CEO elitist association: Toward a new understanding of an executive behavioral pattern

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Scholars have studied how the social associations of corporate executives affect their access to information and their decisions. The entire focus, however, has been on lateral peer-to-peer associations. Prior research has not addressed vertical associations, or the idea that interaction with peer elites yields different perceptions and behaviors than does interaction with parties of lower social status. In this paper, we introduce and develop the concept of elitist association, which we define as a stable behavioral pattern of some corporate executives by which they engage nearly exclusively in associations with other elites while minimizing or even entirely avoiding associations with non-elites. We propose several individual-level antecedents to explain why some executives engage in this behavior more than others. We then discuss the effects of elitist association on executives' access to information, empathy, and social comparison processes - all of which affect their decisions and organizations. Finally, we consider implications for theory as well as for practical affairs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-328
Number of pages13
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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