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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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The leading–following dance

The role of followers in the leadership process has been highly neglected, although there seems to be emerging interest in exploring the dynamics between leaders and followers more explicitly.3 An early attempt was made, four decades ago, with a descriptive approach known as leader–member exchange (LMX) theory.4 Its premise was that leaders form an exchange relationship with each follower; exchange relationships are “higher” with some followers than with others. The more elite group with higher or closer relationships with the boss is more productive and committed to the job and to the organization’s goals. They also will get more favorable treatment: interesting job assignments, bigger offices, greater responsibilities, and more authority. Lower exchange followers are in the outgroup; they have a more routine relationship with the boss. More recent work in this area has focused on a number of subdomains within the leader–follower exchanges, including negotiating latitude, mutual influence or respect, communication, trust, attention, and support between leader and follower.5 There are several problems with the approach, including the fact that exchange relations change over time. In addition, the theory seems too simplistic to be useful to any real-world manager. Bosses have several sorts of relationships, not just one or two, with followers, and these vary with experience and the age of the leader and the follower. Another continuing issue is the measurement ...

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