School of Business and Economics

On Keeping Your Enemies Close: Powerful Leaders Seek Proximity to Ingroup Power Threats

Nicole L. Mead Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics

Jon K. Maner Florida State University

Throughout history, humans have had to detect and deflect myriad threats from their social and physical environment in order to survive and flourish. When people detect a threat, the most common response is avoidance. In the present research, the authors provide evidence that ingroup power threats elicit a very different response. Three experiments supported the hypothesis that dominant leaders seek proximity to ingroup members who pose a threat to their power, as a way to control and downregulate the threat that those members pose. In each experiment, leaders high (but not low) in dominance motivation sought proximity to an ingroup member who threatened their power. Consistent with the hypothesis that increased proximity was designed to help leaders protect their own power, the proximity effect was apparent only under conditions of unstable power (not stable power), only in the absence of intergroup competition (not when a rival outgroup was present), and only toward a threatening group member (not a neutral group member). Moreover, the effect was mediated by perceptions of threat (Experiment 1) and the desire to monitor the threatening group member (Experiment 3). These results shed new light on one key strategy through which dominant leaders try to maintain control over valuable yet potentially threatening group members. Findings have implications for theories of power, leadership, and group behavior.

Keywords: power, leadership, motivation, dominance, threat

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.—Sun-tzu

People consistently face forms of peril. From diseases that inflict illness, to physically aggressive individuals who wish to injure, to sources of rejection or ostracism, the social environment presents myriad challenges that threaten people’s physical, inter- personal, and psychological well-being. Consequently, people pos- sess a variety of self-protective mechanisms designed to ward off and defend against sources of threat. Typically, threat responses take the form of agonistic behavior, involving some combination of fight (attack) or flight (avoidance) (e.g., Blanchard & Blanchard, 1988; Blanchard, Hynd, Minke, Minemoto, & Blanchard, 2001; Griskevicius et al., 2009; Öhman & Mineka, 2001; Park, Faulkner, & Schaller, 2003; Schaller, Park, & Faulkner, 2003). In the present work, we investigated a very different type of threat response, one that may seem intuitively surprising: a desire for proximity to the threat.

In the context of hierarchically arranged groups, some people possess greater power than others (e.g., group leaders often enjoy

control over group resources; see Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003; Magee & Galinsky, 2008). Because social hierarchies tend to be malleable (Sapolsky, 2005), the potential loss of personal power sometimes causes dominant leaders to perceive talented group members as threats to their power (Maner & Mead, 2010; Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008). Rather than avoid such in- group power threats, we hypothesize that powerful leaders seek proximity to ingroup competitors, as a way to control and down- regulate the threat that those ingroup members pose. Indeed, as the opening quotation implies, the fear of losing their power may cause leaders to “keep their enemies close.”

Agonistic Responses to Threat

Throughout history, humans have had to escape or ward off a wide range of social and physical threats. They have protected themselves against threats posed by pathogens and contagious diseases (Schaller & Park, 2011), hostile members of other groups (Baer & McEachron, 1982), dangerous members of their own group (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992), and perilous aspects of the natural environment, such as predators (Öhman, Dimberg, & Öst, 1985).

As a result of having consistently faced these kinds of threats, people possess a powerful set of psychological mechanisms de- signed to protect themselves from specific types of threat. Most self-protective mechanisms in humans and other species reflect an initial tendency toward withdrawal. Although “fight” may be pur- sued if “flight” is not an option, the perception of threat typically evokes a fundamental orientation toward escape and avoidance (e.g., Archer, 1979; Blanchard & Blanchard, 1988; Blanchard et al., 2001; Epstein, 1972).

This article was published Online First October 10, 2011. Nicole L. Mead, Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics,

Lisbon, Portugal; Jon K. Maner, Department of Psychology, Florida State University.

This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant 0842620 awarded to Jon K. Maner and Michael Kaschak. We are grateful to Laura Dannenberg and Jonathan Kunstman for providing insightful comments on this work.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nicole L. Mead, Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Palma de Cima, 1649-023 Lisbon, Portugal. E-mail: nicole.l.mead@gmail.com

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology © 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 102, No. 3, 576–591 0022-3514/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0025755

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In daily life, one of the most pervasive sources of threat is other people, including members of one’s own social group (Wilson & Daly, 1985). When responding to interpersonal threats, avoidance is again the general rule. For example, when confronted with physically threatening individuals, most people display strong feelings of fear and a pronounced tendency toward avoidant be- havior (e.g., Maner et al., 2005; Schaller et al., 2003). Similar responses are observed when people encounter individuals who display signs of contagious disease (Park et al., 2003). People even regularly avoid those who threaten their level of social belonging (Allen & Badcock, 2003). Taken together, previous work has resoundingly shown that people’s initial response to social threat reflects a clear orientation toward avoidance.

Responses to Power Threats

Given the predominant human tendency to avoid or attack perceived threats, one might expect that leaders would use their power to treat ingroup competitors in a similar fashion. Evidence for such agonistic power-protection strategies is prevalent in the primate literature. For example, high-ranking animals often main- tain dominance over subordinates through direct aggression (e.g., ring-tailed lemurs; African wild dogs) and intimidation (e.g., ba- boons, mice, rats; Sapolsky, 2005). Humans display similar ten- dencies toward those beneath them in the group hierarchy. Indi- viduals endowed with power sometimes derogate their subordinates (Georgesen & Harris, 1998, Georgesen & Harris, 2006) and exclude them from the group (Maner & Mead, 2010).

Although powerholders sometimes attack or avoid ingroup com- petitors, such agonistic responses may not be the most common response. Functionalist evolutionary theories of leadership (Boehm, 1999; de Waal, 1982; Van Vugt, 2006) stress the exis- tence of an implicit social contract between leaders and followers, whereby group members give up resources in exchange for a leader who acts in the best interest of the group. Using their power to harm or wantonly expel valuable group members would betray this implicit contract, and could thus increase the chance that leaders are stripped of their power and privilege.

