Respected Leaders: The Relevance of Subordinates' Self-perceptions as Potential Leaders for their Perception of Their Current Leaders and the Consequences for the Leadership Process



Leader categorization theory suggests that subordinates use cognitive representations of ideal leaders (ideal leader prototypes) to ‘benchmark’ their actual leaders and to consequently determine their responses towards these leaders and their leadership. The importance of followers’ self-perceptions as (potential) leaders, however, seems to have been largely overlooked in this process. Drawing on social categorization and social comparison research, we extend previous research and argue that subordinates’ perceptions of own leadership qualities moderate the contemporarily assumed relationship between leader categorization and leader effectiveness. More specifically, we propose the higher subordinates rate their own leadership qualities, the more their openness towards leadership depends upon their leaders’ fit with the ideal leader prototype. Results of two cross-sectional studies (N=265; N=87) and one scenario study (N=263) provide consistent support for this prediction. We are thus able to present evidence not only regarding how subordinates’ perceptions of themselves interact with their perceptions of their leaders and impact on leadership effectiveness in organizations but also how the underlying dynamics can be understood and used for managerial practice
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Daan van Knippenberg