Associate Professor of Strategy
Decision Making; Leadership; Strategy, Behavior;
Mortality salience—the awareness of the inevitability of death—is often traumatic. However, it can also be associated with a range of positive, self-transcendent cognitive responses, such as a greater desire to help others, contribute to society, and make a more meaningful contribution in one’s life and career. In this study, the authors provide evidence of a link between chief executive officer (CEO) mortality salience—triggered by the death of a director at the same firm—and a subsequent increase in firm-level prosocial behavior or corporate social responsibility (CSR). They further show that this core relationship is amplified in situations where the death of the director is likely to have been especially salient (i.e., the director was appointed within the CEO’s tenure, or the death was sudden/expected). In supplementary analyses, they find suggestive evidence of increased CEO prosociality in other professional domains as well as evidence that prosociality seems to be preferentially directed toward ingroups.