’’ which is inaccessible. This idea is
rooted in the neo-Kantian philosophy of
Verstehen: we seek temporary truths and
hereby create events that have high
All three components of a cybernetic
control system can work together only if
they share a common medium for comparing and adjusting the current state to the
reference level. Affect control theory uses
semantic differential ratings of affective
meanings (Osgood 1962; Osgood et al.
1957; Osgood, May, and Miron 1975) as a
common medium. Fundamental sentiments, information about the current state,
are represented in quantitative measures
of affective meanings. In the simulation of
interaction, ACT uses empirically generated impression-formation equations that
process quantitative measures of affective
meanings. Mathematically minimizing the
deflection for identities, behaviors, or
emotions is the mechanism that adjusts
the current state in the cybernetic control model. By picking sentiments closest
to the affective meaning that is computed, quantitative results of these simulations can be (back-) translated into
linguistic representations. The minimum
unit of analysis in ACT is the event.
Events are established if an actor shows
behavior toward an object or person. We
can further detail the event by providing
information about the actor’s and objects’
emotions or traits and the setting in
which the event occurs. All these components of the event evoke sentiments that
are represented cognitively as symbolic
descriptions and affectively as the gut
reaction. Affect and cognition are hereby
flipsides of the same coin. Cognitions are
specific, but when they are transformed
into the world of affect they ‘‘lose their
qualitative uniqueness, become comparable to one another, and begin obeying
quantitative principles’’ (Heise 1987:6).
Osgood (1962; Osgood et al. 1975) identified three central dimensions of affective
response, evaluation (E), potency (P),
and activity (A), to be culturally universal in the processing of meaning.
Differences in the ratings on these
dimensions are, therefore, crossculturally comparable. Semantic differential scales reaching from –4.33 to
4.33 measure these three dimensions of
affective meaning and empirically establish a culture-specific EPA profile for any
Evaluation: good, nice—bad, awful
Potency: big, powerful—little, powerless
Activity: fast, young, noisy—slow, old,
These EPA dimensions have their sociological equivalent in status, power, and
expressivity (Heise 1987), and they correspond to ubiquitous basic dimensions
along which social perception and behavior are organized (Scholl forthcoming).
The exercise of power is central for the
functioning of most social institutions.
For Weber ([1921] 1972) there are three
pure types of exercising power in a legitimate way (drei reine Typen legitimer
Herrschaft): rational, traditional, and
charismatic. Herrschaft received an early
translation as ‘‘authority’’ by Gerth and
Mills (1946) that was subsequently
widely used in sociological vocabulary,
but later suggestions were ‘‘leadership’’
(Parsons and Smelser 1956) or ‘‘domination’’ (Bendix 1978). Leaving the discussion about the correct translation of
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Weber to others (cf. Hamilton 1991), we
pragmatically accept the idea of ideal
types of leadership.
While authority and charisma are
forms of leadership displayed in today’s
organizations, traditional leadership,
legitimized through birth, can be largely
ignored in a modern context. It is mainly
the authority and charisma attributed to
the leader by the follower that creates
the legitimation of leadership in modern
organizations. In some cases, however,
the exercise of power by a formal leader
is not legitimate in the eyes of the follower.
To account for the full range of authorityrelated phenomena in contemporary
organizations, we need to add a third
form of exercising power: coercion. Albeit
not considered legitimate, restrictive and
coercive ways of ‘‘overcoming others’ resistance’’ (Weber [1921] 1972) certainly are
an empirical reality in organizational leadership (Raven 2008; Scholl 1999; Yukl and
Falbe 1990). This extension of Weber is
central to meet the empirical reality that
we have to consider in our cross-cultural
and over-time investigation of leadership.
We propose that authority, charisma,
and coercion can be operationalized as patterns of evaluation-potency-activity (EPA)
profiles. Each of these ideal types of leadership corresponds to a unique configuration of affective experience. In an explorative K-means cluster analysis of EPA
profiles of identities, a cluster of authority
clearly emerged in U.S. and German
data (Schneider 1999; Schneider and
Roberts 2005). The authority cluster
revealed a pattern of EPA profiles
(Schneider 2004), or EPA configurations
(Heise 2007), that followed Weber’s
([1921] 1972) description of authority.
Being subject to someone’s power makes
us feel coerced and generally leads to
resentment toward the coercer. If, however, the other’s exercise of power is perceived as legitimate, then he or she is an
authority and may be evaluated positively
(Schneider 1999). Described as an ideal
type (Weber [1921] 1972), an authority is
someone who is powerful yet positively
evaluated. Legitimation of authority
implies cultural rules that make the
authority’s power understood and lower
the need for expressive actions. The ideal
typical authority therefore follows the pattern of high potency, high evaluation, and
neutral activity. This operationalization of
authority is central for our interpretation
of leadership identities. Simplifying empirical EPA measures for qualitative descriptions as negative (–), neutral (0), and positive (1), we can describe authority with
the following EPA pattern: E1 P1 A0.
If authorities lose legitimation, they
might try and compensate for this loss
through the display of expressive actions,
aimed at persuading others to welcome
or admire their power. Examples for cases
in which expressivity successfully makes
up for a lack of legitimacy can be observed
in different domains of society: think of
champions in the world of sports, idols in
pop culture, and charismatic leaders in
politics or business. Similar to authorities,
the exercise of power by charismatic
leaders is legitimate in the eye of the
follower—albeit for other reasons. As in
the case of an authority, the power of the
charismatic leader’s power is not seen as
a threat and he or she can be evaluated
positively. Unlike authority, however,
lacking the institutional support in rational bureaucratic organizations, charismatic leadership has to be shown actively
and is subject to renewal. This need of
communication is the main distinction to
authority and results in the perception of
a higher activation in charismatic leaders.
