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The Leadership Quarterly 21 (2010) 796808

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The Leadership Quarterly

j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / l e a q u a

Not all leadermember exchanges are created equal: Importance of leader relational identity
Chu-Hsiang (Daisy) Chang a,, Russell E. Johnson b
a b

Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, USA Department of Management, Michigan State University, USA

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
Recent research by leadership scholars has emphasized the important role of follower selfidentity. For example, leaders inuence subordinate attitudes and behaviors by activating a collective identity level among their subordinates. We extend existing identity-based approaches by examining the relational identity level of leaders. Previous work has focused predominantly on followers (vs. leaders) and on collective (vs. relational) identity. Using data from two samples, we supported our hypothesis that leader relational identity moderates relationships of leadermember exchange (LMX) with subordinate task performance and citizenship behaviors. The nature of the interaction was such that the negative relationships of low-quality LMX with performance are mitigated when subordinates had supervisors with strong relational identities. These ndings highlight the need to consider not only the identities of followers but those of leaders as well. 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Leadermember exchange Leadership Relational identity Task performance Organizational citizenship behavior

Leadership is one of the most widely-researched topics in the organizational sciences. In recent years, there has been increased attention on how follower self-identity functions as a mediator and moderator of leader inuences (van Knippenberg, van Knippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2005). Research has shown that transformational and charismatic leaders motivate followers by activating their collective self-identity (i.e., self-denition based on group memberships), which encourages followers to pursue group and organizational goals (Kark, Shamir, & Chen, 2003; Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 1998, 2000). Followers' collective identity also inuences their perceptions of leaders and leader effectiveness, such that leaders who are viewed as prototypical group members are evaluated more favorably, particularly when followers identify strongly with the group (Hogg, Hains, & Mason, 1998). Thus, follower self-identity is a crucial mechanism in leadership-related processes (Lord & Brown, 2004). We agree that self-identity is a key variable when considering leadership, yet the role that it plays may be more extensive than what has been observed. To date, the primary focus of identity research has been on the collective level (e.g., Hogg, 2001), yet at least two other identity levels exist (viz., relational and individual). Importantly, these different identity levels are orthogonal from one another (Brewer & Gardner, 1996) and having a strong collective identity has little bearing in whether people have strong versus weak relational or individual identities. Knowledge of the collective level therefore does not inform our understanding of other levels. In this paper, we examine relational identity (i.e., self-denition based on relationships with specic partners; Andersen & Chen, 2002), which is an important yet under-researched self-identity level in the organizational sciences (Sluss & Ashforth, 2007). In fact, given the dyadic nature of exchanges between leaders and followers (Graen & Scandura, 1987), relational identity may be the most relevant level when considering followerleader relations and certainly one deserving of more attention (van Knippenberg, van Knippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004). The intersection of self-identity with leadership can also be extended by examining the identity levels of leaders. To date, theorizing has predominantly targeted the self-identity levels of followers, and how those identity levels either shape how leaders
Corresponding author. Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, 231 Psychology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. Tel.: + 1 517 3552171. E-mail address: cchang@msu.edu (C.-H.(D.) Chang). 1048-9843/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.07.008

