“Back to School: How CEO Early Life Exposure to Religiosity Affects Firm Innovation” by Dr. Yi Tang
Management and Strategy Seminar
Dr. Yi Tang
Department of Management, School of Business
Hong Kong Baptist University
Recent research has shown that a CEO's early life experiences have an influence on his or her decision-making as an executive later on. Our study extends this emerging stream of research by examining how CEOs' early life exposure to religiosity affects the innovation performance of the firms they subsequently manage. We argue that as a result of exposure to a religious culture at a relatively young age, CEOs who have attended a religious school develop a more risk-averse mentality. This carries over to their professional life when they are in a top management position, and it leads to reduced investments in risky projects and ultimately a lower level of firm innovation. Using a sample of firms covered in BoardEx and data from schools during the period 1976-2006, we find that firms managed by CEOs who attended a religious school in their youth tend to perform worse on innovation. The effect is stronger when the CEO attended a religious school at a younger age, when the school has a longer history, when his/her firm has multiple board directors with a religious education and/or his/her firm is headquartered in a religious community. We discuss the implications of our study for the strategic leadership literature and firm innovation research.