So how might powerful leaders deal with valuable yet threat- ening group members? One strategy would be to keep close contact with such individuals. Proximity would enable the leader to monitor and control potential power threats, thereby reducing the chance that those individuals overthrow the leader and seize power. In contrast, distancing themselves from ingroup competi- tors might give those competitors enough autonomy to outshine or overthrow the leader. Consider, for example, a high-level corpo- rate manager and an up-and-coming employee, just below the manager in the corporate hierarchy. Keeping close tabs on the subordinate would presumably afford the manager some ability to prevent the subordinate from outshining him or her. Conversely, pushing away or avoiding the subordinate might give the subor- dinate enough freedom to outperform and unseat the manager. Thus, the most common response to social threats—avoidance— could increase the chances that leaders lose their power, whereas the opposite response—proximity—could increase leaders’ ability to maintain their power.

Hypothesized Moderating Variables

Our main hypothesis was that fear of losing one’s power would cause individuals to seek proximity to ingroup power threats. In testing this hypothesis, we sought to identify moderating variables that would clarify the putative mechanism underlying the hypoth- esized effects (i.e., the desire to protect one’s power by monitoring and controlling the ingroup competitor). To this end, we examined variables within both the person and the situation known to influ- ence the extent to which individuals seek to protect their power (Maner & Mead, 2010). Specifically, we examined in the present investigation (a) individual differences in power-related motives, (b) the stability of the group hierarchy, and (c) the presence of intergroup rivalry.

Individual Differences in Power-Related Motives

People vary greatly in the degree to which their approach to power and leadership is motivated by a desire for dominance or prestige (Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). Dominance reflects a strat- egy wherein individuals attain influence through force and the selfish manipulation of group resources. In contrast, prestige re- flects a strategy wherein people attain influence by garnering the respect of group members. The distinction between dominance and prestige motivation is similar to the distinction between using power for personalized gain (personal power) and using power to benefit others (social power) (e.g., Chen, Lee-Chai, & Bargh, 2001; Lammers, Stoker, & Stapel, 2009; Magee & Langner, 2008; McClelland, 1970, McClelland, 1975; Winter, 1973; see also French & Raven, 1959).

Most empirical investigations endow powerful leaders with the capacity for both dominance and prestige. However, it is important to distinguish between the two, because they have distinct impli- cations for how leaders respond to power. Whereas leaders high in dominance motivation are interested in maintaining their power over others, regardless of whether that power is freely conferred by subordinates (Barkow, 1989; Ellis, 1995; Fodor, 1985; Henrich & Gil-White, 2001), leaders high in prestige motivation are more interested in being respected and appreciated than in dominating others (Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). Indeed, leaders high in dom- inance motivation attempted to protect their power at the expense of group success, whereas leaders high in prestige motivation tended to display behaviors that facilitated group success (Maner & Mead, 2010). In the present investigation, proximity to an ingroup competitor was hypothesized to serve as a power- protection strategy. We therefore expected that seeking proximity to the threat would be observed primarily among leaders high in dominance motivation, but not among leaders high in prestige motivation.

Compared with individuals high in dominance motivation, in- dividuals low in dominance motivation are not especially inter- ested in having power. Rather than wielding power for personal or selfish purposes, leaders low in dominance motivation (like those high in prestige motivation) tend to use their power in ways that could enhance the group’s welfare (Maner & Mead, 2010; Van Vugt et al., 2008). Thus, we did not expect that individuals low in dominance would respond to ingroup power threats with a strong desire for proximity.

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Instability Within the Group Hierarchy

The hypothesis that dominant leaders seek proximity to an ingroup competitor hinges on the notion that proximity-seeking is a response to threatened power. Thus, we expected proximity- seeking to emerge primarily when leaders’ power was in jeopardy of being lost. One key signal of potential power loss is instability within the group hierarchy, a prevalent feature of social hierarchies in humans and other primates (e.g., Sapolsky, 2005; Van Vugt et al., 2008). When the hierarchy is unstable and dominant leaders’ power can be revoked, they come to see highly skilled group members as threats, and they take actions toward protecting their power (Maner & Mead, 2010). In contrast, when the hierarchy is stable, leaders do not perceive group members—even those who are highly skilled—as particularly threatening. Hence, there is little reason to expect that leaders who occupy a position of stable power will seek proximity to ingroup competitors. Thus, we ex- pected to observe proximity-seeking among leaders within an unstable group hierarchy, but not within a stable hierarchy.

Intergroup Competition

Intergroup competition substantially changes people’s goals and behaviors. In the absence of intergroup rivalry, people’s actions often reflect a desire to maximize individual goals (i.e., maintain- ing status within the group). However, in the presence of inter- group rivalry, people’s actions instead tend to reflect a prioritiza- tion of group goals (i.e., competing successfully against the other group; e.g., Ellemers, van Knippenberg, de Vries, & Wilke, 1988; Ellemers, Wilke, & van Knippenberg, 1993). Indeed, intergroup competition causes ingroup members to band together and coop- erate, rather than competing with one another over status (Kramer & Brewer, 1984; Van Vugt, De Cremer, & Janssen, 2007). The impact of intergroup competition on goal pursuit is evident in even the most power-hungry leaders: When intergroup rivalry was present, leaders who otherwise selfishly prioritized their own power shifted to enacting behaviors designed to enhance group well-being (even at the cost of their own power; Maner & Mead, 2010).

Taken together, extant research indicates that intergroup com- petition stimulates a prioritization of group needs over personal desires, ingroup cooperation rather than ingroup competition, and a focus on facilitating group success rather than maintaining one’s own power. In the present work, we therefore expected that inter- group competition would decrease the extent to which power- hungry leaders would view ingroup members as power threats, implying that even highly dominant leaders would release their grip over subordinates.

