More than meets the eye: The role of subordinates' self-perceptions in leader categorization processes

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Abstract

Abstract: Leader categorization theory suggests that subordinates implicitly compare their leaders with a cognitively represented ideal image of a leader, i.e., an ideal leader prototype. The better the match, the more favorable subordinates'' attitudes toward their leaders will be. We suggest, however, that subordinates not only perceive their leaders against the backdrop of a leader prototype but also themselves. Based on socio-cognitive research, we hypothesize that these self-perceptions in turn should lend more weight to the leader prototype as a benchmark. Three field studies with employees (N =87; N =265; N =385) were undertaken to test our hypothesis. Results confirm that subordinates'' perceptions of their leaders against an ideal leader prototype are related to subordinates'' respect for their leaders and leadership effectiveness perceptions, and that these relationships are moderated by subordinates'' self-perceptions against the ideal leader prototype. This study therefore extends current follower-centric perspectives on leadership and strengthens its ties with fundamental socio-cognitive research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-382
Number of pages16
JournalThe Leadership Quarterly
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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