How I See Me Affects How I See the Boss

Topic: Leadership, Human Resources
Publication: The Leadership Quarterly (APR 2011)
Article: More than meets the eye: The role of subordinates’ self-perceptions in leader categorization processes
Authors: van Quaquebeke, N., van Knippenberg, D., Brodbeck, F. C.
Reviewed by: Chelsea Rowe

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, Quaquebeke, van Knippenberg, and 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 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.

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. An employee’s ideas about their own abilities as a potential leader not only impact the qualities he or she values in a leader but also how important he or she finds certain attributes. For example, an employee who thinks that being an effective bargainer is crucial to strong leadership within his or her company is likely to find it more important if he or she thinks it’s a personal strength. Likewise, traits that an employee does 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 him or her.

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 you become among your 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.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management