Meta-analytic and primary investigations of the role of followers in ratings of leadership behavior in organizations.J Appl Psychol. 2019 Jan; 104(1):70-106.JA
Leader-centric views of leadership tend to regard followers as passive recipients of leaders' influences. As such, researchers often control for follower characteristics (e.g., age, gender, organizational tenure) when examining relations between leadership behaviors and other variables. However, reversing-the-lens theory suggests that followers' characteristics represent substantive factors that may affect how they perceive their leaders or how leaders behave toward different followers. We conducted two studies to investigate this possibility. In Study 1, we meta-analyzed data from 479 primary studies (N = 172,494) and found meaningful relations between follower individual differences (e.g., gender, personality) and ratings of their leaders' behaviors (e.g., transformational leadership, abusive supervision). In Study 2, we conducted a primary study to estimate the extent to which actual leader behaviors or differences in follower perceptions of those behaviors account for these relations. Results suggest that follower perceptions and measurement error explain almost the same or more variance in follower ratings than do actual leader behaviors. In addition, other findings imply that relations between some follower characteristics (e.g., gender, neuroticism) and leadership ratings are likely to be due to perceptual differences associated with these follower characteristics. However, actual leader behaviors also appear to play a role, such that leaders tend to behave differently toward followers who possess high or low levels of certain characteristics (e.g., agreeableness). Taken together, this two-study investigation provides evidence that follower individual differences are related to ratings of leader behaviors and, thus, deserve more attention within leadership theory and research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).