Focusing on the gender of emergent leaders in initially leaderless groups, we explore contextual factors that may influence when women are likely to emerge as leaders. We take a multi-level perspective to understand and unpack the complex interplay between individual gender, group gender composition, and group personality composition. Drawing from perspectives such as social role theory and the social identity model of leadership, we theorize as to when women are most likely to emerge as leaders, even in groups composed predominantly of men. Results from two studies indicated that individual level gender does not interact with group gender composition to predict leadership emergence, suggesting that groups with more men do not disproportionally choose men as leaders, and groups with more women similarly do not tend to have women emerge as leaders. However, a three-way interaction consistently appeared in our studies when group-level extraversion was added to individual and group gender, in a pattern suggesting that group extraversion alters leader emergence patterns in groups with more men. Our findings demonstrate that women become more likely to emerge as leaders when their groups are both high in extraversion, and composed of more men than women. Implications for practice and future research directions are discussed.
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