Leader-member exchange and attitudes
: a theoretical and empirical integration

  • Allan Lee

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The central proposition of this thesis is that there are key benefits to examining leadership perceptions as an attitude towards the leader. In particular, it is argued that doing so can provide an enhanced understanding of leadership perceptions and therefore advance theory in this area. To provide empirical support for this theoretcial integration, the current research focused on one of the most popular leadership theories, leader-member exchange (LMX), and demonstrated how the concept of attitude strength could advance understanding of how and when LMX influenced employee job performance. Although the measurement of LMX requires employees to provide a cognitive evaluation of their relationship with their leader, previous research has, to date, not considered this evaluation to be an attitude. This thesis provides a justification for doing so and develops two novel constructs: LMX importance and LMX ambivalence. Both of these variables are argued to represent previously unconsidered facets of the LMX relationship, which, according to attitude theory, provide a more multifaceted understanding of leadership perceptions than previously envisaged. Such an understanding can provide a more detailed understanding of how such perceptions influence outcomes. Two studies provided an empirical test of the above reasoning. Study 1, a longitudinal field study, demonstrated initial support for many of the hypotheses. LMX amivalence was shown to lead to poorer task performance and organisational citizenship behaviour, mediated by the experience of negative affect. Evidence was also found for the moderating effect of LMX importance, although felt obligations was not found to mediate this moderated effect. While Study 1 used project groups as its participants, Study 2 provided a first test of the construct in an organisational setting; with three companies proving data. Again, strong support was found for the negative effects of LMX ambivalence on employee outcomes, with evidence also found for the role of perceived organisational support in mitigating these negative effects. Support was also found for the moderated mediation hypothesis related to LMX importance, although this was only found in the largest organisation sample. Some of the main theoretical and methodological implications of viewing leadership perceptions as attitudes to the wider leadership area were discussed. The cross-fertilisation of research from the attitudes literature to understanding leadership perceptions provides new insights into leadership processes and potential avenues for further research.
Date of Award23 Feb 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGeoffrey M Thomas (Supervisor)


  • Leadership,
  • Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)
  • Attitudes
  • Attitude Strength

Cite this