Men and women placed in leadership positions communicated information about their skills and abilities to their subordinates. Although leaders’ perceptions of their abilities, group members’ knowledge of their leader’s abilities, and the specific skills needed by the leader were all manipulated in the experimental setting, self-presentations of ability were primarily determined by sex role stereotypes rather than by situational factors. Results indicated that (1) male leaders emphasized their social influence and task abilities; (2) female leaders emphasized their interpersonal, socioemotional abilities; and (3) group members felt task ability, as compared to interpersonal ability, was a far more important skill for a leader to possess. It was concluded that sex differences in male and female leadership behavior may be due to self-presentational conformity to sex roles, and that this conformity enhances males’ leadership effectiveness while detracting from females’ leadership effectiveness.

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Copyright © 1985 Sage Publications, Inc. This article first appeared in Small Group Behavior 16:2 (1985), 197-210.

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