First, list qualities that describe your current boss. Now, list the qualities that make a great leader or boss. This latter list represents your “ideal leader prototype.” This comparison to leader prototypes is a major premise of the Implicit Leadership Theory (ILT), whereby the degree to which a leader does (or does not) match up with our prototype forms the basis of how we rate that leader’s performance.
In a study of German employees, the researchers (van Quaquebeke, van Knippenberg, & Brodbed, 2011) investigated the degree to which employee self-perceptions influenced their level of respect for their leaders and how they rated their leader’s effectiveness. Employees were asked to indicate how well their leader matched up with their ideal leader prototype and then compared themselves to that prototype. They also evaluated how these factors influenced employees’ respect for their leaders.
WHAT INFLUENCES THE EVALUATION OF LEADERS?
It turns out that an employee’s opinion about a leader’s performance is influenced by more than just how much that leader stacks up against an employee’s ideal leader prototype. Employees’ evaluations of their own abilities as potential leaders impact the qualities they value in a leader, as well as the importance of these qualities. For example, employees who think that being an effective negotiator is crucial to strong leadership within their company are likely to find it more important if they also think it’s a personal strength of theirs. Likewise, traits that employees do not strongly possess are likely less important to them when considering managerial effectiveness. Finally, when employees felt that their own ability to lead matched with their manager’s leadership skills, they expressed more respect for the manager.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Before bringing in new leadership, companies might consider the employee culture and get a feel for what they value in a leader. This input can inform a hiring decision for leadership and help smoothen the transition into that role. Furthermore, new managers who know what their employees are looking for in a leader can focus on developing and exerting those known valued leadership skills. Understanding these valued attributes and responding accordingly may influence how liked or disliked leaders become among their employees.
van Quaquebeke, N., van Knippenberg, D., Brodbeck, F. C. (2011). More than meets the eye: The role of subordinates’ self-perceptions in leader categorization processes. The Leadership Quarterly. 22 (2). 367-382.