What is it about?

We introduce the idea that those who bend rules – that is, find a way around a rule without technically breaking it – are more appealing as leaders than those who break rules. We demonstrate that people who bend rules are seen as both dominant and prestigious, which makes them attractive as leaders in both cooperative and competitive settings.

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Why is it important?

Rules play a crucial role in creating and maintaining well-functioning societies. However, people differ in how they deal with rules and regulations, which in turn affects how others evaluate them and respond to them. Even though one might assume that individuals prefer others who abide by the rules, there is quite some empirical and anecdotal evidence that people respond quite positively towards those who do not follow the rules. We tried to understand whether rule bending would be seen as attractive to observers, especially when judging the bender's leadership potential. We show that especially in (organizational) contexts that have competitive characteristics (e.g., finance), people might see rule benders as having leadership potential, as rule benders are seen as both prestigious and dominant. Given that leaders have significant influence on the behaviors of others, this could lead their followers to also start bending the rules. Given that not following the rules might be detrimental to (organizational) life, understanding how individuals respond to rule benders could help organizations to be more sensitive to rule bending behaviors.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Better to bend than to break? Effects of rule behavior on dominance, prestige, and leadership granting., Journal of Experimental Psychology Applied, December 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xap0000502.
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