Implicit leadership and followership theories 'in the wild': taking stock of information-processing approaches to leadership and followership in organizational settings

Olga Epitropaki, Thomas Sy, Robin Martin, Susanna Tram-Quon, Anna Topakas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


For over 30. years information-processing approaches to leadership and more specifically Implicit Leadership Theories (ILTs) research has contributed a significant body of knowledge on leadership processes in applied settings. A new line of research on Implicit Followership Theories (IFTs) has re-ignited interest in information-processing and socio-cognitive approaches to leadership and followership. In this review, we focus on organizational research on ILTs and IFTs and highlight their practical utility for the exercise of leadership and followership in applied settings. We clarify common misperceptions regarding the implicit nature of ILTs and IFTs, review both direct and indirect measures, synthesize current and ongoing research on ILTs and IFTs in organizational settings, address issues related to different levels of analysis in the context of leadership and follower schemas and, finally, propose future avenues for organizational research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-881
Number of pages24
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number6
Early online date30 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013



  • information-processing
  • implicit leadership theories (ILTs)
  • implicit followership theories (IFTs)
  • schemas
  • leader categorization theory

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