C.-H.(D.) Chang, R.E. Johnson / The Leadership Quarterly 21 (2010) 796808


are perceived or are shaped by leader actions (Lord et al., 2004). Despite the lack of empirical attention, it is possible that the selfidentity of leaders impacts their relationships with followers as well as follower attitudes and behaviors, which is consistent with proposals by others (e.g., Sluss et al., 2007; van Knippenberg, van Knippenberg, De Cremer, & Hogg, 2004). For example, Van Dick, Hirst, Grojean, and Wieseke (2007) found that the extent to which leaders identied with their organization predicted their followers' job satisfaction and citizenship behavior. Taken together, there is a need to consider the self-identities of leaders and to consider self-identity levels other than the collective. The aim of our research was to examine the impact of leader relational identity on follower job performance. Specically, we examined the direct effect of leader relational identity on follower perceptions of leadermember exchange (LMX) and its moderating effect on relationships between LMX and job performance. Our expectations about the role of relational identity are consistent with relational leadership theory (Brower, Schoorman, & Tan, 2000; Uhl-Bien, 2006), which emphasizes the signicance of relational orientations in leadermember dyads. Despite suggestive theory, no published research has examined the effects of leader relational identity. In the sections that follow, we review literature pertaining to LMX and self-identity. We then discuss the hypothesized effects of leader relational identity on follower LMX and LMXperformance relationships. Specically, we predicted that leader relational identity is related to follower reports of LMX quality, and that it moderates relationships between LMX quality and job performance. Hypotheses were tested using multisource data from two samples. Leadermember exchange (LMX) A prominent dyadic approach to leadership is LMX theory (Graen & Scandura, 1987; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Uhl-Bien, 2006), which proposes that effective leadership involves high-quality relationships between leaders and followers. LMX theory describes how leaders and followers develop successful relationships, and how these relationships lead to favorable individual and organizational outcomes. Uhl-Bien, Graen, and Scandura (2000) summarized the stages of exchange sequences between leaders and members. Initially, the exchange relationship is inuenced by personal characteristics of both parties, such as attitudes and demographics (Pelled & Xin, 2000; Vecchio & Brazil, 2007). From there, leaders and members develop exchange expectations based on the characteristics of both themselves and their exchange partners. Finally, the relationship is either reinforced or weakened based on each dyadic partner's evaluation of the exchange, such as met expectations and perceived effort of the other party (Maslyn & Uhl-Bien, 2001). As satisfactory exchange experiences accumulate, a high LMX relationship characterized by mutual trust, respect, and loyalty develops between leaders and followers (Uhl-Bien, Graen, & Scandura, 2000). Conversely, low LMX results from, for example, unfair and rude treatment (Erdogan & Liden, 2006) and high workload and limited resources (Green, Anderson, & Shivers, 1996). LMX is important to consider because it has signicant relationships with critical work criteria. A meta-analysis by Gerstner and Day (1997) concluded that subordinate-rated LMX was positively related to both subjective and objective measures of job performance. In addition to the performance of essential job duties and responsibilities, LMX is also related to prosocial behaviors at work (Wang, Law, Hackett, Wang, & Chen, 2005). A meta-analysis by Ilies, Nahrgang, and Morgeson (2007) found a positive effect of LMX on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which is discretionary behavior that contributes to the social and psychological functioning of organizations (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993; Organ, 1997). LMX is thought to impact job performance because employees who perceive high LMX try to pay back their leaders by engaging in effective task and citizenship behaviors (Liden, Sparrowe, & Wayne, 1997). Similar explanations based on social exchange have been offered by others (e.g., Masterson, Lewis, Goldman, & Taylor, 2000; Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996; Wayne, Shore, Bommer, & Tetrick, 2002). We therefore expected the following: Hypothesis 1. Follower LMX is positively related to (a) task performance and (b) OCB. Relational identity Findings from self-identity research suggest that the way in which social interactions unfold depends on how actors dene themselves in relation to others (Markus & Wurf, 1987; Oyserman, 2001). People may dene themselves as independent entities with unique attributes and goals (individual identity), as partners fullling the role expectations communicated by another person (relational identity), or as group members conforming to social norms (collective identity; Brewer et al., 1996). Of particular importance to the current study is relational identity, which refers to the extent that individuals dene themselves in terms of dyadic connections with specic persons (Andersen et al., 2002; Sluss et al., 2007). At this level, self-worth is based on reected appraisals from others (Kinch, 1963), such that esteem is enhanced by having satised partners and high-quality relationships. This occurs because people's own identities are intertwined with those of their partners, resulting in self-worth being contingent on the well-being of others (Brickson, 2000). Sources of motivation at the relational level include serving the welfare of others and fullling the role expectations of and obligations to partners. People with relational identities are focused on relationship development and maintenance, which are achieved by internalizing the values and goals of their dyad partners (Andersen et al., 2002). Relational self-identity is often treated as a chronically accessible, or trait-like, characteristic of people (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992; Cross, Bacon, & Morris, 2000; Kashima & Hardie, 2000). Individuals with a strong relational identity have a propensity for dening themselves based on dyadic relationships and for beneting the welfare of their partners, whereas those with a weak


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relational identity do not have such tendencies. However, strong situational cues are capable of activating one's relational self (Andersen et al., 2002). For example, the presence of a signicant other or someone that shares resemblance to a signicant other may temporarily strengthen people's relational identity level, thereby causing them to place higher value on interpersonal dynamics. In the current study, however, we examined people's trait-like predisposition to dene themselves in terms of dyadic relationships.