Lacking institutional support, the manager has to resort to a more active leadership. Hence, the ideal type of a charismatic
leader is operationalized with the EPA
profile of E1 P1 A1.
If followers cannot see the power of
leaders to be legitimate by cultural rules
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or if followers are not cajoled by the leaders’ advertisement of superior values and
motivations, they might still submit to
the power, against their will. If the authoritative or charismatic exercise of power is
not accepted by the followers, the leaders
will lose their legitimacy and will be experienced as coercive. This illegitimate form
of leadership is widely stigmatized in contemporary cultures. As we have recently
seen in the uprisings in Egypt, Syria,
and Libya, today this stigmatization is
not just confined to Western cultures. If
power is exercised upon us without legitimation, we will condemn the coercer.
Like the legitimate charismatic leader,
the coercer has to engage in expressive
action to signal his or her power.
Leadership by forceful exercise of power
is hereby defined in our third ideal typical
EPA configuration as a pattern of coercion: E– P1 A1.
As an illustration of our operationalization of ideal types of leadership as patterns of affective meaning, consider the
leadership behaviors listed in Table 1.
They were taken from repositories of culturally shared sentiments about concepts
relevant to social interaction, compiled
through extensive empirical rating studies
under the affect control theory (ACT)
research program (for review, see Heise
2010). Verbs like guide, instruct, or
explain, rated by cultural informants as
positive (E1), potent (P1), and neither
active nor passive (A0), correspond to the
idea of authoritative leadership.
Charismatic behaviors like challenge,
encourage, and inspire, listed in the middle column, were seen as equally positive
and potent, but also highly dynamic
(A1). Finally, coercive behaviors like
hurry, command, and urge follow the E–
P1 A1 pattern, according to the affective
dictionaries compiled by Francis and
Heise (2006) and Schro¨der (2008).
Largely due to Burns’s (1978) interpretation of Weber, the bureaucratic style of
authority is called transactional leadership in the contemporary management
literature. Transactional leaders use
their legal hierarchical power to provide
rewards to followers in exchange for their
performance. In contrast, ‘‘the transforming leader recognizes an existing need or
demand of a potential follower. But,
beyond that, the transforming leader looks
for potential motives in the follower, seeks
to satisfy higher needs, and engages the
full person of the follower’’ (Burns
1978:4). While tapping in Maslow’s
(1943) hierarchy of needs, Burns explicitly
roots his transforming leadership in
Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership
that ‘‘converts followers into leaders and
leaders into moral agents’’ (4). What
Burns originally called transforming leadership was named transformational leadership by Bass (1985).1 Transformational
leaders use their individual personality
and focus on the ends that create motivating vision in their followers.
Table 1. Evaluation-Potency-Activity
Configurations of Different Example
Leadership Actions, Based on Empirical
Sentiment Repositories by Francis and Heise
(2006) and Schro¨ der (2008)
Ideal type of leadership
(E1 P1 A0)
(E1 P1 A1)
(E– P1 A1)
Guide Lead Scold
Listen Applaud Tell off
Instruct Challenge Hurry
Explain Encourage Command
Consult Praise Urge
Discuss Inspire Argue
Bass explicitly dedicated his work to James
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While Bass (1985:42–3) sees ‘‘charisma
as a component—probably the most general and important component—of the
larger concept of transformational leadership,’’ he tried not to equate transformational leadership with Weber’s charismatic
leadership. Later he differentiates the concept of transformational leadership into
four empirical factors: ‘‘Idealized Influence (Charismatic Behavior),’’ ‘‘Inspirational Motivation,’’ ‘‘Intellectual Stimulation,’’ and ‘‘Individualized Consideration’’
(Bass and Riggio 2005:22).
While Burns (1978) already indicated
that leaders show both transactional and
transformational leadership, Bass argues
that transformational leadership is a further expansion of transactional leadership
where leaders that show more transformational style are more successful. In his continuum of the components defining transactional and transformational leadership
styles, he demonstrates that all components of the transformational style imply
a more active leadership than any component of the transactional style (Bass and
Riggio 2005:9, Figure 11). This observation is clearly in line with the importance
of the activity dimension that we indicated
for the differentiation of bureaucratic versus charismatic leadership.
Like Burns and, to a lesser degree,
Bass, we incorporate Weber’s concepts of
power (Macht, Burns 1978:12) in our discussion of leadership. In our model, however, the power dimension is directly
implemented in the empirical operationalization as the potency dimension. All three
ideal types of leadership rest on the attribution of potency.
Based on Weber, we argue that there is
no surprise in Burns’s and Bass’s finding
that transactional leadership empirically
coexists with transformational leadership.
If transactional leadership is the formal
regulation of the leader’s distribution of
rewards and punishments, it is in nature
bureaucratic. Since—just as Weber
prognoses—the rational bureaucratic
form of organization is dominant in all
nations, it is not surprising that Burns
and later Bass always find that transformational leaders also display components
of transactional leadership. Bass ties this
variation into the literature that sees leadership as contingent on specific situations.
