Respectful leadership: Reducing performance challenges posed by leader role incongruence and gender dissimilarity

Suzanne van Gils*, Niels Van Quaquebeke, Jan Borkowski, Daan van Knippenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate how respectful leadership can help overcome the challenges for follower performance that female leaders face when working (especially with male) followers. First, based on role congruity theory, we illustrate the biases faced by female leaders. Second, based on research on gender (dis-)similarity, we propose that these biases should be particularly pronounced when working with a male follower. Finally, we propose that respectful leadership is most conducive to performance in female leader–male follower dyads compared with all other gender configurations. A multi-source field study (N = 214) provides partial support for our hypothesis. While our hypothesized effect was confirmed, respectful leadership seems to be generally effective for female leaders irrespective of follower gender, thus lending greater support in this context to the arguments of role congruity rather than gender dissimilarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1590-1610
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number12
Early online date26 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


  • gender dissimilarity
  • respectful leadership
  • role congruity theory


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