Self-Concept Complexity and Authentic Adaptability of Multicultural Leaders

Jeffrey Lee Herman

Advisor: Stephen Zaccaro, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Lois Tetrick, Michelle Marks

Buchanan Hall, #D1
April 10, 2012, 11:00 AM to 08:00 AM


This research models how the complexity of one’s self-concept enhances leadership performance in complex, cultural domains, and how critical experiences develop this complexity. Self-concept complexity facets of differentiation and integration are separately examined as predictors of leadership competencies, and as outcomes of developmental stretch experiences. Analysis of survey data collected from a multinational sample suggested that multicultural leaders with more highly differentiated self-concepts were perceived as demonstrating higher levels of cultural adaptability. Differentiation of the self-concept was found to positively relate to the stretch quality of prior cross-cultural developmental experiences. Together, these findings suggest that stretch experiences that differentiate the self-concept help multicultural leaders to demonstrate authentic adaptability. These relationships themselves proved to be complex in nature, indicating that future research should consider nonlinear approaches to capturing the effects of self-concept complexity. Findings related to self-concept integration, the second facet of self-concept complexity that complements self-concept differentiation, indicated a need for future research. Specifically, further conceptual and methodological attention to this facet of self-concept complexity is important to advance the study of self-concept complexity as it relates to multicultural leadership. Implications for practice include recommendations for structuring developmental assignments in managing global leadership pipelines, individual approaches to charting boundaryless, global career paths, and coaching and mentoring considerations for enhancing the transformative nature of cross-cultural, developmental experience.