Overview of the Present Studies

In the present research, we tested the primary hypothesis that powerful leaders seek proximity to ingroup members who threaten their experience of power. Whereas the typical response to social threats is one of avoidance, we expected that leaders would try to minimize rather than maximize the amount of distance between themselves and a power threat. To demonstrate the psychological process underlying the hypothesized effect (i.e., leaders’ desire to maintain their personal power by controlling the threat), we tested

whether the proximity effect was mediated by the degree to which participants saw their partner as a threat (Experiment 1) and the degree to which they wanted to monitor the power threat (Exper- iment 3). Additionally, we examined whether the proximity effect was moderated by three factors that determine whether leaders take actions toward solidifying their power: individual differences in dominance motivation, instability in the group hierarchy, and the presence of intergroup competition.

In Experiment 1, we used an implicit behavioral measure of desire for proximity: the amount of physical distance participants put between themselves and their partner. In Experiment 2, we pit group performance against physical proximity, hypothesizing that powerholders would prefer a threatening partner to work in the same room (rather than in a different room), even though doing so would jeopardize group performance. In Experiment 3, we tested whether proximity-seeking would be observed only in an unstable hierarchy (not a stable hierarchy). In all three experiments, we predicted that proximity-seeking would be limited to leaders high in dominance motivation and would be observed only in the absence of intergroup competition (not when there was a rival outgroup).

Experiment 1

Experiment 1 served as an initial test of the hypothesis that dominance-focused leaders would seek proximity to an ingroup power threat. Participants were led to believe they would complete a dyadic task with an alleged partner and were then assigned to a position of leadership or equal authority (control condition). To create a context in which the partner could pose a realistic and an immediate threat to leaders’ power, we made participants’ leader- ship position unstable (roles could be reassigned depending on performance) and described the partner as being highly skilled. After assignment to condition within a 2 (unstable leadership vs. equal authority) � 2 (intergroup competition vs. no competition) factorial design, participants were asked to set up two chairs for the dyadic task—one for themselves and one for their partner (Mac- rae, Bodenhausen, Milne, & Jetten, 1994). The distance between the two chairs served as our dependent measure of desire for physical proximity. Whereas humans predominately try to avoid social threats, we hypothesized that unstable leadership would cause high-dominance individuals to seek proximity to the power threat, but only in the absence of intergroup competition. Addi- tionally, we sought to test whether proximity-seeking was medi- ated by the degree to which participants perceived the partner as a threat.

Method

Participants and procedure. Seventy-seven undergraduates (48 women) participated in exchange for partial course credit. Upon arrival to the laboratory, participants were told that commu- nication and group performance would be examined in the study. They were also informed they would complete a task with a partner who was ostensibly in a different room down the hall. (In all the present experiments, participants were led to believe they would complete the experiment with same-sex partners.)

Participants completed two measures at the beginning of the study, which were described as measures of leadership ability. The

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first measure was the remote associates task (RAT; Mednick, 1968). This task requires participants to select one word that ties together a set of three other words. For example, if the word set was “white, scramble, and shell,” the fourth word would be “egg.” Participants were given 5 min to complete as many as possible. The second measure consisted of the Dominance and Prestige subscales from the Achievement Motivation Scale (AMS; Cassidy & Lynn, 1989). The Dominance subscale is composed of seven items that assess desire for power (e.g., “I like to give orders and get things going”; 1 � Strongly Disagree, 5 � Strongly Agree; � � .77; M � 3.08, SD � 0.39). The Prestige subscale is com- posed of seven items that assess people’s desire for respect and admiration (e.g., “I would like an important job where people look up to me”; 1 � Strongly Disagree, 5 � Strongly Agree; � � .74; M � 3.83, SD � 0.58). The two measures were moderately correlated, r(76) � .31, p � .007.

After participants finished both measures, the experimenter scored the measures and gave participants a detailed (bogus) assessment of their performance as well as the performance of their partner. This feedback was designed so that all participants received the highest combined score (RAT plus AMS). However, participants were led to believe their partner achieved a higher score on the RAT than they did. Thus, the partner could be perceived as either a skilled ally or a power threat, given that the dyadic task would consist of another RAT (see Maner & Mead, 2010, for a similar procedure).

Participants assigned to the unstable leadership condition were told that, because they had achieved the highest combined score, they would serve as leader of the dyadic task. A description of their role was provided. Leaders were told that their primary job was to help the dyad perform as well as it could on the task in order to maximize performance and monetary rewards associated with the task. Duties also included structuring the task, evaluating their subordinate, and deciding how to allocate the monetary rewards (see Galinsky, Gruenfeld, & Magee, 2003). Crucially, leaders were told that roles for the dyadic task could change depending on each person’s performance during the task. Thus, participants’ position of leadership was unstable and susceptible to being threatened by the skilled ingroup member.

Although participants in the control condition were given iden- tical feedback about their performance and the performance of the partner, they were told that each person would have equal authority over the task. Moreover, they were told that the monetary rewards associated with the task would be divided equally. Thus, partici- pants in the control condition were not given power over the task or rewards. As such, they should not perceive the skilled partner as a threat.

All participants were then given additional information about the dyadic task, which ostensibly consisted of another RAT. Par- ticipants were told that the goal was to complete as many word associations as possible in 5 min and that the dyad would earn $2 for every correct word association. Because all participants were led to believe that the partner was especially skilled at the RAT, the partner could be perceived either as an ally (because he or she possessed a skill likely to boost group performance) or as a threat (because superior performance would challenge participants’ po- sition of unstable leadership).

The intergroup competition manipulation was then delivered. Participants assigned to the intergroup competition condition were

told their group was competing against a different group down the hall (although each group would get to keep the money they earned on the task regardless of whether they won). Those assigned to the no-competition condition were simply told that there was another group down the hall completing the same experiment; no compe- tition was implied. Thus, a 2 (unstable leader vs. equal author- ity) � 2 (intergroup competition vs. no competition) between- subjects factorial design was used in this experiment.

Next, the degree to which participants perceived the partner as a threat (i.e., the putative mediator) was measured. Specifically, participants indicated how worried they were about being outper- formed by their partner (1 � Not at all, 7 � Very much so). To disguise our interest in this variable, participants completed other filler questions that assessed their understanding of the dyadic task. Participants also completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) to assess possible differences in affect across conditions.

