Leader Apology: A Consideration of Attribution of Blame and Leader Gender

Open Access
Coleman, Kelly
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Samuel Todd Hunter, Thesis Supervisor
  • Greg Edward Loviscky, Honors Advisor
  • leader error
  • leader error recovery
  • leader apology
Error recovery is an emerging area of study in the leadership literature. Given its recency, researchers are far from identifying a set of responses for leaders to use. A somewhat obvious strategy that has gathered attention is an apology. Unfortunately, studies examining the effectiveness of an apology have yielded conflicted findings (Cushenberry, 2010; Walfisch, Van Dijk & Kark, 2013). In addition, apology effectiveness has inadequately been conceptualized in terms of whether an apology has been given or not (Fehr & Gelfand, 2010). Adding to the lack of nuance, the impact of leader gender has not been considered, despite research suggesting variations in status and expectations of leaders across gender (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Ridgeway, 2001). The current study aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of apologies by investigating the impact of attribution of blame and leader gender on follower perceptions of leader competence. Major findings include (1) leader error had a negative impact on follower perceptions of leader competence, (2) leader apology (following leader task error) was positively related to leader competence ratings (3) internal apologies led to higher ratings of leader competence than external apologies, (4) there was not significant effect of gender on conditions, and (5) there was no significant interaction between gender and apology.