Relevance of relational self-identity for LMX According to relational leadership theory (Uhl-Bien, 2003, 2006), leadership is an inherently social process, such that rules, values, and attitudes emerge from interactions between leaders and followers and the relationships they develop. One approach for studying relational leadership involves examining the personal characteristics of the individual parties (viz., leaders and followers) and the evaluations they hold of each other (Uhl-Bien, 2006). This approach is congruent with LMX theory, which is concerned with, rst and foremost, the two parties that form an exchange relationship (Uhl-Bien, 2006). Exchange relationships are likely to be successful when partners have relational-oriented motivations. For example, propensity to relate is one factor that contributes to positive relationships between leaders and followers (Brower et al., 2000). This trait-like quality is likely to inuence the initial development of LMX because leaders with higher propensity to relate are more likely to trust their followers and nurture the exchange relationship. Propensity to relate is one indicator of a strong relational self-identity. According to relational self theory (Andersen et al., 2002), individuals' self-knowledge includes aspects of relationships they share with signicant others. This relationship-based self-knowledge, or the relational self, consists of mental representation of the other person and their role expectations, the quality of the relationship, and emotional responses toward the relationship. Importantly, Andersen et al. (2002) maintained that a strong relational self causes dyadic partners to be included in one's own self-denitions and self-regulatory activities. People with strong relational identities therefore act in ways that enhance dyadic relationships by considering the welfare of other people and having greater trust in and holding more favorable evaluations of dyadic partners (Andersen et al., 2002; Gardner, Gabriel, & Hochschild, 2002). When considered in conjunction with LMX, leaders with strong relational identities place a premium on the relationships they form with their followers. They are especially concerned with the exchange quality because their self-worth depends in part on successfully meeting the standards that their signicant others (viz., followers) set for them and for the relationship (Andersen et al., 2002; Gabriel, Renaud, & Tippin, 2007; Gardner & Gabriel, 2004). As a result, people with strong relational identities are motivated to exert effort to initiate and maintain positive relationships, to provide feedback and social support, and to engage in behaviors that fulll followers' expectations. Uhl-Bien (2003) proposed that a match between leader's actions, such as caring and trusting, and followers' relational prototypes and expectations will result in favorable LMX perceptions. Previous research has also shown that leader effort is positively related to follower-rated LMX quality (Maslyn & Uhl-Bien, 2001), especially when leaders reciprocate with effort equivalent to their followers (Uhl-Bien & Maslyn, 2003). In addition, leaders with strong relational identities may be less inclined to make negative internal attributions about their followers, even in situations where followers fail or have substandard performance. Research ndings on romantic relationships suggest that people with strong relational identities often use rationalization to neutralize or reverse the negative attributes of their romantic partner (Murray & Holmes, 1993, 1994). A similar process is likely to occur in leaderfollower dyads, such that leaders with strong relational identities make situational and variable attributions about their followers' failures. This attribution style can facilitate the development and maintenance of high LMX quality (Steiner, 1997; Steiner & Dobbins, 1989), such that leaders are less likely to banish poor performers to out-group status. Instead, leaders may continue providing resources and support (e.g., training, role clarication, incentives) to cultivate high-quality relationship with these followers and encourage them to improve their performance. While we are not aware of any published empirical studies that explore linkages between leader relational identity and follower LMX, we propose that leaders with strong relational identities will actively seek to protect and improve the relationships they have with their followers. Hypothesis 2. Leader relational identity is positively related to follower LMX. Interestingly, while previous studies have hinted at associations between leaders' inclination to have positive social interactions and followers' LMX perceptions (e.g., Bauer & Green, 1996; Bernerth, Armenakis, Feild, Giles, & Walker, 2007), most research highlights how follower characteristics inuence LMX development and quality. For example, follower extraversion had a signicant impact on the initial development of LMX (Nahrgang, Morgeson, & Ilies, 2008), and subsequent LMX quality (Bernerth, Armenakis, Feild, Giles, & Walker, 2008), regardless of leader attributes. Others suggested that it is the match between leaders and followers on particular attributes, such as agreeableness or positive affect, that contributes to high-quality LMX (e.g., Bauer et al., 1996; Bernerth et al., 2008). Still other researchers describe how followers' inability or unwillingness to fulll challenging duties (see Liden, Wayne, & Stilwell, 1993; Scandura, 1999; Vecchio, 1997) may also result in their low LMX perceptions, despite their leaders' effort to establish high-quality relationships with them. For example, Vecchio (1997) argued that some followers prefer to be part of the out-group and decline opportunities to have high-quality relationships with their leaders as they have no intention to exert effort to earn their leader's trust. Thus, leader relational identity is but one contributor to LMX quality. As such, while we propose that leaders with strong relational identities are, on average, more likely to have high-quality LMX with their followers, variance in follower LMX perceptions is expected even for leaders with strong relational identities.

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Moderating effect of leader relational identity As mentioned earlier, LMX has positive relationships with employee task performance and OCB (Gerstner et al., 1997; Ilies, Nahrgang, & Morgeson, 2007). However, LMX theory has been criticized for not paying enough attention to moderators (e.g., Erdogan & Liden, 2006; House & Aditya, 1997; Schriesheim, Castro, & Yammarino, 2000). In particular, Uhl-Bien (2006) proposed that characteristics of the leader have implications for the effects of relational leadership. We suspect that leader relational identity is one such variable because it inuences the value placed on dyadic relationships and the effort that is invested in such relationships. In the current study, we examined leader relational identity as a moderator of the relationships between follower LMX and both task performance and OCB. In particular, we predicted that leader relational identity would compensate for unfavorable relationships between follower LMX and performance when LMX is low. Leaders with strong relational identities likely have highquality relational skills and the motivation to use them, allowing them to better manage relationships with their followers even in unfavorable situations, such as when LMX is low due to reasons outside of their control. As mentioned earlier, it is possible for leaders with high relational identities to have low LMX with followers due to personality dissimilarities between leaders and followers (Bernerth et al., 2008) or followers' unique attributes or preferences (Nahrgang et al., 2008; Scandura, 1999; Vecchio, 1997). In these cases, while leaders with a strong relational identity may not be able to have high-quality LMX with followers, lowquality LMX is less likely to dissuade them from engaging in constructive interactions with their followers. According to Uhl-Bien (2003), relational skills include social skills (Riggio, 1986), emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995), and the effective provision and use of feedback (London, 1997). Their chronic concern for relationship quality helps leaders with strong relational identities to be procient at regulating their behaviors based on their followers' needs, providing constructive feedback to followers, as well as accepting negative feedback from followers and adapting accordingly. A strong relational identity may also enable leaders to more easily relate to and trust their followers, thereby making leaders more willing to delegating important tasks to followers and promoting participative decision-making (Brower et al., 2000). Such behaviors provide followers with guidance, role clarication, and social support, all of which contribute to effective job performance (Chen, Kirkman, Kanfer, Allen, & Rosen, 2007). While guidance, role clarication, and social support are available to followers in high-quality LMX relationships, they are typically unavailable for those in low-quality LMX relationships (Chen et al., 2007; Lam, Huang, & Snape, 2007). Despite being in low-quality LMX relationships though, if followers have leaders with strong relational identities, then those followers may still have access to some of the benets that are inherent in high-quality LMX relationships (e.g., social support). In contrast, leaders with weak relational identities may be less procient at relational skills, therefore requiring their followers to take greater initiative to open up dialogs with their leaders. For followers with high-quality LMX relationships, it is relatively easy to seek feedback and support from leaders with weak relational identities. Unfortunately, for followers with low-quality LMX, these exchanges may be awkward because there is little mutual trust or positive feelings to anchor interactions in a stable foundation. Even when followers demonstrate their trustworthiness, they may have to continually struggle to do so when their leaders have weak relational identities. These constant demands may be seen as highly unfair, and followers with low LMX may not only choose to remain as out-group members, but reduce their performance levels in response to the perceived inequity. Leaders who have weak relational identities may themselves also avoid contact or have dysfunctional communications with followers with whom they have low-quality LMX relationships. This puts followers at an even more disadvantaged and isolated position, which is detrimental to their job performance. Taken together, followers in low-quality LMX relationships are less likely to receive differential treatment from leaders with strong relational identities, and thus have access to essential information and resources for job performance. On the other hand, leaders with low relational identity are more selective in whom they bestow their trust, resources, and support. While followers who enjoy high LMX benet from interactions with their supervisor and reciprocate with higher performance, followers with low LMX and who have leaders with weak relational identities are especially disadvantaged and likely have lower job performance. Hypothesis 3. Leader relational identity has a negative moderating effect on the relationships of follower LMX with (a) task performance and (b) OCB, such that relationships are weaker when relational identity is strong. Method Hypotheses were tested using data collected from two samples of matched supervisorsubordinate dyads. LMX data was collected from subordinates, whereas relational identity and job performance data were collected from supervisors. Sample 1 (N = 108 dyads) consisted of a mix of part- and full-time employees who were enrolled in classes at a university in the Midwest. Sample 2 (N = 107 dyads) consisted of full-time workers who were recruited for participation via business and alumni contacts. The individual samples are described below. Sample 1 participants and procedure Data were collected from 108 employeesupervisor dyads from a variety of organizations. Participants were recruited from Psychology and Business classes at a Midwestern urban university that has a tradition of serving non-traditional, degree-seeking adults (e.g., most courses are offered at night or during weekends so that working adults can attend classes). Subordinate participants completed a survey containing measures of LMX and demographics and were responsible for giving a survey packet to