The main dependent variable was an implicit measure of par- ticipants’ desire for proximity to the partner. Participants were brought to a new laboratory room containing a table with two workstations side-by-side, at which the participant and the partner would complete the dyadic task. The room was devoid of chairs, so the experimenter asked participants to take two chairs from just outside of the room and set them up for the task. The participant did this while the experimenter left, ostensibly to retrieve the partner. After 1 min, the experimenter reappeared and asked par- ticipants to return to their original room because a different ex- perimenter needed the group room. (The experimenter placed her hand on the participant’s chair so that the chair did not move when the participant rose to leave the room.)

After participants were escorted back to their room, a second experimenter blind to condition measured the distance between the two chairs using a standard tape measure. The distance between the two chairs served as an implicit measure of participants’ desire for physical proximity to the partner.

Results

No effects associated with participant gender were found in any of the present experiments. We therefore collapsed across gender in all primary analyses. No effects associated with positive or negative affect were found, either. Consistent with hypotheses, no significant effects associated with prestige motivation were ob- served in any of our analyses. These variables are not discussed further.

Desired proximity. The primary hypotheses were that (a) being assigned to a position of unstable leadership (vs. equal authority) would increase participants’ desire for proximity to the partner; (b) this effect would be moderated by participants’ level of dominance motivation (i.e., more pronounced among those high in dominance motivation than those low in dominance motivation); (c) this effect would be eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition. We did not expect level of prestige motivation to moderate participants’ responses.

To test these hypotheses, we regressed the distance between the two chairs (M � 19.99 in., SD � 9.58) on level of dominance motivation, level of prestige motivation, leadership condition, in- tergroup competition condition, and all two- and three-way inter- actions. All lower order variables were centered. As predicted,

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there was a three-way interaction between dominance motivation, leadership condition, and intergroup competition condition (� � .31), t(66) � 2.55, p � .01 (see Figure 1). No other significant effects were observed.

We decomposed the three-way interaction by examining the two-way interaction between dominance motivation and unstable leadership (vs. control) in the presence versus absence of inter- group competition. The predicted two-way interaction between dominance motivation and leadership condition was observed in the absence of intergroup competition (� � �.58), t(66) � 2.17, p � .03; partial r � �.26 (see Figure 1, left panel). We decom- posed this two-way interaction in two ways. First, we examined the effect of unstable leadership (vs. control) among high- and low-dominance individuals (1 SD above and below the mean). As predicted, assignment to unstable leadership (vs. control) caused high-dominance individuals to move closer to the partner (� � �.89), t(66) � 2.38, p � .02; partial r � �.28; also as expected, this effect was not observed among individuals low in dominance motivation (� � .47), t(66) � 1.38, p � .17; partial r � .17. Second, we examined the relationship between dominance moti- vation and proximity within each leadership condition. Also con- sistent with predictions, increased dominance motivation was as- sociated with decreased space placed between the self and the partner in the unstable leadership condition (� � �.68), t(66) � 2.03, p � .05; partial r � �.24, but not in the control condition (� � .41, t � 1).

Consistent with hypotheses, the predicted proximity pattern was observed only in the absence of intergroup competition. In the presence of intergroup competition, the pattern was actually re- versed (� � .82), t(66) � 3.28, p � .002; partial r � .38 (see

Figure 1, right panel). Assignment to unstable leadership (vs. control) caused participants high in dominance motivation to in- crease the amount of distance between themselves and the partner (� � .52), t(66) � 2.23, p � .03; partial r � .36. One possible explanation for this unpredicted finding is that leaders were giving the skilled partner increased autonomy, potentially as a way to bolster performance and win the competition. As in the no- competition condition, the unstable leadership position did not have a significant effect on desire for proximity among partici- pants low in dominance motivation (� � �.59), t(66) � 1.57, p � .12; partial r � �.19. We also assessed the relationship between dominance motivation and proximity within each leadership con- dition. As expected, dominance motivation was unrelated to prox- imity within the leadership condition (� � .48), t(66) � 1.32, p � .19; partial r � .16. However, dominance motivation was posi- tively associated with desire for proximity in the control condition (� � �.93), t(66) � 2.54, p � .01; partial r � �.30. Given that intergroup competition promotes a tendency for individuals to try to band together to cooperate (e.g., Kramer & Brewer, 1984; Van Vugt et al., 2007), it is possible that proximity in this case was motivated by a desire to connect with team members rather than out of a motivation to control and monitor the partner.

Mediational analyses: Perception of threat. Our theoretical framework called for mediated moderation; we tested this with three models (Müller, Judd, & Yzerbyt, 2005). In the first model, we examined the predicted effects of dominance motivation, lead- ership condition, and intergroup competition on the dependent variable (distance); as previously mentioned, this three-way inter- action was significant when predicting proximity.

Figure 1. Experiment 1: In the absence of intergroup competition (left panel), increases in dominance motivation corresponded to heightened desire for proximity to the partner, but only in the unstable leadership condition. In the presence of intergroup competition (right panel), the relationship between dominance and proximity was eliminated among leaders. Lower numbers reflect heightened desire for proximity to the partner. Unstandardized regression coefficients reflect the slope of dominance motivation within each leadership condition. � p � .05. �� p � .01.

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In the second model, we examined the interactive effect of our three independent variables on the mediator (concern about being outperformed by the partner); again, the three-way interaction was significant (� � �.27), t(66) � 2.55, p � .01; partial r � �.30. The pattern of the three-way interaction predicting the hypothe- sized mediator mirrored the pattern of the primary dependent measure (proximity). For example, in the absence of intergroup competition, concern about being outperformed increased when high-dominance leaders were assigned to a position of unstable leadership (vs. control; � � 1.40), t(66) � 4.29, p � .001; partial r � .47; this effect was not apparent among low-dominance participants (� � .54), t(66) � 1.67, p � .10; partial r � .20. In the presence of competition, concern about being outperformed by the partner diminished when high-dominance individuals were assigned to unstable leadership (� � �.75), t(66) � 2.30, p � .03; partial r � �.27; again, this effect was not apparent among low-dominance participants (� � .35), t(66) � 1.06, p � .30; partial r � .13.

