Since humanity’s first steps, individuals have used nonverbal cues to communicate and infer leadership, such as walking ahead of others. Menon et al., (2010) showed that the use of spatial ordering as cue to leadership differs across cultures: Singaporeans were more likely than Americans to represent leaders behind rather than in front of groups. Furthermore, they showed that threat priming increases the representation of leaders at the back. We replicate and extend these findings. We draw on cultural tightness theory to explain variability in mental representations of leadership, advance the spatial precedence hypothesis that leaders are generally represented in the front, use a large cross-cultural sample to compare different cultural dimensions, and employ alternative operationalizations of threat. We show that leaders are generally represented in frontal spatial positions across 25 countries and in different types of teams. We also find that cultural tightness and ecological threat (pandemic, warfare, and predation) lead people to represent leaders at the back (Studies 1-5). Mediational models show that ecological threat triggers greater desire for tightness and norm-enforcing leaders, which in turn leads people to represent leaders at the back (Study 4). Likewise, in tightly regulated work-teams, leaders are thought of as being seated at the office’s back desk (Study 5). Thus, we converge with Menon et al. that different cultures have different mental representations of leaders and individuals who face threats show greater preference for leaders at the back. Additionally, we demonstrate that cultural tightness is the key cultural predictor of mental representations of leadership.