C.-H.(D.) Chang, R.E. Johnson / The Leadership Quarterly 21 (2010) 796808

their work supervisor. Supervisors completed a survey that included measures of relational identity, their subordinate's work performance, and demographic information, which they mailed directly to the authors. Approximately 25% of the supervisors were contacted following data collection to verify that they had in fact completed the survey, and all supervisors indicated that they had. The average age of subordinates was 29 years (SD = 9.2), the majority of which were female (86%) and Caucasian (46%), African American (30%), or Hispanic (10%). Subordinates' average tenure in their current job was 35.8 months (SD = 45.6) and they worked an average of 33 h per week (SD = 10.3). Approximately 60% of the subordinates classied themselves as full-time employees. The majority of participants were employed in professional (48%), retail/service (16%) industries, or government (16%). A smaller number of participants were employed in manufacturing or technical companies (4%). The average age of supervisors was 42 years (SD = 11.3), the majority of which were female (64%) and Caucasian (75%) or African American (16%). The average tenure of supervisors in their current organization was 79.8 months (SD = 77.3). The average tenure of employees' working relationship with their immediate supervisor was 26.1 months (SD = 36.2). Sample 2 participants and procedure Participants were 107 matched pairs of subordinates and supervisors. The majority of surveys were distributed via networks of business contacts and university alums. Some surveys were also distributed to full-time workers enrolled in evening and weekend business and psychology courses at a university in the Southeast (participants who were enrolled in university courses received extra credit). Subordinates and supervisors (who were given their survey by subordinates) mailed completed surveys to the researchers. We contacted a random sample of approximately 25% of the supervisors to verify that they completed the survey, and all of them indicated that they had. The demographics of the subordinates were as follows: 56% were male; their average age was 29 years (SD = 6.1); the majority were either Caucasian (51%), Hispanic, (22%) or African American (17%); their average tenure in their current job was 40.5 months (SD = 34.9 months); they worked an average of 39 h per week (SD = 10.5); and they were employed predominantly in retail/ service (49%), professional (33.5%), government (10%), or manufacturing (7.1%) industries. The demographics of the supervisors were as follows: 54% were male; they ranged in age from 20 to 29 years (21%), 30 to 39 years (28%), 40 to 49 years (32%), and 50 and above (19%); and they worked an average of 47.9 h per week (SD = 9.9). The average tenure of employees' working relationship with their immediate supervisor was 38.9 months (SD = 58.1). Measures Responses to all survey items were assessed using a ve-point Likert scale with anchors ranging from 1 = Strongly disagree to 5 = Strongly agree. LMX Subordinates rated the quality of their LMX using the LMX-7 (Graen, Novak, & Sommerkemp, 1982; = .94 and .90 in Samples 1 and 2, respectively). The LMX-7 consists of seven items assessing the general effectiveness of the working relationship, understanding of subordinate job problems and needs, recognition of potential, and willingness to support the subordinate. An example item is I always know where I stand with my immediate supervisor. Relational identity Supervisors rated the strength of their relational identity via items from the Levels of Self-Concept Scale (LSCS; Selenta & Lord, 2005). While the LSCS has multiple subscales that assess relational identity, we used only onethe Concern for others subscale ( = .76 and .66 in Samples 1 and 2, respectively)because of constraints on survey length. This subscale, which emphasizes motivations aimed at benetting the welfare of another person, is the primary factor relational identity on the LSCS. Example items are It is important to me that I uphold my commitments to signicant people in my life and If a friend or coworker was having a personal problem, I would help him/her even if it meant sacricing my time or money. Selenta and Lord (2005) developed the LSCS by referring to prevalent constructs in the self-identity literature (e.g., Brewer et al., 1996; Kashima & Hardie, 2000). Factor analytic results supported distinctions between relational identity and collective and individual identities. The authors also supported predictions regarding relationships between the LSCS subscales and theoretically-derived correlates (e.g., personal values). For example, the Concern for others subscale was positively correlated with benevolence values (see Schwartz, 1992) and femininity (Spence & Helmreich, 1978). The latter correlation is consistent with Gabriel and Gardner (1999), who found that females tended to score higher on relational identity whereas males scored higher on collective identity. Additional evidence for the validity of the LSCS is provided by Johnson, Selenta, and Lord (2006) and Johnson, and Lord (2007). Work performance Supervisors rated subordinates' task performance using Williams and Anderson (1991) measure of in-role behavior ( = .85 and .85 in Samples 1 and 2, respectively). An example item is This employee meets formal performance requirements of the job. Supervisors also rated subordinates' OCB using Williams and Anderson (1991) scale, which assesses both OCB directed at specic individuals (OCBI; = .88 and .84 in Samples 1 and 2, respectively) and OCB directed at the organization as a whole (OCBO;