Given that the pattern of the three-way interaction for the putative mediator (perception of threat) mirrored the pattern for the dependent measure (i.e., proximity), we tested the third model, in which we added the proposed mediator to the original model predicting distance between the participant and the partner. When the putative mediator was added to the original model, the medi- ator remained a significant predictor (� � �.46), t(65) � 3.57, p � .001; partial r � �.41, whereas the three-way interaction between dominance motivation, leadership condition, and compe- tition condition was reduced to nonsignificance (� � .18), t(65) � 1.57, p � .12; partial r � .19. A Sobel test (Baron & Kenny, 1986) confirmed that the mediation was significant (z � 2.07, p � .03) (see Figure 2).

Discussion

Leaders high in dominance motivation sought to be close to a skilled yet threatening partner, suggesting a desire to monitor and maintain control over the partner. This desire for proximity to the power threat reflects a meaningful exception to the abundance of research showing that the primary human response to social threat is avoidance (e.g., Archer, 1979; Blanchard & Blanchard, 1988; Blanchard et al., 2001; Epstein, 1972).

Several pieces of evidence support our hypothesis that proxim- ity to the partner was determined by the degree to which the partner was perceived as a power threat. First, a desire to be near the partner was observed primarily among leaders high in domi- nance motivation, those for whom protecting their power is a focal goal. Second, when intergroup rivalry was present, leaders high in dominance motivation relaxed their grip over the partner. This is consistent with previous evidence that intergroup rivalry causes even dominance-motivated leaders to prioritize group success rather than personal power and to perceive skilled ingroup mem- bers as allies rather than threats (Maner & Mead, 2010). Third, distance between the self and the partner was mediated by partic- ipants’ concern about being outperformed by the partner. This highlights the counterintuitive nature of the finding—the more threatened participants felt, the closer they wanted to be to the partner. Taken together, these results suggest that power caused dominance-motivated leaders to keep a threatening ingroup mem- ber close, potentially as a way to downregulate the level of threat they posed.

Experiment 2

In Experiment 2, we sought to replicate the findings from Experiment 1 with a different dependent variable: Participants chose whether the partner would work in the same or in a different room. Additionally, we pit participants’ hypothesized desire for proximity against any desire to enhance group performance: To incentivize letting the partner work in a different room, partici- pants were told that group performance would be maximized when the group members worked independently in different rooms. Nevertheless, we predicted that placing dominance-motivated par- ticipants into a position of unstable leadership would decrease their willingness to let the partner work in a different room, thereby potentially hampering performance but ensuring some level of control over the power threat. As in Experiment 1, we expected the predicted proximity pattern to be eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition.

Method

Participants and procedure. Eighty-seven students (43 women) participated in exchange for a small monetary payment (€7; about U. S. $9). Participants were told that group performance would be examined in the experiment; they were led to believe they would complete a dyadic task with another participant who was currently residing in a different room down the hall.

Participants first completed the AMS (Cassidy & Lynn, 1989). As in Experiment 1, this measure served two purposes. First, it served as justification for assignment to the leadership position. Second, in addition to supporting the cover story, the AMS pro- vided measures of dominance motivation (� � .71, M � 3.62, SD � 0.41) and prestige motivation (� � .70, M � 3.58, SD � 0.41). Consistent with Experiment 1, the measures were moder- ately correlated, r(86) � .34, p � .001.

Upon completion of the AMS, the computer ostensibly scored the questionnaires of both the participant and the partner. Across all conditions, participants were led to believe they achieved the highest score on the leadership measure. As in Experiment 1, only participants randomly assigned to the leadership condition were

Figure 2. Experiment 1: The three-way interaction between leadership (vs. control), level of dominance motivation, and intergroup competition (vs. no competition) on the amount of physical distance that participants placed between themselves and their partner was mediated by concern about being outperformed on the group task. Numbers refer to standardized regression weights. �� p � .01. ��� p � .001.

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given control over the subsequent task and the partner. Leaders were told that their primary job was to maximize performance on the dyadic task. They were also given the responsibility of struc- turing the dyadic task, evaluating their subordinate, and deciding how to allocate the monetary rewards associated with the experi- ment. As in Experiment 1, the leadership condition entailed an unstable hierarchy; participants were told that roles could be reassigned depending on each person’s performance during the session. Because instability in the group hierarchy implies that the other group member could potentially take the leader’s power, leaders might therefore come to see the other group member as a potential threat to their power.

Participants in the control condition were given the same feed- back concerning their performance. However, participants in the control condition were simply led to believe that both partners would have equal authority over the task and that monetary re- wards would be distributed equally.

Participants were then given information about the dyadic task, which consisted of building a series of virtual structures out of geometric blocks on the computer. An example was given to help elucidate the task. At this time, the presence of intergroup com- petition was manipulated (using the same procedure as in Exper- iment 1). Participants assigned to the intergroup competition con- dition were told that their group would be competing with another group; whichever group built the most structures in 5 min would win the competition. (Receipt of the monetary reward did not hinge on winning the competition.) Participants assigned to the no-competition condition were simply told that there was another group completing the same task down the hall; there was no mention of any competition. Thus, the experiment consisted of a 2 (unstable leadership vs. control) � 2 (intergroup competition vs. no competition) between-subjects factorial design.

Next, the partner was framed as being highly skilled at the dyadic task. Participants were given the opportunity to exchange messages with their partner on the computer. After participants sent their message, they received the same (fabricated) message from their ostensible partner. This message stated that he or she was an engineer and was very good at building virtual structures. Participants were then asked to help decide whether they and their partner would work jointly in the same room or independently in different rooms. Leaders were led to believe the decision was the leader’s responsibility; control participants were led to believe they had been randomly chosen to make the decision. To incen- tivize working separately, participants were informed that, on average, group members working separately tended to substan- tially outperform group members working together. Thus, in this experiment, we pit against one another the desire for proximity- seeking and the desire to enhance group performance. Desire for proximity, the key dependent measure, was then assessed: Partic- ipants indicated the extent to which they wanted the partner to work in the same room (1 � Not at all, 7 � Very much so).

