Q1.  What are implicit leadership theories?  How are they developed, how do they function, and how do they change?

Implicit leadership theories (ILTs) refer to individuals' beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions about effective leadership (Smith & Foti, 1998).  Such views are often shaped by personal experiences, cultural norms, and socialisation processes (Yuki, 2020).  According to Lord and Maher (1991), ILTs are cognitive structures that influence individuals' expectations and evaluations of leaders.  When individuals encounter a leader who fits their perceived ideal leader prototype, they are more likely to view that leader positively and follow their leadership (Epitropaki & Martin, 2005).  Conversely, when individuals encounter a leader who does not fit their prototype, they may be less likely to view that leader positively or follow their leadership (Yuki, 2020).

Changes in ILTs are possible through exposure to diverse leadership experiences, education, and reflection that challenges and expands one's understanding of leadership (Day et al., 2014).  For instance, research has shown that exposure to various leadership styles and perspectives can broaden individuals' ILTs, rendering them more flexible (Epitropaki & Martin, 2005).  Analogously, leadership development programmes incorporating reflective practices can help individuals challenge their existing ILTs and develop more nuanced and compelling understandings of leadership (Day et al., 2014).


  • Day, D.V., Fleenor, J.W., Atwater, L.E., Sturm, R.E., & McKee, R.A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.11.004
  • Epitropaki, O., & Martin, R. (2005). From ideal to real: A longitudinal study of the role of implicit leadership theories on leader-member exchanges and employee outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 659-676. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.90.4.659
  • Lord, R.G., & Maher, K.J. (1993). Leadership and Information Processing: Linking Perceptions and Performance (1st ed.). Routledge.
  • Smith, J.A., & Foti, R.J. (1998). A pattern approach to the study of leader emergence. The Leadership Quarterly, 9(2), 147-160. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(98)90002-9
  • Yuki, G. (2020). Leadership in Organisations (9th edn.). Pearson. Chapter 1, pp. 21-41.

Q2.  Leadership identities are socially constructed.  Discuss.

The widely accepted idea in leadership studies is that leadership identities are socially constructed (Offermann et al., 2018).  This process entails negotiating and redefining roles, expectations, and power dynamics, which cultural norms and organisational structures can influence (Uhi-Bien et al., 2014).  Alvesson and Willmott (2002) further argue that social interactions and communication within specific social contexts contribute to the formation of leadership identities.

In addition, Bligh et al. (2011) maintain that leadership is influenced not only by individual characteristics but also by the social setting in which it is exercised, proposing that leadership is a social construct shaped by followers' expectations and societal norms.  Social identity theory supports this concept of socially constructed leadership identities (Hogg, 2001).  According to this theory, individuals gain their sense of identity from their groups.  In a leadership context, this theory suggests that leaders and followers forge their identities through mutual interactions and communication (Brewer & Gardner, 1996).


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