C.-H.(D.) Chang, R.E. Johnson / The Leadership Quarterly 21 (2010) 796808 Table 1 Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among the focal variables. Variables Subordinate 1. Hours worked per week 2. Tenure with supervisor 3. LMX Supervisor 4. Relational identity 5. Task performance 6. OCBI 7. OCBO Sample 1 M SD Internal consistency Sample 2 M SD Internal consistency 1 2 .24 .04 .08 .01 .04 .10 .01 32.75 10.38 .01 .00 .07 .04 .05 26.09 36.17 .22 .32 .44 .30 3.62 .93 .94 3.98 .78 .90 3 .10 .07 4 .17 .05 .13 5 .01 .05 .29 .05 .56 .70 4.26 .57 .85 4.62 .52 .85 6 .02 .01 .41 .01 .49 .53 4.00 .65 .88 4.23 .61 .84 7


.04 .02 .30 .12 .65 .40

.20 .36 32 4.55 .45 .76 4.70 1.09 .66

4.16 .54 .73 4.39 .58 .78

38.24 10.54

38.91 58.07

Note: Numbers below the diagonal are correlation coefcients from sample 1, numbers above the diagonal are correlation coefcients from sample 2; N = 108 matched supervisorsubordinate pairs for sample 1, N = 107 matched supervisorsubordinate pairs for sample 2; Tenure is measured in months. * p b .05. ** p b .01. *** p b .001.

= .73 and .78 in Samples 1 and 2, respectively). An example OCBI item is This employee helps others who have been absent. An example OCBO item is This employee adheres to informal rules devised to maintain order. Demographic variables Supervisors and subordinates both provided demographic information, including sex, age, race, tenure with the organization and with each other (both measured in months), hours worked per week, and industry in which they worked. The number of hours that subordinates worked per week and supervisorsubordinate relationship tenure were included as control variables in all analyses. We controlled for these variables because they are related to the development of LMX and supervisors' ability to observe and rate the performance of their subordinates (Graen et al., 1995).1 Results Table 1 reports the means, standard deviations, and correlations among the focal variables in Samples 1 and 2. Direct relationships In Sample 1, subordinate LMX had positive, signicant relationships with supervisor-rated task performance (r = .32, p b .001), OCBI (r = .44, p b .001), and OCBO (r = .30, p b .001). Similarly, in Sample 2, subordinate LMX was signicantly related to supervisor-rated task performance (r = .29, p b .01), OCBI (r = .41, p b .001), and OCBO (r = .30, p b .01). Taken together, these relationships are consistent with Hypotheses 1a and b. In Sample 1, supervisor relational identity was positively related to subordinate LMX (r = .22, p b .05), which is consistent with Hypothesis 2. However, this relationship was not signicant in Sample 2 (r = .13, ns). Thus, support for Hypothesis 2 was mixed. Moderated relationships We used hierarchical regression to test the hypothesized moderation effects of supervisor relational identity. Performance criteria were rst regressed on the control variables in Step 1, followed by the main effects in Step 2, and the interaction term in Step 3. As recommended by Cohen, Cohen, West, and Aiken (2003), centered main effect scores were included in all analyses and were used to calculate interaction terms.

1 We also tried controlling for sex of both subordinate and supervisor, in lieu of the possible differences in relational identity between males and females (Gabriel & Gardner, 1999). However, across both studies, neither variable was a signicant predictor for any of the three performance measures. Additionally, including the two control variables only resulted in minor uctuations in the regression weights of the focal interaction term. Thus, to keep the regression models parsimonious, we chose to not include the sex of subordinate and supervisor.