Results

As in Experiment 1, the primary hypotheses were that (a) being assigned to a position of unstable leadership (vs. control) would increase participants’ desire to work in the same room as the partner; (b) this effect would be moderated by level of dominance motivation (i.e., more pronounced among those high in dominance motivation

than those low in dominance motivation); (c) this effect would be eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition. We did not expect level of prestige motivation to moderate participants’ re- sponses.

To test these hypotheses, we first regressed desire to work in the same room on dominance motivation, prestige motivation, leader- ship condition, intergroup competition condition, and all two- and three-way interactions (all lower order variables were centered). In addition to a main effect of intergroup competition (� � �.39), t(74) � 3.60, p � .001, and a two-way interaction between dominance motivation and intergroup competition (� � .22), t(74) � 2.09, p � .04, we observed the predicted three-way interaction between dominance motivation, leadership condition, and intergroup competition (� � �.22), t(74) � 2.07, p � .04 (see Figure 3). No other significant effects were observed.

As in Experiment 1, we decomposed the three-way interaction by examining the two-way interaction between dominance moti- vation and leadership condition in the presence versus absence of intergroup competition. Replicating the pattern from Experiment 1, in the absence of intergroup competition, we observed a signif- icant two-way interaction between dominance motivation and leadership condition (� � .45), t(74) � 1.96, p � .05; partial r � .22 (see Figure 3, left panel). When assigned to a position of unstable leadership (vs. equal authority), participants high in dom- inance motivation (1 SD above the mean) sought to work in the same room as the partner (� � .75), t(74) � 2.10, p � .04; partial r � .24; this effect was not observed among individuals low in dominance motivation (1 SD below the mean), t(74) � 1. Consis- tent with the results of Experiment 1, dominance motivation was positively related to desired proximity among leaders (� � 1.01), t(74) � 2.02, p � .05; partial r � .23, but not among control participants (� � �.59), t(74) � 1.04. Hence, even though work- ing independently was presented as the best strategy for enhancing group success (the main responsibility of leaders), highly dominant leaders sought to work closely with their partner.

Also in line with predictions, this pattern emerged only in the absence of intergroup competition. When participants were led to believe they were competing against a rival group (see Figure 3, right panel), the two-way interaction between dominance motiva- tion and leadership (vs. control) was not significant (� � �.37), t(74) � 1.59, p � .12; partial r � �.18. Indeed, no significant effect of leadership condition was observed among participants high in dominance motivation, t(74) � 1, or low in dominance motivation, t(74) � 1.50, p � .16. Moreover, dominance motiva- tion was not significantly related to desire for proximity in either the control condition (� � .77), t(74) � 1.64, p � .11; partial r � .19, or the leadership condition (� � �.17), t(74) � 1.

Finally, across these analyses, no effects were observed for individual differences in prestige motivation. Thus, effects were specific to those with a strong desire for dominance and power.

Discussion

Results of Experiment 2 provide additional support for the hypothesis that leaders high in dominance motivation seek prox- imity to ingroup competitors. This proximity effect was observed even in the presence of strong incentives to distance the self from the partner: Leaders high in dominance motivation sought to work closely with the partner even though doing so was likely to impair

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group performance. Consistent with our theoretical framework, the proximity effect was moderated by factors linked to people’s desire to protect their power from others. First, the effect was found only among individuals high in dominance motivation— those individuals with a strong desire to maintain their level of power and influence. Second, desire for proximity was found only in the absence of intergroup competition; desire for proximity was eliminated by intergroup competition, a situational factor that causes leaders high in dominance motivation to prioritize group success over personal power. Taken together, these results repli- cate findings from Experiment 1 and indicate that dominance- motivated leaders seek proximity to an ingroup competitor who poses an immediate threat to the leader’s power.

Experiment 3

Although the results of Experiments 1 and 2 supported our main hypotheses, the designs of those experiments leave several ques- tions unanswered. First, our theory suggests that powerful leaders should seek proximity to ingroup power threats only when their position of leadership is in jeopardy of being lost (i.e., under conditions of group instability). However, because Experiments 1 and 2 did not include a stable leadership condition, those experi- ments leave open the possibility that merely assigning individuals to any position of leadership is sufficient to elicit the proximity effect. To address this limitation, we varied the stability of the group hierarchy in the present experiment, assigning some leaders to a position of unstable and revocable leadership and others to a position of stable and irrevocable leadership. (Participants as- signed to the control condition were again given equal authority over the task.) If proximity is a method through which threatened leaders seek to protect their position of power, then heightened

desire for proximity to the power threat should be found only within an unstable group hierarchy.

Second, although we hypothesize that leaders seek proximity to a skilled yet threatening group member in particular (to monitor the ingroup competitor), Experiments 1 and 2 leave open the possibility that leaders seek proximity to any ingroup member, threatening or not. Hence, in Experiment 3, we enlarged the size of the group by including a neutral, nonthreatening group member, enabling us to test whether leaders’ desire for proximity is specific to the skilled ingroup competitor. An additional enhancement of Experiment 3 was directly testing whether participants’ desire for proximity was mediated by their desire to monitor the skilled group member.

To measure desire for proximity, we gave participants the op- portunity to select one of three seating arrangements for the group task. The seating arrangements were designed to vary participants’ distance from and potential oversight over the other group mem- bers (see Figure 4). To indicate their selection, participants re- ported their desire to sit (a) closely to the threat and distant from the nonthreat, (b) closely to the nonthreat and distant from the threat, and (c) equidistant from each group member. Participants were led to believe that their ratings would determine which seating arrangement would be implemented for the entire group task. We hypothesized that assignment to a position of unstable power (but not stable power) would cause dominance-motivated individuals to seek proximity to the skilled yet threatening group member. As in Experiments 1 and 2, we expected this effect to be eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition.