Naturally we agree with Burns and Bass
on the coexistence of different forms of
leadership in one leader. The method of
investigation with ideal types does not
imply the necessity of a
categorical classification. The empirical
observation of leadership is likely to
uncover aspects that follow different ideal
types. Ideal types are theoretical constructs that hardly ever exist in their
pure form in empirical reality. It is rather
the question of which ideal type provides
the best match as a theoretical descriptor.
Induction and Deduction
While Burns rooted his concepts of transforming and transactional leadership in
classic theoretical and philosophical
works, Bass uses the Multifactor
Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to collect empirical data on leadership behavior
from leaders and followers to refine his
concepts of transformational and transactional leadership. Over the years, the
number and nature of items changed
and increased the fit of his empirical
model (Bass 1985; Bass and Avolio
1990; Bass and Riggio 2005). Using
revised sets of empirical operationalizations, Bass adjusts his theoretical model
and the description of the factors to the
empirical reality. For example, the ‘‘charisma factor’’ was later called ‘‘idealized
influence’’ and split from the factor of
‘‘inspirational motivation’’ (Bass and
Riggio 2005).
Unlike Bass, who inductively adjusted
his leadership concepts of transactional
and transformational leadership in
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different definitions to fit empirical reality, we work with theoretical definitions
that we operationalize and then apply
empirically. While Bass’s application in
management drifted away from its origin
in Weber, we go back and look at
Weber’s pure form of charismatic leadership and treat it with Weber’s original
methodological intent as ideal types: ideal
types are theoretical constructs that serve
as measurement rods for the empirical
reality. Staying with theoretically defined
ideal types of leadership, we develop a continuum rooted in the original work of Max
Weber that we operationalize in terms of
patterns of affective meanings. While
Bass sees transformational leadership as
an expansion of transactional leadership,
our continuum directly embraces a larger
body of Weber’s work. We hereby provide
a bridge between social psychological concepts of micro representation, affect, and
classic sociological macro investigation of
We clearly embrace Weber’s methodology of using ideal types as measurement
rods for the empirical reality. With our
stringent empirical operationalization of
ideal types of leadership as pattern of
affective meaning, we are able to expand
Weber’s original application beyond its
qualitative application and create an
empirical instrument to investigate crosscultural difference and over-time changes
in leadership. Choosing this empirical
route, we follow a third premise of
Weber’s sociology, a value-free investigation that separates moral discussions.
Moral versus Value-free Social
Burns (1978:20) argues that ‘‘transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral
in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader
and led, and thus has a transforming
effect on both.’’ While Burns and Bass
agree on the strong charismatic component of transforming (Burns) and transformational (Bass) leadership, their evaluations differ starkly. While Bass sees
transformational leadership as being
linked to higher values, Burns sees in
charisma a potential reflection of the
dark side of autocratic leaders who rely
on methods of persuasion and propaganda. He explicitly cited Adolf Hitler as
an example of a leader on the ‘‘extreme
power-continuum,’’ who, corrupted by
his own power, objectified his followers
who then became victims of a leadership
that lacked moral integrity and therefore
became immoral. Bass and Riggio
(2005:5) add Osama Bin Laden to Hitler
in their list of ‘‘pseudotransformational’’
leaders. They allude to the older concepts
of directive versus participative dimensions to address problem of moral appropriateness as a problem of authenticity.
Burns (1978) already used the term
authenticity when he addressed the problems of the two-sidedness of transformational leadership. Burns and Bass (Bass
and Steidlmeier 1999) have influenced
the more contemporary concept of
authentic leadership (Gardner, Avolio,
and Walumbwa 2005; Walumbwa et al.
2008) that seeks to address the problems
of values that differentiate the two sides
of the coin.
Our theory-driven development of ideal
types and their empirical operationalization as patterns of affective meaning allow
us to incorporate the issue of morality in
leadership. Comparing the evaluationpotency-activity patterns of transformational (E1 P1 A1) versus coercive leadership (E– P1 A1) elucidates the affective
similarities between these two types.
From this perspective, the evolution of
charismatic into coercive, dictatorial leadership becomes understandable as a flip
from one emotional Gestalt into another
(Thagard and Nerb 2002). However, by
embracing Weber’s ideal types, we in our
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role as researchers address the distinction
between transformational and coercive
leadership in a value-free approach. In
the interpretative tradition of symbolic
interactionism, we leave the decision
about values in the eye of the persons
involved in the interactions. More specifically, we rely on the evaluation ratings of
leadership by cultural informants when
we examine the ideal types associated
with cultural stereotypes of managerial
We based our examination on existing
repositories of cultural sentiments
(Heise 2010), compiled under the affect
control theory (ACT) research program.
The data basis that was collected in
1978 in North Carolina was extended
with data from Germany in 1989, allowing the first United States–German comparisons (Schneider 2006). The second
data collection in the United States was
conducted in 1998 in Texas, allowing the
first over-time comparisons in the United
States. The data collection in Indiana in
2003 (Francis and Heise 2006) provides
a larger set of concepts and in its time
period is a better match to the latest data
collection in Germany in 2007 (Schro¨der
2008). In 2007-2008, impression-formation
equations for Germany were generated
(Schro¨der 2011).
Cross-cultural Comparison of
Managers in Dynamic Context
Schneider (2002a) pioneered the application of affect-based computer simulations
in the detection of cross-cultural differences between Americans and Germans.