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Table 2 Moderating effect of leader relational identity on follower LMX and performance relationships (Sample 1). Predictors Task performance Step 1 Step 1: Covariates Tenure with supervisor Hours worked per week R2 F Step 2: Main effects Subordinate LMX Supervisor relational identity R2 F Step 3: Interaction LMX relational identity R2 F .11 .08 .01 .81 Step 2 .08 .10 Step 3 .10 .06 Step 1 .05 .07 .01 .44 Criteria OCBI Step 2 .01 .04 Step 3 .02 .08 Step 1 .07 .01 .01 .24 OCBO Step 2 .03 .03 Step 3 .02 .01

.31 .15 .13 7.74

.24 .16

.38 .30 .29 19.76

.31 .31

.24 .28 .16 9.94

.18 .29

.24 .05 6.50

.26 .06 9.12

.21 .04 4.89

Note: N = 108 matched supervisorsubordinate pairs. * p b .05. ** p b .01. *** p b .001.

Reported in Table 2 are the regression results for Sample 1. For task performance, although subordinate LMX was the sole signicant main effect in Step 2 ( = .31, t(98) = 3.21, p b .01), the interaction term was signicant in Step 3 ( = .24, t(97) = 2.55, p b .01), accounting for an additional 5% of the variance in task performance (F(1, 97) = 6.50; p b .01). The pattern of the interaction is illustrated in panel A of Fig. 1. As expected, subordinate LMX had a stronger relationship with task performance when supervisor relational identity was weak (vs. strong), which supports Hypothesis 3a. For OCBI as an outcome, both subordinate LMX ( = .38, t(98) = 4.36, p b .001) and supervisor relational identity ( = .30, t(98) = 3.47, p b .001) were signicant predictors. The interaction term in Step 3 was also signicant ( = .26, t(97) = 3.02, p b .01), accounting for an additional 6% of the variance in OCBI (F(1, 97) = 9.12; p b .01). As shown in panel B of Fig. 1, subordinate LMX had a stronger, positive relationship with OCBI when supervisor relational identity was weak (vs. strong), which supports Hypothesis 3b. Finally, the results for OCBO mimic those of OCBI. Both main effectssubordinate LMX ( = .24, t(98) = 2.48, p b .05) and supervisor relational identity ( = .28, t(98) = 2.92, p b .01)were signicant. The interaction term was signicant in Step 3 ( = .21, t(97) = 2.21, p b .05) and it accounted for 4% of the variance in OCBI (F(1, 97) = 4.49; p b .05). As shown in panel C of Fig. 1, the pattern of the interaction conformed to Hypothesis 3b. Reported in Table 3 are the regression results for Sample 2. For task performance, subordinate LMX was a signicant predictor ( = .30, t(99) = 3.07, p b .01), but supervisor relational identity was not. The interaction term was signicant in Step 3 ( = .52, t(98) = 2.21, p b .05), and it accounted for 4% of the variance in task performance (F(1, 98) = 4.88; p b .05). As predicted, the nature of the interaction (see panel A in Fig. 2) is consistent with Hypothesis 3a. For OCBI, subordinate LMX was the sole signicant predictor in Step 2 ( = .38, t(96) = 3.96, p b .001). In Step 3, the interaction term was signicant ( = .50, t(95) = 2.09, p b .05), accounting for an additional 4% of the variance in OCBI (F(1, 95) = 4.38; p b .05). As illustrated in the panel B of Fig. 2, subordinate LMX had a stronger, positive relationship with OCBI when supervisor relational identity was weak, which supports Hypothesis 3b. Similar to OCBI, LMX was the only signicant predictor of OCBO in Step 2 ( = .29, t(99) = 2.93, p b .01). In Step 3, the interaction was signicant ( = .67, t(98) = 2.86, p b .01), and it accounted for 7% of the variance in OCBO (F(1, 98) = 8.15; p b .01). The interaction is shown in panel C of Fig. 2, which is congruent with Hypothesis 3b. Overall, although support was mixed for Hypothesis 2 (i.e., positive relationship between leader relational identity and follower LMX), expected relationships between LMX and performance (Hypotheses 1a and b) and interactive relationships between leader relational identity and LMX were fully supported (Hypotheses 3a and b).

Discussion Our thesis is that supervisors' relational identity plays a critical role in leaderfollower processes, and LMX in particular. Across two samples, we found solid support for this idea. First, we found some evidence for the positive association between leader relational identity and follower LMX perceptions. Second, while we replicated the prior ndings that LMX is positively related to follower task performance and OCB (e.g., Gerstner et al., 1997; Ilies et al., 2007), these relationships varied as a function of leader identity. Specically, relationships between LMX and follower performance were weakened for employees of supervisors with strong relational identities. We discuss the implications of the ndings below.

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Fig. 1. Moderating effect of supervisor relational identity on the relationship between subordinate LMX and performance (Sample 1).

Leader relational identity and follower LMX Interestingly, we found equivocal support for the hypothesized positive relationship between leader relational identity and follower LMX. Although leader relational identity was associated with follower LMX in Sample 1, the two variables were not signicantly related in Sample 2. While we expected that supervisors with strong relational identities would be at an advantage for developing high-quality LMX with their subordinates, it is important to recognize that LMX is a bidirectional process. That is, it involves role negotiation, non-contractual exchanges, and mutual trust and respect (Graen et al., 1995; Scandura, 1999). Therefore, while supervisors with strong relational identities may be motivated to establish trust-based social exchanges, their subordinates may opt not to fulll role expectations. Similarly, some subordinates may lack the ability to meet the added roles and duties that are expected of high LMX members. For members who lack the motivation or ability to maintain high LMX, relationships between leader relational identity and follower LMX will be attenuated.


