Towards a Relational and Dynamic Perspective of Leadership
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This dissertation is composed of three manuscripts, all of which focus on the role of followers in leadership. Manuscript 1 investigates followers’ preferences for leader characteristics. Guided by social identity theory and the similarity-attraction paradigm, followers’ preferences were examined using a vignette-type approach. The results show that follower self-worth moderated the relationship between leader-follower similarity and follower preference for leader characteristics. Under conditions of low self-worth, followers preferred leaders whose characteristics were opposite from their own; conversely, under conditions of high self-worth, followers preferred leaders whose characteristics were similar to their own. Despite the importance of leaders, attention is drawn towards followers’ cognitions about themselves. Manuscript 2 argues that followers are equal exchange partners with their leaders, thus actively contributing to the nature of their relationships with their leader. Consistent with social exchange theory, there was a significant relationship between followers’ pro-social behaviors associated with secure attachment style and conscientiousness and leaders’ pro-social behaviors such as helping and trust. In addition, anti-social follower behaviors begat anti-social leader behaviors; followers’ fearful attachment style predicted abusive supervisory behaviors. These findings contrast leader-centric notions, and they emphasize that followers can participate in determining the nature of their relationships with leaders. Manuscript 3 evaluates bidirectional influence between leaders and followers on three work values: humanistic beliefs, organizational beliefs, and work ethic. Although there was no support for upward influence, the short-term nature of the study may have limited the opportunity for sequential bidirectional influence to occur. There was, however, a significant downward influence upon followers’ organizational beliefs. These results suggest that leader influence may be particularly effective, or followers may be particularly vulnerable to leader influence on some dimensions (e.g., the importance of the collective) versus others (e.g., individualism at work, and the extent to which work fulfills people). Finally, in the general discussion, directions for future research are discussed.