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Nationality diversity and leader–Member exchange at multiple levels of analysis: Test of a cross-level model

Shaun Pichler (Department of Management, California State University, Fullerton, California, USA)
Beth Livingston (Department of Management, Henry B. Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA)
Andrew Yu (Department of Management, Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Arup Varma (Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Pawan Budhwar (Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK)
Arti Shukla (Imdaad LLC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 15 January 2019

Issue publication date: 8 February 2019




The diversity literature has yet to investigate relationships between diversity and leader–member exchanges (LMX) at multiple levels of analysis. The purpose of this paper is to test a multilevel model of nationality diversity and LMX. In doing so, the authors investigate the role of surface- and deep-level diversity as related to leader–member exchange differentiation (LMXD) and relative LMX (RLMX), and hence to subordinate job performance.


The authors test a multilevel model of diversity and LMX using multisource survey data from subordinates nesting within supervisors. The authors do so in a context where diversity in nationality is pervasive and plays a key role in LMXs, i.e., a multinational organization in Dubai. The authors tested the cross-level moderated model using MPlus.


The results suggest surface-level similarity is more important to RLMX than deep-level similarity. The relationship between surface-level similarity and RLMX is moderated by workgroup nationality diversity. When workgroups are more diverse, there is a positive relationship between dyadic nationality similarity and RLMX; when workgroups are less diverse, similarity in nationality matters less. Moreover, LMXD at the workgroup level moderates the relationship between RLMX and performance at the individual level.


This study is one of very few to examine both diversity and LMX at multiple levels of analysis. This is the first study to test the workgroup diversity as a cross-level moderator of the relationship between deep-level similarity and LMX. The results challenge the prevailing notion that that deep-level similarity is more strongly related to LMX than surface-level diversity.



Pichler, S., Livingston, B., Yu, A., Varma, A., Budhwar, P. and Shukla, A. (2019), "Nationality diversity and leader–Member exchange at multiple levels of analysis: Test of a cross-level model", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 20-39.



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