Theses Doctoral

Predictably Flexible Leadership: Exploring the effect of Leader Behavioral Breadth, Variability and Authenticity on Follower Perceptions of Leader Trustworthiness and Effectiveness

Mitchinson, Adam George

Behavioral complexity theory (Hooijberg & Quinn, 1992; Zaccaro, 2001) posits that effective leaders are able to play a range of contradictory leadership roles and enact these roles selectively depending on the situation. This flexible style is an essential element of effective leadership and has been shown to be related to a number of important organizational outcomes (Hart & Quinn, 1993; Denison, Hooijberg, & Quinn, 1995). However, it may be a double-edged sword when considering the effect it can have on a leader’s relationship with their followers. In order to be flexible a leader must vary their style, but there is evidence to suggest that leaders who do this can damage their relationships with others and, as a result, be less effective (Hooijberg, 1996, Wu, Steward & Hartley, 2010). A theoretical model is proposed to answer the practical question of how leaders may simultaneously vary their behavior while also remaining credible and effective in the eyes of their followers. The results support previous findings that leaders who can play a broader number of leadership roles are seen as more effective by their followers but that the flexible enactment of these roles can be seen as less effective. The results suggest that leader trustworthiness is central to this relationship. Leaders with a broad behavioral repertoire were perceived as more trustworthy but differentiated leader behavior was found to build trust when it was perceived as adaptive but erode trust when it was perceived as inconsistent. Leader authenticity was not found to mitigate the negative effect of flexible leader behavior as hypothesized. These results and the implications for future research and practice are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social-Organizational Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Burke, W. Warner
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 13, 2016