He concluded that his simulations, based
on the cybernetic symbolic interactionist
framework of ACT, were indeed replicating
systematic differences previously found
between the two cultures.
The second question examined in
Schneider’s (2002a) previous study concerned the effects of authoritative guidelines that managers have to follow in order
to structure their leadership behavior.
What would happen if U.S. culturespecific behavior prescriptions were implemented in Germany; for example, through
corporate codes of conduct or management
development programs? ACT-based computer simulations showed that interactions structured by U.S.-specific behavior
descriptions might cause tremendous psychological disturbance and a loss of
authority of U.S. managers in the eyes of
their German subordinates.
Revisiting this investigation is especially interesting in the light of the finding
of an astonishing level of stigmatization of
the corporate identity of a manager in contemporary Germany (which we will report
in the following). In addition, Schro¨der
(2011) conjectures that cultural variation
might not be limited to the affective meaning of social identities, but also to subtleties in the dynamic process of impression
formation itself. When comparing the
German impression-formation equations
with the U.S. equations (Smith-Lovin
1987), there seems to be greater sensitivity to the exertion of power in social interaction among Germans (Schro¨der 2011).
This fits well with Schneider’s (2004)
observation of authority concepts to be
evaluated less positively by Germans
than by Americans. Many empirical findings related to cultural differences in values are also in line with this observation.
For example, American culture scores
higher than German culture on
Hofstede’s (2001) power distance index,
indicating to which extent inequality in
the distribution of power and resources is
accepted within a given culture. We will
provide an extensive comparison between
our present study and Hofstede’s as well
as other findings from organizational psychology in the following discussion section.
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For now, we want to concentrate on our
argument that cognitive discourses at the
macroscopic level are tied to affective
representations at the micro-interactional level. We think this not only true
for over-time developments within one
culture, but also for differences across
different cultures. Apparently, a discovery like Hofstede’s concept of power distance belongs to the realm of highly
reflective discourse based on complex
cognition. Yet, different degrees of power
distance seem to be implicitly embedded
in the affective meaning of relevant concepts. If it is true that there is an antiauthoritarian sentiment in contemporary Germany, this should become
apparent not only in the emotional reactions toward authority concepts such as
manager, but also in the way these
authorities are perceived in the context
of specific behaviors.
In the current study, we extended
Schneider’s (2002a) earlier cross-cultural
investigation by an over-time comparison.
We examine changes in affective meanings of business-related identities with
newer data collected in 2003 in the
United States and in 2007 in Germany
(Francis and Heise 2006; Schro¨der 2008,
2011). While Schneider’s previous study
used U.S. and German data, it had to
rely on U.S. impression-formation equations to calculate the dynamics in the
simulation in both cultures. Meanwhile,
Schro¨der (2011) developed a German
ACT equation model; hence, we were
now able to use culture-specific equations
for the U.S. and the German simulations.
Adding the complexity of over-time
comparison to cross-cultural studies provides a serious challenge to the interpretation of computer simulations that demand
a refined instrument. With our ideal types
of bureaucratic, charismatic, and coercive
leadership and their empirical formalization as specific pattern of affective meaning, we hope to provide an instrument
capable of picking up the subtleties in our
over-time and cross-cultural comparison.
We thus present a methodological
update of the 2002 cross-cultural simulation study and examine cultural change
in the affective representation of corporate
leaders that happened between the 1980s
and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Our intention is to demonstrate
that changing dynamics in social action
systematically go in line with changes in
underlying affective representations and
how these affective representations and
simulated social actions relate to observed
empirical phenomena like the public perception of managers, observable changes
in managerial behavior, and cross-cultural
conflict in workplace interactions in multinational corporations.
In our study, we focus on the validity of
cross-cultural and over-time comparisons. Since we had to cross the language
barrier, we also had to address the
problem of the accuracy of the translations. The basis for the dictionaries
was the 1978 U.S. study (Smith-Lovin
and Heise 2006). To improve the
validity of the translations, the German
studies employed blind back-translations
(Schneider 2006).
Student populations, which we used in
our data collections of EPA profiles, have
been identified as largely representative
for the middle class in Germany and the
United States. Different from traditional
opinion survey studies that describe a population of individuals and their variability
in relation to the topic of investigation, our
subjects served as cultural informants
reporting the common culture that is
reproduced among the general population
(Heise 2010).
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Gender Considerations
Previous studies (Schneider 2002b) based
on affective meanings showed that gender
differences were marginal in comparison
to cultural differences. We again checked
for presence of gender differences before
we ran the simulations, but could not
indicate a substantial difference. Since
our interest in over-time and crosscultural differences already adds complexity to our investigation, we simplify
by choosing only one gender. Since more
of the existing studies focus on male leaders, we also choose the male perspective
for a better comparison to the existing
Computer simulations with Interact are
operationalizations of the core assumption of affect control theory (ACT) that
people control events to maximize the perceived likelihood of an event. Deflections
are hereby the central criteria for motivation in simulated interactions. Via minimizing deflection, the squared Euclidean
distance between the fundamental sentiment and the transient impression, we
create impressions consistent with the
cultural meanings that we assign to
events. Impression-formation equations
(Gollob 1968; Triandis and Fishbein
1963), culture-specific empirical estimates
of people’s affective reactions to minimum
events of an actor doing something to
someone who is the object of the action,
can be used to compute the transient
impression of a situation. Following
ACT’s central idea that people control
interactions by striving to maintain culturally shared feelings about the situation
(Heise 2007), simulations seek to maximize event likelihoods by choosing optimal
actions that result in minimal deflections.