Method

Participants and procedure. One hundred twenty-four stu- dents (60 women) participated in exchange for monetary compen-

Figure 3. Experiment 2: In the absence of intergroup competition (left panel), dominance motivation was positively associated with desire to work in the same room as the skilled partner, even though working independently was presented as the best strategy for maximizing group performance. This tendency was eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition (right panel). Higher numbers reflect heightened desire for proximity. Unstandardized regression coefficients reflect the slope of dominance motivation within each leadership condition. � p � .05.

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sation (€7). Participants were told the study was investigating group performance and that they would complete the study with two other participants, both of whom were ostensibly down the hall.

As in Experiments 1 and 2, participants began by completing the Dominance Motivation (� � .83, M � 3.46, SD � 0.59) and Prestige Motivation (� � .71, M � 3.51, SD � 0.53) subscales of the AMS (Cassidy & Lynn, 1989). These measures were signifi- cantly correlated, r(123) � .50, p � .001. After the computer ostensibly scored the “leadership measure,” participants were given their score as well as the scores of the two other group members. As in Experiments 1 and 2, participants across all conditions were informed they achieved the highest score on the leadership measure.

Participants randomly assigned to the stable and unstable lead- ership conditions were led to believe that, because of their high leadership score, they would serve as leader of the group task. The basic instructions given to leaders in the stable and unstable leadership conditions were identical to those in Experiments 1 and 2. However, in the present experiment, the instructions given to participants in the stable and unstable leadership conditions dif- fered in one important respect. Participants assigned to the unsta- ble leadership condition were told that the position of leader could be reassigned depending on everyone’s performance during the group task (as in the previous experiments). In contrast, partici- pants assigned to the stable leadership condition were told they would hold the position of leader throughout the entire experiment.

Participants in the control condition were also given positive feedback about their score. However, unlike the leadership condi- tions, participants in the control condition were informed that all group members would have equal authority over the group task and that the monetary rewards earned during the experiment would be split equally across group members.

Participants were then given information about the group task, which ostensibly consisted of building a Lego structure called a Tanagram (see Galinsky et al., 2003). The goal of the Tanagram task was to build the structure as quickly as possible. At this time, the presence of intergroup competition was manipulated. Partici- pants randomly assigned to the intergroup competition condition were told that their group would be competing against another group; whichever group built the best structure in the least amount

of time would win the competition. Those participants assigned to the no-competition condition were told that there was another group completing the task in a laboratory down the hall; there was no mention of any competition. (As in Experiments 1 and 2, receipt of monetary reward was not dependent upon winning the competition.) Thus, the experimental design was a 3 (unstable leadership vs. stable leadership vs. control) � 2 (intergroup com- petition vs. no competition) between-subjects factorial design.

Next, one of the two group members was framed as being highly skilled at the group task. As in Experiment 2, participants were asked to exchange a short message with their group members. After participants sent their message, they received a (fabricated) message from one ostensible group member stating that he or she had completed the Tanagram in a previous experiment and had performed exceptionally well on the task. This person could there- fore be seen as a threat to participants’ power (when power was unstable). Participants also received a (fabricated) message from the ostensible second group member stating that this individual had never before completed such a task.

The main dependent measure reflected participants’ desire to sit closely to the skilled group member. Under the guise that the experiment was investigating how different group formations in- fluence performance, participants were asked to express their preferences for three possible seating arrangements for the Tana- gram task (see Figure 4). They were led to believe that their preferences would determine which seating arrangement would be implemented for the group task. Desire to use each arrangement was indicated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (Not at all) to 7 (Very much so). The main dependent variable was participants’ preference for the seating arrangement in which they sat immedi- ately next to the skilled group member (see Figure 4, Panel 1).

To gain further insight into participants’ preferences, partici- pants provided open-ended responses as to why they rated the seating arrangements as they did. These responses were coded later by two independent raters (masked to condition and hypotheses) for the extent to which participants indicated (a) a desire to monitor and oversee the skilled group member (e.g., “This way I can keep close contact with Martin, distribute his knowledge to Sander, and generally oversee the task”); (b) a desire to cooperate with the other group members (e.g., “Because Martin has com- pleted the task before, he should sit at the head of the table. The

Figure 4. Experiment 3: To assess desired proximity to the highly skilled group member, participants were asked to state their preferences for three possible seating arrangements. They were led to believe their highest rated choice would be implemented for the duration of the group task. P � Participant; N � Neutral Partner; T � Threatening Partner.

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other two of us can learn from him and help where needed”); (c) a desire for equality (e.g., “This way no one in particular is leader; equal status is given to each group member”); and (d) a desire to help the group succeed (e.g., “This seating arrangement will help us build the Tanagram quickly because we can all look each other in the eyes and communicate openly”). Coders rated participants’ responses on each of these dimensions using a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (Not at all) to 7 (Very much so). Reliability between the two raters was good (ICCs � .78). The raters’ re- sponses were therefore averaged to form indices of (a) desire to monitor the skilled group member; (b) desire to cooperate with the other group members; (c) desire for equality; (d) desire to enhance group performance.

Results

Preliminary analyses. We examined preferences for each of the three seating arrangements across conditions using preliminary analyses. These analyses indicated that participants generally pre- ferred being equidistant from the two other group members (M � 5.27, SD � 1.51) rather than sitting next to the skilled group member (M � 3.41, SD � 1.70) or the neutral group member (M � 4.38, SD � 1.64).

Proximity to the skilled group member. In the present experiment, the primary hypotheses were that (a) being assigned to a position of unstable leadership (vs. stable leadership and equal authority) would increase participants’ desire to sit near the skilled group member; (b) this effect would be moderated by level of dominance motivation (i.e., more pronounced among those high in dominance motivation than those low in dominance motivation); (c) this effect would be eliminated by the presence of intergroup competition. As in Experiments 1 and 2, we did not expect level of prestige motivation to moderate participants’ responses.

