To deliver a sound description of the sample, a set of demographic information was gathered. Demographic indices are known to potentially account for variance when rating performance. Those details are especially valuable if the study is conducted in a specific context (Johns, 2001, p. 39).
General information was retrieved for industry and size of the corporation. Leaders were further requested to indicate the business unit they were operating in. Leaders were asked for gender, age, leadership experience, educational background, hierarchy level, and functional area. Besides, this study controlled for gender, age, and tenure with leader by direct reports since those are typically expected to be influential in behavioral research (Johnson et al., 2009). Leadership experience was recognized as determinant of leader behavior in previous investigations (e.g., Brown & Fields, 2011). Tenure with leader was often deployed in prior distance leadership research as it might account for variance in work-related follower outcomes (Avolio et al., 2004; Kacmar et al., 2003; Neufeld et al., 2010). Potentially accounting for significant effects, those variables have been frequently incorporated into recent studies (e.g., Avolio et al., 2004; Furtner et al., 2013; Joshi et al., 2009; Kacmar et al., 2003; Mayer et al., 2008; Schaubroeck et al., 2011). Leaders were furthermore asked to indicate their educational background. Here, individuals pointed out if they had either received education in (1) technical/engineering, (2) business administration/economic, (3) both, technical and economic or (4) other disciplines. When the last option was checked, study participants could insert their area of study in an open text field.
Hierarchy level was mentioned to be contributing to structural distance (Antonakis & Atwater, 2002). Avolio and team (2004) operationalized hierarchy level by asking respondents to indicate their level of hierarchy within the organization on a five-point Likert scale ranging from low, low-medium, medium, medium-high to high. Predicting a hierarchy score by calculating the difference between the hierarchy level of leader and follower, Cole and colleagues (2009) declared this to contribute to social distance. This measure could not be estimated in the present research as leaders had the instruction to forward the survey link to their direct reports only. Thus, each hierarchy score would have been equal to one. Instead, hierarchy was analyzed from leaders’ perspectives. When assessing hierarchy in various international corporations, particular attention was paid to differences in level descriptions. Various answer options were given to reply to the question “Which functional area are you working in?”.