Java Interact (Heise 2001) is a Webbased computer program that mathematically and empirically operationalizes the
principles of ACT. Providing a languagebased interface representing the qualitative mode of investigation, the quantitative model that mathematically operates
the empirical data works in the background (Schneider and Heise 1995). In
our simulations reported in the following,
we used Interact to compute optimal
EPA profiles for the interactions of managers with coworkers and to find verbs in the
affective dictionaries that correspond
closely to these profiles, via minimizing
Euclidean distances. We interpreted those
verbs as the behavioral expectations that
go along with the cultural stereotypes of
business managers, generated by affective
Differences in Affective Meanings
In 1978, managers in the United States
followed the ideal typical EPA pattern of
authority: appreciated, powerful, and
not expressive. They were powerful, and
since their power was legitimate, they
were not only endured, but respected by
Americans. Since they were acknowledged authorities, they did not need to
communicate their power through
expressive actions. In contrast, Germans
of 1989 did not consider the power of their
managers legitimate. The exercise of
power consequently was seen as coercive
and managers could not be seen as positive. The expressiveness indicated their
struggle in the exercise of power. The
EPA profile of German managers did not
In an effort to increase the readability of the
article, we forego many of the technical and
mathematical details of Interact simulations.
These have been widely covered in the literature
on affect control theory (most recently summarized in Heise 2007). Furthermore, technical
descriptions of affect control theory (ACT) measurement and models as well as data sets and
the Interact software itself are freely available
on the ACT Web site (
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follow the ideal typical EPA pattern like
it was the case for their American colleagues. While they were powerful, as
their American colleagues, their ratings
on the evaluation dimension were slightly
negative and relatively high on the activity dimension (Table 2).
Looking at over-time changes in both
cultures, we first focus on the evaluation
dimension. The results indicate that the
devaluation of authorities found earlier
among Germans further increased. While
a German manager (–.33, 1.55, 1.65) was
already not following the ideal typical representation of an authority in 1989, in
2007, German managers (–1.48, 2.37,
1.69) were perceived as villains. Note the
following examples of identities, which
had very similar EPA profiles to the manager in the same 2007 study: capitalist,
devil, rival, soldier, vampire, lawbreaker.
As these ‘‘affective synonyms’’ show,
German managers are perceived as
aggressive identities, certainly adversaries whom under no circumstances can be
trusted. In comparison, highly appreciated
professional identities like doctor, scientist, or judge showed the EPA pattern we
denoted here as prototypical for an
esteemed authority (see Schro¨der 2008
for the data underlying these examples).
U.S. managers (.59, 1.32, .14) were not
at all stigmatized in 1978, but 25 years
later Americans appreciated them even
more (.98, 1.57, 1.34). Much unlike the
case of German culture, this is an EPA
profile that places managers in a region
of affective space shared with more
esteemed professional groups such as
attorney, spokesman, or entrepreneur
(for data, see Francis and Heise 2006).
The greater appreciation of managers in
the United States probably reflects neoconservatism (Inglehart 1997; Inglehart
and Baker 2000; Schneider 2004). One of
the central features of neo-conservatism
is the deep appreciation of authority.
However, when we look at the changes
on the activity dimension between the
1970s and the early twenty-first century,
we realize that the expressivity that a contemporary American manager needs to
communicate his power contradicts our
authority operationalization. In fact, the
U.S. manager of 2003 shows a similar level
of expressivity as the German managers of
1989 and 2007. The dramatic increase of
activity indicates a shift from authoritative
to charismatic leadership in contemporary
American managers. They cannot rest on
the comfortable cushion of authority, but
like football champions, they have to prove
their power through expressive actions.
The increased appreciation that
Americans extend to their managers is
not based on being legitimate authorities,
but on successful fights they have to lead
in a competitive business environment.
Our data clearly indicate a shift from
authoritative to transformational leadership as ideal types underlying the U.S. cultural stereotype of managers.
The over-time comparisons show that
there was a significant change for managers in the United States and in Germany.
While American mangers still enjoy some
status, their power becomes visible in
expressive actions. German managers
who did not even enjoy the status of legitimate authorities in the first place became
villains in the perception of the contemporary public. Some German top managers,
like Utz Claassen, openly accept this role
by publicly stating that they would ‘‘rather
be Rambo than Bambi’’ (Tietz 2010). The
Table 2. Fundamental Sentiments of
Evaluation, Potency and Activity (E, P, A) of
the Manager in the United States and
Germany (Ge) over Time
U.S. 1978 (.59, 1.32, .14)
U.S. 2003 (.98, 1.57, 1.34)
Ge 1989 (–.33, 1.55, 1.65)
Ge 2007 (–1.48, 2.37, 1.69)
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ideal type of leadership underlying
Germans’ perception of business managers is clearly coercive.
Computer Simulation of Expected
Leadership Behaviors
Now we turn to the question of how the
specific cultural stereotypes of business
managers previously described transform
into behavioral expectations in workplace
interactions between managers and their
coworkers. Table 3 displays the results
of computer simulations we generated
with Interact (as outlined earlier in the
methods section) for optimal, meaningmaintaining actions of managers toward
coworkers (left column) and coworkers’
behaviors toward managers (right column), separately for the United States
and Germany at different points in time.
