Visionary leadership and the pursuit of organizational visions

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal


Prominent organizational achievements are often credited to leaders who articulate a compelling future vision, as seen with figures like Bill Gates and John F. Kennedy. Visionary leadership, the verbal communication of a future image of a collective to inspire contributions to its realization (Stam et al., 2014), is not only crucial for motivating action but also defines the essence of leadership. While various modern leadership theories recognize the importance of conveying a shared future goal, visionary leadership stands out for its direct focus on this aspect of leadership effectiveness (Stam et al., 2014; van Knippenberg & Sitkin, 2013). An increasing volume of robust evidence in visionary leadership research highlights the significant role of leaders' vision communication in shaping individual employee states, overall behavior, and organisational performance (Stam et al., in press). For instance, studies demonstrated the primary effects on individual follower states, such as Carton's (2018) case study on NASA leaders linking organizational aspirations with meaningful daily work. Also, various studies explored the relationship between visionary leadership and overall performance outcomes, including but not limited to Bataineh and Saleh's (2021) study on visionary leadership in hospitals and Naidoo's (2016) work on manipulating vision communication content to positively influence creative behaviors. Research on visionary leadership extends beyond its main effects to explore moderators, enriching our understanding of when leaders' vision communication influences outcomes. Existing studies have primarily focused on three types of moderators: source, follower, and task-context moderators. Source moderators, such as Ateş et al. (2020) and Greer et al. (2012), investigate the impact of leader characteristics on the influence of visionary leadership on team commitment and team diversity. Follower moderators, exemplified by Luo et al. (2020) and Zhou et al. (2018), delved into the influence of follower power orientation and performance orientation on the impact of visionary leadership on organizational citizenship behavior and member creativity. Task-context moderators, like those explored by Kelemen et al. (2019), examined the impact of team gender and tenure diversity on the connection between follower-rated visionary leadership and creativity. Stam et al. (2018) contributed insights into the role of regulatory focus in vision
communication in the effectiveness of visionary leadership in times of crisis. However, there is a lack of understanding regarding attributes associated with vision that can shape the subjective legitimacy of the persuasive appeal in vision communication, thereby moderating the effectiveness of visionary leadership. This spectrum may range from extreme cases where an organization is perceived as lacking legitimacy due to discrepancy between external corporate vision and internal visionary leadership to more moderate instances where leaders holding
positions lower within the organizational hierarchy may have less legitimacy when speaking about the organizational vision. Alternatively, a more positively framed situation may suggest that increased organizational resources can enhance the motivation of employees to fully pursue the vision by increasing the legitimacy of organizational visionary leadership. To address this issue, in this dissertation, I delve into an exploration of visionary leadership, specifically focusing on understanding the factors that can influence the subjective legitimacy of its persuasive appeal. Across three empirical chapters, I investigate factors that could impact the subjective legitimacy (as perceived by followers) of visionary leadership: i) the position of the visionary leader within the organizational hierarchy, potentially influencing the legitimacy of vision communication (Chapter 2), ii) the (mis)alignment between external and internal vision communication, (de)legitimizing the organization’s visionary leadership in the eyes of followers (Chapter 3), and iii) the allocation of resources by the organization for the pursuit of the vision, potentially legitimizing the organization’s vision communication (Chapter 4). To address these questions, this dissertation offers three separate empirical chapters relying on various methodologies such as field studies, archival studies, and quantitative content analyses. In Chapter 2, I demonstrate how the effectiveness of visionary leadership is negatively influenced when exhibited by leaders holding positions lower within the organizational hierarchy, potentially perceived as illegitimate actors speaking on behalf of the entire organization. In Chapter 3, I show that the misalignment between external and internal communications of the vision can result in negative consequences for both individual and organizational outcomes in the pursuit of the vision, as the misalignment potentially undermines the legitimacy of organizations’ vision communication. In Chapter 4, I demonstrate that organizationalr esources dedicated to the vision pursuit can significantly enhance the effectiveness of visionary leadership, by potentially legitimizing the organization’s articulation of the vision. By examining these factors, this dissertation aims to provide insights into the factors influencing the effectiveness of visionary leadership, contributing to a better understanding of its impact on individual, team, and organizational
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • van Knippenberg, Daan, Supervisor
  • Hoever, Inga, Co-supervisor
Award date6 Jun 2024
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Print ISBNs978-90-5892-696-8
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2024


  • ERIM PhD Series Research in Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Visionary leadership and the pursuit of organizational visions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this