Second-order effects of CEO characteristics: How rivals' perceptions of CEOs as submissive and provocative precipitate competitive attacks

Aaron D. Hill, Tessa Recendes, Jason W. Ridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Research Summary: Integrating victimization into competitive dynamics and upper echelons theorizing, we develop and test theory articulating how rivals' perceptions of a CEO precipitate attacks on the CEO's firm. Rather than treating CEOs' characteristics solely as perpetrating action (a first-order effect, like research integrating upper echelons into competitive dynamics), we argue firms with CEOs possessing characteristics perceived as more submissive or more provocative are subject to more competitive actions directed toward their firms (a second-order effect, like victimization research). Empirical analyses of a sample of Fortune 500 CEOs supports our theorizing while interviews of executives corroborate our premise as well. Our framework offers a more complete and socialized understanding of CEOs' roles in competitive dynamics, providing both theoretical and practical insights as well as future research avenues. Managerial Summary: We articulate how CEOs possessing certain psychological, behavioral, and social characteristics may unknowingly precipitate competitive attacks on their firms. Our explanation integrates insights from victimology which explain how individuals are subject to more attacks if they possess characteristics others perceive as more submissive or more provocative. While prior research articulates that CEOs' characteristics affect decisions such as attacking rivals, integrating theories of victimization into this line of inquiry paints a more socialized view of why firms may be subject to competitive attacks as well. The logic and evidence we provide advances theoretical explanations of firms' competitive behaviors and executives' roles therein. At the same time, providing knowledge about how CEO characteristics precipitate competitive actions toward their firms can aid in prevention and intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-835
Number of pages27
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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