In all simulations, the identities of
a manager and a coworker3 were the independent variables. The behavior that minimizes the deflection was computed, and
the resulting numerical EPA profiles are
presented in the appropriate cells of the
table. For illustration and better interpretation of those optimal behaviors, we also
provide a selection of leadership-related
verbs contained in the respective affective
dictionaries with similar EPA profiles. The
numbers in parentheses behind these
words indicate the respective Euclidean
distances from the optimal behavior profiles obtained in the simulation.
For the late 1970s U.S. data, the behavior expected from the manager clearly
follows the EPA pattern we identified as
prototypical for transactional leadership
(E1 P1 A0), or authority in Weber’s terminology (see Table 1). Behaviors for
both managers and coworkers, suggested
by Interact, seem highly appropriate for
trusting, task-oriented, and productive
workplace interactions.
The simulation result for the 2003 U.S.
data is in line with our previous speculation about a shift to a more expressive
leadership style expected in contemporary
America, since the activity of the computed
optimal EPA profile is significantly higher
than for the 1978 simulation. The resulting
E1 P1 A1 pattern clearly fits the location
of charismatic, or transformational, leadership within the affective space. This is
reflected by some of the behavior labels
suggested by the simulation with Interact,
according to which 2003 U.S. managers
are expected to amaze and encourage their
coworkers. The simulations do not suggest
any substantial change in the behaviors
expected from the coworkers. Consequently,
leader-follower interactions can be
expected to proceed equally smoothly and
productively, while managers themselves
show more expressive actions.
In comparison, the simulations with
German data suggest that manager–
coworker interactions are expected to be
much more confrontational and conflictladen. In principle, this holds true for
both points in time examined, but things
seem to have gotten much worse from
the late 1980s until the beginning of the
twenty-first century. The valence of the
manager’s expected behavior is roughly
neutral for the 1989 data, so it does not
fit either of the prototypical leadership
patterns we identified. Accordingly,
The German word Mitarbeiter was used for
coworker. Evaluation-potency-activity (EPA) profiles are as follows: US1978 = (1.14, .52, .62),
US2003 = (.62, .13, .54), GER1989 = (1.54, .54,
.13), GER2007 = (1.02, .35, .08). From Table 6.5
in Heise (2010) we take the average respondent’s
variance of EPA ratings to calculate the minimum differences in mean evaluation ratings
that can be interpreted as significant (a = 0.5).
The EPA average respondent’s variances (S2
are (1.62, 1.74, 1.77). With a typical sample size
of 30 in ACT research, this calculation (1.96 3
SQRT ((2/n) 3 S2
)) determines the threshold for
the critical differences in means to be (.64, .67,
.67). Consequently, the affective meaning of coworker can be assumed to be stable both over
time and across cultures.
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managerial actions seem to be very ambivalent, with negative behaviors like hurry
and laugh about appearing as plausible
as actions like challenge and contradict,
which appear more coherent with the
idea of a functional and productive
leader-follower dyad. Note that according
to our simulations, the coworkers of 1989
are expected to show mostly positive
responses to the manager, with behaviors
like chat with or praise. Albeit hardly as
trusting and smooth as in U.S. culture,
at least some degree of productive and
institutionally appropriate interaction
seems possible. Summarizing this interpretation of our 1989 German simulations,
we characterize the expected leadership
style as partly coercive and partly
If our simulation results truly capture
their sentiments (see the following discussion), contemporary Germans do not
expect anything respectful and functional
about manager–coworker interactions. In
our previous discussion of the affective
meaning of the manager identity, we had
emphasized the deviant nature of the corresponding EPA pattern and its proximity
to villainous identities. Accordingly,
Interact’s suggestions about managerial
behaviors are entirely negative, indicate
a constant mode of conflict, and clearly
Table 3. Behavioral Expectations in Manager–Coworker Interaction in the United States and
Germany (Ger) in the Past and Present: Fundamental Sentiments of Evaluation, Potency, and
Activity (E, P, A)
Manager . . . coworker Coworker . . . manager
U.S. 1978 (1.17, .80, –.15) (1.38, .47, .02)
Consult with (.18) Admire (.32)
Pay (.19) Answer (.35)
Answer (.26) Agree with (.41)
Confide (.29) Ask (.46)
Inform (.32) Consult with (.46)
U.S. 2003 (1.21, 1.10, .68) (1.16, .17, .12)
Embrace (.13) (Similar behaviors as 1978)
Speak to (.28)
Amaze (.41)
Stroke (.48)
Encourage (.48)
Ger 1989 (–.25, .38, 2.32) (.86, .07, 1.03)
Alarm (.81) Imitate (.42)
Laugh about (1.06) Chat with (.54)
Hurry (1.07) Praise (.66)
Contradict (1.28) Defy (.73)
Challenge (1.38) Congratulate (.88)
Ger 2007 (–1.37, .64, 2.46) (.10, .36, .86)
Get excited over (.39) Idolize (.43)
Interrupt (.77) Be sarcastic to (.64)
Argue with (.83) Disagree with (.69)
Hurry (.89) Report something to (.78)
Rebuke (1.17) Criticize (.99)
Note: Bold numbers indicate a significant shift of affective meaning in comparison to the previous point in
time along the respective dimension. Single number in parentheses: Euclidian distances of EPA ratings to
the EPA profile calculated by Java Interact 2.
