Does the Congruence Between Leaders’ Implicit Followership Theories and Their Perceptions of Actual Followers Matter?

Abstract

We investigated whether the congruence between (a) a leader’s perceptions of an actual follower and (b) that leader’s implicit perception of a generalized follower (leaders’ implicit followership theory, IFT), both measured at Time 1, would predict five outcomes measured 10 weeks later at Time 2. These included four outcomes assessed by leaders (leader-member exchange, perceptions of followers’ in-role performance, followers’ organizational citizenship behaviors, and followers’ counterproductive work behaviors) and two outcomes assessed by followers (leader-member exchange and abusive supervision). Polynomial regressions based on 230 workplace leader-follower dyads supported most of the hypotheses. Supporting follower categorization theory, we found that the congruence line between leaders’ positive IFTs (positive expectations) and their positive perceptions about an actual follower was positively related to leader- and follower-rated leader-member exchange and leader-rated in-role performance. As a result, we recommend training programs in IFTs for both leaders and followers to educate them about composition of IFTs, to raise awareness regarding how IFTs are compared to actual followers, and to inform followers about how this comparison affects leaders’ assessment of followers.

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Correspondence to Ashita Goswami.

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Goswami, A., In Park, H. & Beehr, T.A. Does the Congruence Between Leaders’ Implicit Followership Theories and Their Perceptions of Actual Followers Matter?. J Bus Psychol 35, 519–538 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-019-09638-7

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Keywords

  • Implicit followership
  • Follower categorization
  • Leader-member exchange
  • Abusive supervision
  • Performance
  • OCB
  • CWB
  • Polynomial regression