Measurement of implicit leadership theories and their effect on leadership processes and outcomes

  • Anna Topakas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The leadership categorisation theory suggests that followers rely on a hierarchical cognitive structure in perceiving leaders and the leadership process, which consists of three levels; superordinate, basic and subordinate. The predominant view is that followers rely on Implicit Leadership Theories (ILTs) at the basic level in making judgments about managers. The thesis examines whether this presumption is true by proposing and testing two competing conceptualisations; namely the congruence between the basic level ILTs (general leader) and actual manager perceptions, and subordinate level ILTs (job-specific leader) and actual manager. The conceptualisation at the job-specific level builds on context-related assertions of the ILT explanatory models: leadership categorisation, information processing and connectionist network theories. Further, the thesis addresses the effects of ILT congruence at the group level. The hypothesised model suggests that Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) will act as a mediator between ILT congruence and outcomes.
Three studies examined the proposed model. The first was cross-sectional with 175 students reporting on work experience during a 1-year industrial placement. The second was longitudinal and had a sample of 343 students engaging in a business simulation in groups with formal leadership. The final study was a cross-sectional survey in several organisations with a sample of 178. A novel approach was taken to congruence analysis; the hypothesised models were tested using Latent Congruence Modelling (LCM), which accounts for measurement error and overcomes the majority of limitations of traditional approaches. The first two studies confirm the traditional theorised view that employees rely on basic-level ILTs in making judgments about their managers with important implications, and show that LMX mediates the relationship between ILT congruence and work-related outcomes (performance, job satisfaction, well-being, task satisfaction, intragroup conflict, group satisfaction, team realness, team-member exchange, group performance). The third study confirms this with conflict, well-being, self-rated performance and commitment as outcomes.
Date of AwardMay 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRobin P Martin (Supervisor) & Olga Epitropaki (Supervisor)


  • leadership categorisation
  • leadership context
  • leader-member exchange
  • congruence analysis

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