To test these hypotheses, we regressed participants’ desire to sit next to the skilled group member on dominance motivation (cen- tered), prestige motivation (centered), leadership condition

(dummy coded to compare the unstable leadership condition with each of the other two conditions), intergroup competition condi- tion, and all two- and three-way interactions. See Table 1 for all regression results. Regardless of the comparison condition (i.e., stable leadership or control), unstable leadership interacted with dominance motivation (�s � �.31), ts(106) � 2.20, ps � .03. Moreover, as predicted, these effects were moderated by inter- group competition, that is, three-way interactions between unstable leadership (vs. stable leadership and vs. control), dominance mo- tivation, and intergroup competition (�s � .35), ts(106) � 2.38, ps � .02 (see Figure 5). We thus evaluated the two-way interaction between dominance motivation and unstable leadership in the presence versus absence of intergroup competition.

As predicted, in the absence of intergroup competition (see Figure 5, left panel), the interaction between unstable leadership and dominance motivation was significant, regardless of compar- ison condition (stable leadership or control condition; �s � �1.17), ts(106) � 3.23, ps � .01. Examining the effect of unstable leadership (vs. the other two conditions) among participants high and low in dominance motivation (1 SD above or below the mean) revealed results consistent with Experiments 1 and 2: Unstable leadership increased desire for proximity to the skilled group member among participants high in dominance motivation (�s � �.92), ts(106) � 2.83, ps � .01; partial rs � �.25; no effect was observed among individuals low in dominance motivation, ts(106) � 1.

Analyses examining the relationship between dominance and proximity within each leadership condition also yielded results consistent with predictions. In the absence of intergroup competi- tion, dominance was positively related to proximity in the unstable leadership condition (� � .96), t(106) � 2.65, p � .009; partial r � .24. In contrast, when leadership was stable and therefore not susceptible to threat from ingroup members, dominance was not related to proximity (� � �.69), t(106) � 1.41, p � .16; partial r � �.13. This was also the case among participants in the equal

Table 1 Results of Multiple Regression Analyses for Experiment 3

Variable

Desire to sit next to the skilled group member

� p Partial r

Dominance motivation .29 .08 .17 Prestige motivation �.14 .53 �.06 Intergroup competition vs. No competition �.26 .18 �.13 Unstable Leadership (UL) vs. Control (C) �.12 .31 �.19 Unstable Leadership vs. Stable Leadership (SL) �.22 .06 �.19 Dominance Motivation � UL vs. C �.32 .03 �.21 Dominance Motivation � UL vs. SL �.48 .002 �.30 Dominance Motivation � Competition �.61 .001 �.35 Prestige Motivation � UL vs. C .07 .65 .04 Prestige Motivation � UL vs. SL .18 .30 .10 Prestige Motivation � Competition .25 .22 .12 UL vs. C � Competition .17 .27 .11 UL vs. SL � Competition .06 .64 .05 Dominance Motivation � UL vs. C � Competition .45 .001 .30 Dominance Motivation � UL vs. SL � Competition .36 .02 .23 Prestige Motivation � UL vs. C � Competition �.11 .47 �.07 Prestige Motivation � UL vs. SL � Competition �.15 .38 �.09

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authority, control condition (� � �.42), t(106) � 1.16. Taken together, results indicate that leaders high in dominance motivation wanted to sit near the skilled group member, but only when their power was unstable and could be jeopardized by the skilled group member.

To gauge participants’ preference to sit next to the skilled group member, relative to the two other seating arrangements (sitting next to the neutral group member or sitting equidistant from both), we generated regression-estimated preferences for the three seat- ing patterns in the key condition (high-dominance participants with unstable leadership in the absence of intergroup competition). These analyses revealed that high-dominance leaders who were assigned to a position of unstable leadership overwhelmingly preferred to sit next to the skilled group member (6.71), relative to being seated next to the neutral group member (2.93) or sitting equidistant from both group members (3.77).

A very different pattern of results was observed in the presence of intergroup competition (see Figure 5, right panel). Dominance motivation did not interact with leadership condition (both �s � .59), ts(106) � 1.64, ps � .11. When participants expected to face a rival outgroup, assignment to an unstable leadership position had no effect on participants’ desire for proximity to the skilled group member; this was the case for both participants high in dominance motivation, ts(106) � 1.05, and participants low in dominance motivation, ts(106) � 1. Dominance was unrelated to desire for proximity in the stable leadership condition (� � �.19), t(106) � 1, and the control condition (� � �.12), t(106) � 1. However, dominance motivation was negatively associated with desire for

proximity in the unstable leadership condition (� � �.79), t(106) � 2.11, p � .04; partial r � �.19. Indeed, high-dominance participants assigned to a position of unstable leadership seemed to prefer to sit next to the neutral group member (4.94) or equidistant from both group members (4.64) rather than sit next to the skilled group member (1.38). Thus, although dominant participants re- sponded to unstable leadership by seeking proximity to the skilled group member in the absence of intergroup competition, the same did not hold true in the presence of intergroup competition. These results replicate the moderating effect of intergroup competition observed in Experiments 1 and 2.

Consistent with our theoretical framework and the results of Experiments 1 and 2, no effects were observed for individual differences in prestige motivation. Effects were moderated only by individual differences in dominance motivation. Additionally, an- cillary analyses confirmed that there were no significant differ- ences between the stable leadership condition and the control condition. Thus, consistent with theorizing, the pattern of results reflected an increased desire among high-dominance individuals to seek proximity to the talented ingroup member when they were assigned to a position of unstable leadership (not stable leadership) and only when intergroup rivalry was absent (not when intergroup rivalry was present).

Mediational analyses: Desire to monitor the skilled group member. As in Experiment 1, we conducted a mediated mod- eration analysis (Müller et al., 2005) to examine whether the observed pattern was mediated by participants’ desire to monitor and oversee the skilled group member. Participants’ open-ended

Figure 5. Experiment 3: In the absence of intergroup competition (left panel), dominance motivation was positively associated with desire for proximity to the skilled yet threatening group member, but only when participants were given a position of unstable power. This tendency was reversed by the presence of intergroup competition (right panel). Higher numbers reflect heightened desire for proximity to the skilled group member. Unstandardized regression coefficients reflect the slope of dominance motivation within each leadership condition. � p � .05. �� p � .01.

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