In progress (Substitutes for) Leadership: A Followers's Perspective



This research project focuses on how leadership and substitutes of leadership affect the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of subordinates. By emphasising interplays between specific leadership approaches, both constructive and destructive, and motivational concepts (e.g. intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation), we aim to elucidate the mechanisms that make subordinates behave the way they do, and thus find answers to the question “how can we make employees behave more effectively?”. Through these efforts, contributions could be made to the current understandings and literature on leadership and follower behaviours.


(substitutes for) leadership; remuneration methods; (self-) motivation; employee behaviour

Time frame

2015 - 2019


Companies can increasingly achieve a competitive advantage through their human capital – the people working and the company and the knowledge, information, and expertise they represent. High-quality performance in knowledge-intensive work relies greatly on people’s ability to contribute their expertise, insights, and ideas to collaborative team efforts. This holds the challenge of effectively motivating diverse groups of people to collaborate for collective objectives and to integrate their diverse expertise and insights to reach more innovative, higher-quality products and services. With growing diversity and reliance on cross-national collaborations, this also increasingly includes the ability to bridge gaps in understanding and experience to achieve effective collaboration and synergy. Most notably is the renewed interest in leadership for the flourishing for modern-day organizations and the people within it. All of this renders an understanding of the factors influencing the motivation, collaboration, and performance of people at work of growing importance to business success and building sustainable business. The influence of such factors is the domain of study of organizational behavior and human resource management – the study of individuals and groups at work, and of how to manage them. In studying these influences, the project supervisors (Dr. Steffen Giessner, Dr. Dirk van Dierendonck, and Prof. Dr. Daan van Knippenberg) highlight the role of leadership and team work in the performance and wellbeing of individuals and teams. The research group is looking for a PhD candidate in organizational behavior and human resource management to be part of this program of research. The specific focus of the project will be determined in collaboration with the supervising faculty, but the expectation is that the focus would be aligned with their core expertise. The following outlines issues that could provide fruitful jumping-off points for the project.

For leadership research, the key question is what makes leaders effective in mobilizing and motivating followers. For today’s organizations with a focus on knowledge-intensive work by professionals, this puts such issues on the agenda as leadership to coach and develop employees’ proactive engagement with work challenges and to foster creativity and innovation. At the same time, it includes challenges in building commitment to a shared vision to motivate collaborative efforts even when employees’ have a great degree of autonomy, and challenges to put issues of ethics, morality, and social responsibility high on the agenda of employees with great freedom in shaping their own actions at work. The research groups investigates such issues for instance in research in, empowering leadership, servant leadership, sustainablity leadership and visionary leadership.

For HR research, a stronger and more explicit inclusion of insights learned from studies with an organizational behavior perspective can lead to intriguing new research. Especially within a context of ongoing job layoffs, increased work pressure, and changes in the (psychological) contract between organizations and employees, attention for the (talent) engagement and ongoing (leadership) development have never been so relevant.   In this respect, the research group also pays specific attention to the challenges of cross-cultural collaboration, such as issues in collaborations that cross national boundaries bring to international business. Past research also highlighted such issues as team leadership, team learning, team creativity, team and organizational climates for diversity and inclusion, and the role of cultural stereotypes in cross-cultural interactions.

Supervisory Team

Dirk van Dierendonck
Professor of Human Resource Management
  • Promotor
Steffen Giessner
Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Change
  • Promotor