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Host country employees’ negative perceptions of successive expatriate leadership: the role of leadership transference and implicit leadership theories

Sylwia Ciuk (Oxford Brookes Business School, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)
Doris Schedlitzki (Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 13 October 2021

Issue publication date: 8 February 2022




Drawing on socio-cognitively orientated leadership studies, this paper aims to contribute to our understanding of host country employees’ (HCEs) negative perceptions of successive expatriate leadership by exploring how their memories of shared past experiences affect these perceptions. Contrary to previous work which tends to focus on HCEs’ attitudes towards individual expatriates, the authors shift attention to successive executive expatriate assignments within a single subsidiary.


The paper is based on an intrinsic case study carried out in a Polish subsidiary of an American multinational pharmaceutical company which had been managed by four successive expatriate General Managers and one local executive. The authors draw on interview data with 40 HCEs. Twenty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff who had been managed by at least three of the subsidiary’s expatriate leaders.


The authors demonstrate how transference triggered by past experiences with expatriate leaders as well as HCEs’ implicit leadership theories affect HCEs’ negative perceptions of expatriate leadership and lead to the emergence of expatriate leadership schema.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that explores the role of transference and implicit leadership theories in HCEs’ perceptions of successive executive expatriate assignments. By focussing on retrospective accounts of HCEs who had been managed by a series of successive expatriate leaders, our study has generated a more nuanced and contextualised understanding of the role of HCEs’ shared past experiences in shaping their perceptions of expatriate leadership. The authors propose a new concept – expatriate leadership schema – which describes HCEs’ cognitive structures, developed during past experiences with successive expatriate leaders, which specify what HCEs believe expatriate leadership to look like and what they expect from it.



The authors would like to thank Martyna Śliwa and Anne-Wil Harzing for their comments on the earlier version of the manuscript and well as the two anonymous reviewers and the Associate Editor for their help in developing our paper.


Ciuk, S. and Schedlitzki, D. (2022), "Host country employees’ negative perceptions of successive expatriate leadership: the role of leadership transference and implicit leadership theories", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 80-104.



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