A promising recent development in the leadership field is the description of leadership processes as a dynamic interaction between leaders and followers (Riggio, Chaleff, &Lipman-Blumen, 2008; Shamir, Pillai, Bligh, &Uhl-Bien, 2006), with followers being seen as “co-producers of leadership” (Shamir, 2007). From this perspective, followers play an important role in the leadership process by either eliciting different behaviors from leaders or perceiving the same leadership behaviors differently. Likewise, in the transformational leadership paradigm, leadership perception is viewed as implicit in nature and is based on the information processing of an individual which may differ across organizational members (Yammarino et al., 1998; Yammarino& Dubinsky, 1994). Consequently, theories of follower information processing offer one framework for addressing differences in reactions to transformational leaders. For example, implicit leadership theories provide a lens through which followers view and respond to leaders (Lord & Maher, 1991; Shondrick, Dihn, & Lord, 2010). Briefly, followers recognize individuals as leaders when they are perceived to match follower’s implicit theories of what leaders are or should be. Thus, implicit leadership theories provide structure tocognitions regarding leadership and consist of traits, such as sensitivity, dedication, decisiveness, and intelligence, typically associated with the word “leader” (Epitropaki& Martin, 2004; Offerman et al., 1994; Lord et al., 1984). Implicit theories can be thought of as cognitive categories that have poorly defined boundaries but have a clearly defined core that is labeled aprototype. Implicit leadership
theories also have implications for leadership ratings as they can bias information processing including selective perception, selective recall, and recall of schema consistent information where it doesn’t exist (Lord & Maher, 1991; Lord et al., 1984; Rush, Thomas, & Lord, 1977).
The characterization of transformational leadership as an ideal leadership prototype (e.g., Bass, 1990) suggests the value of applying an information processing perspective to transformational leadership. Although Bass argued that an ideal leadership prototype would universally appeal to followers, there is evidence that suggests that leadership prototypes vary based on individual differences (Foti, Bray, Thompson, &Allgood, 2012; Brown, Scott, & Lewis, 2004; Keller, 1999). Moreover, it is possible that individuals who hold implicit leadership theories that are consistent with transformational leadership may be predisposed to view leaders as transformational. To that end, three studies were conducted to examine the relationship between individual differences, such as implicit leadership theories and personality characteristics, and 1) the appeal of the transformational leadership prototype, 2) the impact of individual differences on ratings of transformational leadership, and 3) how affect impacts the relationship between individual differences and ratings of transformational leadership. The results indicate that transformational leadership appealed more strongly to individuals who implicit leadership theories and personality were consistent with the transformational prototype. Furthermore, although both implicit leadership theories and personality characteristics impacted ratings of transformational leadership, ratings of transformational leadership seem to be driven primarily by affective variables.
Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass &Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerialapplications (3rd edition). New York: The Free Press.
Brown, D. J., Scott, K. A., & Lewis, H. (2004). Information processing and leadership. In J. Antonakis, A. T. Cianciolo& R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp.125-147). London: Sage Publications.
Epitropaki, O. & Martin, R. (2004). Implicit leadership theories in applied settings: factor structure, generalizability, and stability over time. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 293-310.
Foti, R. J., Bray, B. C., Thompson, N. J. &Allgood, S. F. 2012. Know thy self, know thy leader: Contributions of a pattern-oriented approach to examining leader perceptions. Leadership Quarterly, 23, 702-717.
Keller, T. (1999). Images of the familiar: Individual differences and implicit leadership theories. Leadership Quarterly, 10, 589-607.
Lord, R. G., Foti, R. J., & De Vader, C. L. (1984). A test of leadership categorization theory: internal structure, information processing, and leadership perceptions. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 34, 343-378. Lord, R. G., & Maher, K. J. (1991). Leadership and information processing: Linking perceptionsand performance. Boston: Routledge.
Offerman, L. R., Kennedy, J. K., &Wirtz, P. W. (1994). Implicit leadership theories: Content, structure and generalizability. Leadership Quarterly, 5, 43-58.
Riggio, R. E., Chaleff, I., &Lipmen-Blumen, J. (Eds.) (2008). The art of followership: Howgreat followers create great leaders and organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Rush, M. C., Thomas, J. C., & Lord, R. G. (1977). Implicit leadership theory: A potential threat to the internal validity of leader behavior questionnaires. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 20, 93-110.
Shamir, B. (2007), Introduction: From passive recipients to active co-producers – The roles of followers in theleadership process. In Shamir, B., Pillai, R., Bligh, M., &Uhl-Bien, M. (Eds).Follower-centered perspectives on leadership: A tribute to James R. Meindl. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Shamir, B., Pillai, R., Bligh, M. C., &Uhl-Bien, M. (Eds.). (2006). Follower-centered perspectives on leadership:A tribute to the memory of James R. Meindl. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Shondrick, S. J., Dinh. J. E.,& Lord, R. G. (2010). Developments in implicit leadership theory and cognitive science: Applications to improving measurement and understanding alternatives to hierarchical leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 21 (6), 959-978.
Yammarino, F.J. & Dubinsky, A. J. 1994. Transformational leadership theory: Using levels of analysis to determine boundary conditions. Personnel Psychology, 47, 787-811.
Yammarino, F. J., Dubinsky, A. J., & Spangler, W. D. 1998. Transformational and contingent reward leadership: Individual, dyad and group levels of analysis. LeadershipQuarterly,9, 27-54.