The present research investigates the influence of subtle death-related thoughts (i.e., mortality salience), on people’s images of effective leaders (i.e., their implicit leadership theories). We test the prediction that mortality salience will change the content of these implicit theories to be more gender stereotypical such that individuals will conceive of effective leaders in a significantly more masculine, or agentic, manner. To test this prediction, we assessed participants’ communal and agentic implicit leadership theories after they were presented with a mortality salience or control manipulation. Results show that priming individuals to think about their mortality with two open-ended questions resulted in a significant shift in their implicit leadership theories such that an effective leader is described in significantly more agentic terms compared to the control condition. This masculine-shift in people’s implicit theories of leadership was demonstrated in both women and men, and mortality salience did not influence perceptions of effective leaders’ communal traits. This work contributes to research on gender bias in leadership, implicit leadership theories, and terror management theory and has implications for female leaders.

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Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Article first published online: 07 NOV 2011. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2011.614173.

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Hoyt, Crystal L., Stefanie Simon, and Audrey N. Innella. "Taking a Turn Toward the Masculine: The Impact of Mortality Salience on Implicit Leadership Theories." Basic and Applied Social Psychology 33, no. 4 (2011): 374-81. doi:10.1080/01973533.2011.614173.