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fit with the leadership pattern that we
identified as coercive (E– P1 A1). This
is also mirrored by a change in the behavioral expectation toward the coworkers,
which is no longer positive and, consequently, not a stabilizing factor in the
interaction as it still was in 1989.
First, it should be noted that simulations
based on the new data of 2003
(United States) and 2007 (Germany) and
the new German impression-formation
formulas replicated important findings
obtained with the old data of 1978
(United States) and 1989 (Germany)
(Schneider 2002a). Systematic crosscultural differences in affective meanings
of leadership identities reflect differences
in the perception of authority. These systematic differences in affective meanings
are reflected in computer simulations
where they produce culture-specific
Our findings also go beyond the replication of the original results. The comparison of cultural expectations regarding the
behavior of corporate managers shows
over-time changes interpretable in terms
of a shift of the ideal type of leadership
underlying the cultural representations
of business managers. This over-time
phenomenon can be seen best in our schematic overview of leadership styles summarized in Table 4. In the United States,
managers were expected to show transactional leadership in the 1970s and transformational leadership in the early
twenty-first century. In Germany, the
public perception of managerial leadership
was partly transactional, partly coercive
in the 1980s and clearly coercive and deviant in the first decade of the new century.
Affective Meaning and Cross-cultural
These results support the assumption
that different cultural meaning systems
in the United States and Germany result
in a quite different level of acceptance of
behaviors in a corporate context in both
cultures. If this is true, a number of
important implications follow for crosscultural communication in multinational
organizations. We address this issue in
the following. Before that, we would like
to turn to an important methodological
aspect: one might question the validity
of the employed simulation method,
which is quite uncommon in research on
organizational behavior. We think, however, that there is considerable empirical
evidence beyond the present study that
is clearly in line with our results.
First, experimental data supporting the
validity of the German affect control theory (ACT) model, upon which the present
simulations are based, have been reported
elsewhere (Schro¨der and Scholl 2009):
German students, playing the role of
organizational leaders in a computersimulated business environment, were
given opportunities to select among different actions toward virtual employees.
Their choices were negatively related to
the affective deflection inherent in those
actions, as computed with the German
ACT model. This result supports the
Table 4. Schematic Overview of Leadership Interactions Expected in American and German
Culture, Depending on Year of Simulation
Culture Past Present
United States Transactional (bureaucratic) Transformational (charismatic)
Germany Transactional, partly coercive Coercive
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assumption that individuals rely on their
sense of emotional coherence to control
their actual social behaviors, and it underlines the usefulness of ACT-based computer simulations as a valid research tool
for predicting emotions and behaviors in
corporate settings.
Second, our simulation results can be
connected with Hofstede’s (2001) nowclassic work on cultural differences in
work-related values. Hofstede showed
that cultures differ in the amount of power
distance, the extent to which power differences are accepted in a given society. In
American society, such power differences
are larger than in Germany, as demonstrated by Hofstede’s (2001) power distance index. Our specific contribution in
the present article lies in demonstrating
how such an existing (macroscopic) difference in cultural values relates to differences in the (microscopic) immediate emotional perception of specific social
Scholl’s (1999, 2004) extensive, Germanybased research program on harmful effects
of coercive managerial behavior (‘‘restrictive control’’) lends empirical support to
our simulation results regarding emotional disturbance following from managerial coercion in a German cultural context:
employees experience more negative emotions when exposed to a restrictive leadership style, where the leader presses
through his wishes, as opposed to a promotive style, where the employee’s perspective and interests are taken into account.
As a consequence, under conditions of
restrictive control, employees are less
likely to share their knowledge, which
eventually may lead to what Scholl
(1999) calls ‘‘information pathology’’: an
avoidable failure of the organization
to take all the information into
account, which is relevant for important
corporate decisions. Scholl does not focus
on cross-cultural comparisons, but it
becomes apparent from his work that
a multicultural corporation’s failure to
take into account specific cultural sensitivities may have serious economic consequences. For example, a U.S. manager
who is assigned to work with German
employees might show coercive leadership
behaviors that are appropriate within his
home culture but that create enormous
levels of reactance (Wortmann and
Brehm 1975) among German subordinates, resulting in information pathologies
and costly errors that would have been
avoidable if the same manager had been
trained in a permissive leadership style
that allowed German followers to maintain their professional identities.
Based on our present study and findings, simulations with Interact can be
used to analyze such potential areas of
cross-cultural conflict. For example, imagine how a U.S. manager reprimands
a German coworker. From the U.S. perspective, this is a totally adequate action
within the behavioral role expectations in
that leadership dyad. Interact simulations
with U.S. data reveal that the resulting
affective deflection is very low (2.4), and
the manager expects the coworker to
engage in subsequent behaviors like analyze, confess, or excuse (among others).
However, simulations with German data
suggest that the German coworker is
unlikely to perceive his being reprimanded
foremost as a learning opportunity.
Interact suggests that he rather would
engage in behaviors like dressing down
or criticizing the manager. This comes
unexpectedly for the U.S. manager, who
would experience considerably higher
affective deflection as a result of being criticized by the coworker. Interact suggests
that he would react most likely by disciplining his employee, another behavior
that from a point of view of German culture is inacceptable as part of a respectful,
productive workplace interaction: Interact
simulations with German data show that
the coworker would distance himself
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from the manager and might even sue
This cross-cultural simulation of leadership behavior demonstrates, in conjunction with Scholl’s aforementioned studies
about the consequences of restrictive control in German organizations, why the
previous findings about cultural differences in affective representations of the
manager role in the United States versus
Germany are so important: under the
wrong circumstances, they can have a devastating impact on workplace interactions.
