Expat or citizen? Raising the question of a potential impact of status on leader behavior

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International Journal of Organizational Analysis


© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the concept that expatriate status, as opposed to national citizen status, may impact leader behavior. The intention is not to pursue a research question carved out from the expatriation and leadership research streams but rather to raise the issue of non-citizenship status as potentially moderating leader behavior. Design/methodology/approach: The authors used grounded theory methodology, including interviews to gather data on the behavior of non-citizen leaders in the UAE. The resulting 28 interview transcripts were analyzed using inductive coding to arrive at aggregate theoretical dimensions. Findings: Their findings reveal a keen tendency among expatriate leaders to display organizational legitimacy by remaining sedulously within established organizational schemata and monitoring employees closely. Research limitations/implications: The study asks, rather than answers, a question and does not use an established theoretical framework, as its area of concern is not one that fits solely within the literatures on expatriation, international business, leadership, cross-cultural management or national citizenship. Furthermore, the context in which they conduct our investigation is the UAE whose workforce has a disproportionately high number of expatriates. Although this serves as a convenient context in which to study the rising occurrence of non-citizen leaders due to increased professional migration, the issue may be more meaningfully tested in geopolitical contexts with typical expatriate–citizen workforce ratios. Originality/value: The central theoretical contribution of this preliminary study is to provide initial empirical evidence suggesting that the hitherto-ignored variable of national citizenship may be a significant one to address given increasing professional global migration.

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