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Table 3 Moderating effect of leader relational identity on follower LMX and performance relationships (Sample 2). Predictors Task performance Step 1 Step 1: Covariates Tenure with supervisor Hours worked per week R2 F Step 2: Main effects Subordinate LMX Supervisor relational identity R2 F Step 3: Interaction LMX relational identity R2 F .06 .02 .00 .15 Step 2 .07 .01 Step 3 .10 .11 Step 1 .06 .03 .00 .19 Criteria OCBI Step 2 .04 .07 Step 3 .02 .05 Step 1 .01 .03 .00 .04 OCBO Step 2 .02 .01 Step 3 .05 .04

.30 .02 .49 4.90

.27 .50

.38 .07 .14 7.87

.35 .40

.29 .08 .09 5.07

.25 .70

.52 .04 4.88

.50 .04 4.38

.67 .07 8.15

Note: N = 107 matched supervisorsubordinate pairs. * p b .05. ** p b .01. *** p b .001.

Another possible explanation for the unclear relationship between leader identity and follower LMX may be that high-quality LMX depends more on identity congruence (Jackson & Johnson, 2009). That is, high-quality LMX is more likely when both parties have matching relational (or collective or individual) identity levels, an idea that is consistent with the literature on person person t (e.g., Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005). As mentioned earlier, follower characteristics are important in determining the quality of LMX relationships. In this case, high leader relational identity may not only be insufcient for followers to have high-quality LMX perceptions, but it may also have detrimental effects if followers happen to have weak relational identities. Similarly, while those with strong individual identities typically prefer to think about themselves as independent and unique individuals, a match between leader and follower on this identity level may mean that they share similar expectations from the working relationship. It is also possible that leaders with a particular prole of different combination of identity levels (e.g., strong relational identity paired with weak individual identity) may be uniquely advantaged to have positive exchanges with their followers. Thus, an interesting avenue for future research would be to examine whether leaderfollower congruence on identity levels, including relational, collective, and individual, has implications for LMX. The inconsistent nding across Samples 1 and 2 might also be due to differences in sample selection procedures. All subordinate participants in Sample 1 were recruited from university classes, whereas only a minority was in Sample 2. Student participants may have restricted work experiences and the nature of their relationships with their supervisors may be different from those who are in full-time employment. Next, because we asked subordinate participants to pass the survey to their supervisors, those with low-quality LMX or performance concerns may be less likely to ask their supervisors to complete the survey. Additionally, as we provided no monetary incentives for supervisors to return the questionnaires, those who returned the survey may represent a subset of supervisors who had better relationships with their subordinates and were intrinsically motivated to fulll their subordinates' request. This may have created a ceiling effect and explain the high means and low standard deviations for some of the supervisor-reported variables (viz., relational identity and performance ratings). Future studies should explore whether the effects of leader relational identity are generalizable to full-time employees, and supervisors with lower relational identities. Moderating effects of leader relational identity We predicted that strong leader relational identity could neutralize the effects of low-quality LMX on performance, because many of the benets of high-quality LMX (e.g., higher trust, greater feedback and support, and empowerment) may also be characteristic of interactions with leaders who hold strong relational identities (Andersen et al., 2002; Brewer et al., 1996). Thus, in the absence of high-quality LMX, supervisors who have strong relational identities still had subordinates who performed at high levels. Only when LMX quality is low and leader relational identity is weak did we observe low levels of subordinate job performance. Interestingly, our results suggest that follower LMX perceptions had weak relationships with performance when leaders have strong relational identities, whereas these relationships were strong when leaders had weak relational identities. This hints that followers in low and high-quality LMX relationships may receive very diverse treatment from leaders who have weak versus strong relational identities, and this differentiation has implications for follower performance (Uhl-Bien et al., 2000). We are particularly encouraged by our ndings because the LMX by relational identity interaction was a robust one. First, it was signicant in two separate samples and, most importantly, the interaction had identical patterns in every case (compare Figs. 1 and 2). Second, the interaction predicted multifaceted work performance, which is comprised of in-role task performance as well

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Fig. 2. Moderating effect of supervisor relational identity on the relationship between subordinate LMX and performance (Sample 2).

as extra-role OCBI and OCBO. Thus, supervisor relational identity is not only related to the bottom-line but it also relates to social and psychological contexts at work. Furthermore, the sizes of effects were quite substantial, as the average incremental variance accounted for by the interaction was at least 5% for each measure of performance. These are large effects given that they are nonexperimental interactions observed in the eld (see Aguinis, Beaty, Boik, & Pierce, 2005; McClelland & Judd, 1993). Overall, while the current study demonstrated the fruitfulness of considering leader relational identity in the LMX context, future research should focus on better identifying the mechanisms through which relational identity inuences the LMX performance relationships. In the current study, we maintained that leaders with strong relational identities may distinguish less between in- and out-group followers, thereby providing them with similar levels of resources and support. However, it is also possible that these leaders differentiate between these followers in a way that is considered acceptable by followers. For example,


