The purpose of this German Research Foundation (DFG) funded research project is to advance our understanding of the cognitive bases of organizational leadership. Most leadership theories since the 60s have viewed the leader-follower relationship in isolation. We challenge this perspective by investigating the social embeddedness of this relation. In a nutshell, we argue (and find) that followers form evaluations of their leaders based on comparisons with how their leader treats other coworkers. This simple but intriguing insight has the potential to change how leadership is theoretically conceived and may help gain new insights in how people should lead their subordinates.
Previous studies have shown that organizations and leaders benefit from treating their employees better that their coworkers. From a practical point of view, the project aims at answering the question how leaders can deal with the dilemma that they cannot treat all their employees preferentially. From a theoretical point of view, the project aims at a better understanding of the motives that underlie leadership social comparisons. Based on a review of the existing literature the applicant identified three important objectives that each forms an independent research project: A) Are employee responses to preferential leader treatment motivated by equity or equality concerns? B) How does team diversity affect leadership social comparisons? C) Are there any positive consequences of unfavorable social comparisons?
Kühne Logistics University