Professor of Strategy
Executive Behaviour; IAF 08/09; IAF 2520443; Corporate Governance; Board Process and Remuneration at the Top ;
Scholars have studied how the social associations of corporate executives affect their access to information and their decisions. The entire focus, however, has been on lateral peer-to-peer associations. Prior research has not addressed vertical associations, or the idea that interaction with peer elites yields different perceptions and behaviors than does interaction with parties of lower social status.In this paper, the authors introduce and develop the concept of elitist association, which they define as a stable behavioral pattern of some corporate executives by which they engage nearly exclusively in associations with other elites while minimizing or even entirely avoiding associations with non-elites.The authors propose several individual-level antecedents to explain why some executives engage in this behavior more than others. The authors then discuss the effects of elitist association on executives' access to information, empathy, and social comparison processes — all of which affect their decisions and organizations.Finally, the authors consider implications for theory as well as for practical affairs.