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leaders with strong relational identities may make sure that they abide by consistent and fair policies for task assignment and reward distribution, clearly communicate the role expectations for all followers, and provide timely and constructive feedback to followers. In this case, even when followers of different LMX qualities receive different task assignments or rewards, they may still consider the leader treatment as fair. On the other hand, leaders with weak relational identities may ignore the justice principles and differentiate followers purely based on relationship quality, which may be perceived as favoritism and unfair. Thus, future studies should explore how followers, especially those who perceive low LMX, are treated differently by leaders with varying relational identity levels. Additionally, differences in leader attribution processes, trust and empowerment, and levels of relational skills represent potential ways to explain how leaders with strong versus weak relational identities treat followers with low LMX. Understanding these processes has theoretical and practical signicance, as it not only contributes to the LMX literature, but it also helps supervisors better manage and motivate their out-group members. Although no hypotheses were made regarding the main effects of leader relational identity on subordinate performance, some did emerge. Leader relational identity predicted OCB in both studies as well as task performance in Study 2. Thus, independent of LMX, relational identity levels of supervisors had unique effects on follower work behaviors. Similarly, Van Dick et al. (2007) found that leaders' identication with the organization enhanced follower performance. Arguably, identication with one's organization is one aspect of a work-based collective identity (Johnson & Chang, 2006). The direct relationships of identity that we observed offer further support for the suggestion that researchers ought to pay more attention to leader identity (van Knippenberg et al., 2005). Future research might explore the effects of different supervisor identity levels (viz., collective, relational, and individual) on subordinates' job performance, work attitudes (e.g., satisfaction and commitment), motivation (e.g., goal orientation and reactions to feedback), and non-productive behaviors (e.g., deviance and turnover). A practical implication of our ndings is that organizations would benet by having employees with strong relational identities, including those in supervisory roles. Even in cases when high-quality LMX exchanges are not possible (e.g., subordinates are unable or unwilling), the presence of a strong relational identity for persons in leadership positions can help off-set any performance detriments. Off-setting the performance decits of those with low LMX is particularly important given that it may not be possible for leaders to establish high-quality LMX with all of their subordinates (Zalesny & Graen, 1987). One obvious way that organizations can leverage our ndings is to target employees' relational identities during selection, with the goal being to attract and retain applicants who have strong relational identities. However, in order to have a workforce comprised of employees with strong relational identities, it may not be necessary for organizations to select applicants based on their chronic self-identity. All people have relational aspects to their self-identities, but the importance of these aspects varies from person to person, which is captured by responses on our measure of relational identity. However, self-identity level is a dynamic variable, meaning that people's chronic tendencies to dene themselves as partners in dyadic relationships can be overridden, at least in the short term. While we examined chronic relational identity in our two samples, there is ample evidence that identity levels can be primed (e.g., Haslam, Powell, & Turner, 2000; Johnson & Chang, 2008; Onorato & Turner, 2004) and that effects are consistent across chronic (trait) and state identity activation (e.g., Ybarra & Tramow, 1998). Thus, our ndings regarding the benets of having leaders with strong relational identities can be leveraged by creating opportunities or structures at work that encourage this identity level. For example, relational identities in organizational members, including leaders, might be consciously socialized or unconsciously primed by enduring situational cues that emphasize values and goals that are consistent with a relational identity (Lord et al., 2004). Research that uncovers the most effective means of fostering desired identity levels, which could involve modifying aspects of an organization's culture, compensation system, or work tasks, would be useful (Brickson, 2000). Limitations and conclusion A limitation of our cross-sectional design is that it precluded us from testing possible causal effects of leader relational identity and LMX on follower performance, which are implied by our theorizing as well as relational leadership theory (Uhl-Bien, 2006). Although there is evidence that LMX is causally related to performance (e.g., Gerstner et al., 1997), no such evidence exists for identityperformance relationships. Additionally, leader relational identity may have different effects at the initial stages of LMX development versus when leadermember relationships are more mature. For example, leader relational identity, like other individual difference variables, may play a more crucial role in the early relationship development stages. While leaders with strong relational identities are likely to form an overall positive impression for their followers, those with weak relational identities may be less optimistic about the relationship potential. Thus, as has been done with LMX (e.g., Liden et al., 1993), it would be useful to employ longitudinal techniques that track leader relational identity and follower performance over time. Doing so would help clarify the causal role of leaders' self-identity during exchanges with their followers. We should also acknowledge that other variables, such as the affectivity of leaders and followers, follower competence, and task interdependence, were not included in the current study. These variables may also inuence follower performance, or how leaders rate followers' performance. As such, future research might explore the role played by leader relational identity when it is examined in tandem with these other variables. Despite these potential weaknesses, our study has several strengths. First, we supported the belief that self-identity is an important self-regulatory variable (Brewer et al., 1996) and one that has implications for leadership processes (Hogg, 2001; Lord et al., 2004). Our work extends previous research because it examined leader, rather than subordinate, identity, and the relational, rather than the collective, level. Doing so addressed omissions in theory pertaining to self-identity and leadership (van Knippenberg et al., 2005). Findings supported our hypotheses that leader relational identity moderates relationships between LMX and subordinate performance, such that adverse consequences owing to low-quality LMX are mitigated when supervisors

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have strong relational identities. This interaction, which is replicated in a second sample, accounted for sizeable amounts of variance in task performance and OCB. We encourage researchers to continue examining the identity levels of leaders, including non-collective levels like relational and individual identities. Acknowledgments We thank Michael Mumford and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights. We would like to note that an earlier version of the paper was presented at the 68th Academy of Management Annual Meeting. We would like to thank Michelle Matias and Oscar Shatner for their assistance with data collection and manuscript preparation. References
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