Building on theories of person-environment fit and on the pattern approach, we hypothesized that emergent leaders in multicultural teams score higher than non-leaders in terms of the three global characteristics, of cultural intelligence, global identity and openness to cultural diversity. We tested this hypothesis on a sample of 317 MBA students who worked on a four-week joint project in virtual multicultural teams. Employing logistic regression analysis, the results revealed that individuals who scored high on the above three global characteristics were significantly more likely to emerge as leaders than were other team members.
This study takes a global focus rather than a cross-cultural focus as it examines the global characteristics of emergent leaders on multicultural teams. These characteristics – cultural intelligence, global identity and openness to diversity – enable the global leader to better navigate the team in the global context. These qualities, as they are reflected in the way this person interacts with others on the multicultural team, influence team members to elect this person as their leader. Consistent with the person-environment fit approach, we demonstrate that the likelihood of emerging as a leader is significantly higher for team members with global characteristics that fit the global context. Our study also highlights the strong predictive power of the pattern approach compared to the predictive power of independent traits. Finally, this study has practical applications when selecting and training global leaders and global members.