Actions that are fully adequate under the
U.S. cultural perspective can be so disturbing in a German cultural context
that they trigger an escalation of conflict
where it is hardly possible to maintain
productive and trusting cooperation.
Affective Meanings as Indicators of
Social Change?
It is noteworthy that the data reported
here were collected (in the German case,
shortly) before the worldwide economic
crisis of 2008. Thus, one cannot argue
that the villainous representation of managers in Germany is a result of public discourse blaming managers for those
events. Rather, an interesting question
can be raised as to whether there already
existed a kind of affective preparedness in
German culture that later facilitated
critical discourse and harsh legislative
measures against managers in German
Social change does not happen overnight, nor does its recognition. If sentiments related to a specific concept change,
other related concepts have to change to
produce the big picture that finally will
be recognized by scientists and lay people.
Investigating changes in sentiments of
identities is like tapping into the roots
of potential change. The idea that
changes in affective meaning accompany
social change started with some personal
observations of the first author. Having
been an avid smoker these years, I started
to feel the onset of regulative forces in the
late 1980s. Such organized vigilance does
not come out of the blue. Was there always
a shimmering negative attitude among
nonsmokers that we constantly fused by
smoking in our offices and classrooms?
Probably yes, and once these others communicated and mutually confirmed their
negative attitudes about smoking, they
acted on their changed affective representation of smokers. On the large scale,
smoking consequently became a public
health issue. Once the issue was established, moral entrepreneurs picked it up,
and like many organized social issues
(women’s temperance movement, war on
drugs, child abuse, etc.) it spiraled into
the extreme (Goode and Ben-Yehuda
2009). We extend this reflection upon the
changes in attitudes and social policies
about smoking with a cross-cultural perspective. Policies on the regulation of
smoking were first implemented in the
United States and then in Europe. This
seemed to follow a general trend in the
global spread of moral panics. While there
was first a stigmatization of the smoker
visible in the 1980s, it took public campaigns and legal policies to gradually provide support and legitimation to the crusaders during the 1990s. With the
change of meaning, new concepts were
investigated and established. The emergence of new concepts was recently
investigated as the modification in the
existing available vocabulary of a society.
MacKinnon and Heise (2010:32) conclude
that ‘‘changes in culture, including the culture’s theory of people, are better characterized as glacial than seismic.’’ Before
the meaning of smoking changed, it was
unthinkable for the Surgeon General to
alert the public to the danger of secondhand smoke. Today, social inventions—
like the danger of even thirdhand
smoke—appeared in the process that
Leadership and Affective Meaning 283
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established an attitude that having to
smell cigarette smoke is an attack to
one’s health and one needs to be protected
by authorities from such atrocities. As we
see in this example, micro-level affective
representations of sentiments are clearly
in a reciprocal relation to macro-level
Just like in the smoking example, the
stigmatization of the managers will not
have led immediately to the judgment
that they are villains. Such redefinition
needs the attention of media, the public,
and our policy makers to gradually support the change. Cross-cultural comparison might prove to be a hefty tool to pinpoint early indicators of change. It was
Schneider, for example, who in his
United States–German comparisons in
1999 and 2002 found early indicators of
the stigmatization of managers in
Germany. Comparing his data that were
collected in 1989 to the new data collected
in a follow-up study by Schro¨der in 2007
clearly demonstrates the over-time tendency of the stigmatization of managers
that today culminated in a situation where
the media have been holding ‘‘greedy’’
business managers accountable for the
economic crisis and its major societal
consequences. In contemporary Germany,
managers are portrayed as villains.
According to the GfK trust survey (GfK
2009), only 15 percent of Germans say
that one can trust managers, making
them the least trusted among 20 professional groups in Germany (in no other
country is their level of trust lower).
In the 2009 election campaign in
Germany, even the conservative party
(CDU) proposed restrictive legislation
against business practices and exaggerated managerial salaries. We have found
evidence that sharing the same operatives
U.S. and German managers cannot maintain a legitimate business environment.
The current economic crisis in the United
States directs the attention to the
devastation caused by managers and the
failure of the system to prosecute their
criminal behavior in the past. It would
not be surprising to see an EPA rating of
manager in the United States tomorrow
that looks like the profile of a German
manager in 1989.
We thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their patience and considerable support
during multiple substantial revisions of this
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following
financial support for the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article: Tobias
Schro¨der’s work is supported by a fellowship
from the German Research Council (SCHR
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Andreas Schneider, PhD (Indiana
University, Bloomington), Dipl. Soz.
(Mannheim University, Germany), is an
associate professor in the Department of
Sociology, Anthropology, and Social
Work at Texas Tech University. Using
the affect control theory perspective, his
research focuses on theoretical and methodological agendas in cross-cultural comparison. His background in management
and culture contributes to his investigation of conflict and misunderstanding in
multicultural corporations. Experiences
in Asian cultures spurred his current
investigation of how identity attributions
support the endurance of pain in extreme
situations like self-flagellation.
Tobias Schro¨der has a PhD in psychology from the Humboldt-University in
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Berlin, Germany. He is currently a
postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for
Theoretical Neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. His current research activities focus on the
integration of biological, psychological,
social, and cultural perspectives on the
human mind and on developing computational models of emotion and social
Leadership and Affective Meaning 287
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