Q1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of LMX?

The Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory highlights the importance of the connections between leaders and their followers in influencing job satisfaction, performance, and career development.

Strengths of LMX theory include its personalised approach, which recognises that leaders develop distinct relationships with each follower, resulting in varying levels of support, trust, and influence (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).  This tailored approach can lead to more effective leadership and better adaptation to individual needs.  Additionally, high-quality LMX relationships foster open communication, enhance understanding of expectations, provide more precise feedback, and increase job satisfaction (Dulebohn et al., 2012).  Followers in high-quality LMX relationships are more committed, motivated, and productive, which can lead to higher performance levels (Martin et al., 2016).  Furthermore, followers with strong LMX relationships are more likely to experience satisfaction, contributing to increased retention and loyalty (Harris et al., 2011).

However, LMX theory also has some weaknesses.  It can result in forming an 'in-group' consisting of highly valued followers, potentially creating an environment of favouritism and resentment among team members (Erdogan & Bauer, 2010).  LMX theory does not fully explore the impact of different leadership styles on the quality of leader-follower relationships, potentially limiting its applicability in diverse settings (Northhouse, 2018).  Moreover, LMX theory tends to disregard the influence of situational factors, such as organisational culture and external pressures, on leader-follower relationships (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).


  • Dulebohn, J.H., Bommer, W.H., Liden, R.C., Brouer, R.L., & Ferris, G.R. (2012). A meta-analysis of antecedents and consequences of leader-member exchange: Integrating the past with an eye toward the future. Journal of Management, 38(6), 1715-1759. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206311415280
  • Erdogan, B., & Bauer, T.N. (2010). Differentiated leader-member exchanges: The buffering role of justice climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1104-1120. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020578
  • Graen, G.B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 219-247. https://doi.org/10.1016/1048-9843(95)90036-5
  • Harris, K.J., Wheeler, A.R., & Kacmar, K.M. (2011). The mediating role of organisational job embeddedness in the LMX–outcomes relationships. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(2), 271-281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.02.003
  • Martin, R., Guillaume, Y., Thomas, G., Lee, A., & Epitropaki, O. (2016). Leader-member exchange (LMX) and performance: A meta-analytic review. Personnel Psychology, 69(1), 67-121. https://doi.org/10.1111/peps.12100
  • Northhouse, P.G. (2021). Leader-member exchange theory. In Leadership: Theory & Practice (9th ed., pp. 228-261). Sage.

Q2.  In what sense and to what extent is leadership a relational process?

Leadership as a relational process involves the dynamic and mutual interaction between leaders and followers, in which both parties influence and shape each other's behaviour, attitudes, and performance (Uhl-Bien, 2006).  This perspective underscores the significance of communication, trust, and collaboration in achieving organisational objectives.

The degree to which leadership is a relational process is contingent upon the leader's aptitude for building meaningful connections with their followers, fostering an atmosphere of trust and collaboration, and adapting to the ever-evolving dynamics of the organisation (Northouse, 2021).  In this context, leadership is not solely about the actions or traits of a leader; instead, it is a jointly created process that encompasses both leaders and followers working collaboratively (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).  This relational approach acknowledges that a leader's success depends on their followers' willingness to engage, support, and contribute to the shared vision.

A range of elements significantly influences the success of relational leadership.  Among these is emotional intelligence, which involves a leader's ability to perceive and regulate their emotions and those of their team, consequently promoting productive communication and decision-making processes (Goleman et al., 2013).  Furthermore, trust is a critical component, as a solid basis of trust between the leader and their followers is indispensable for creating a collaborative and openly communicative atmosphere (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002).

Empowerment is another essential component of relational leadership.  Leaders empower their followers by offering opportunities for growth, development, and autonomy, enhancing their commitment and motivation (Conger & Kanungo, 1988).  Moreover, adaptability is critical for a relational leader, who must be flexible and responsive to their followers' needs, adjusting their leadership style based on the distinct demands of various situations and individuals (Hartog & Belschak, 2012).


  • Conger, J.A., & Kanungo, R.N. (1988). The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. The Academy of Management Review, 13(3), 471-482. https://doi.org/10.2307/258093
  • Dirks, K.T., & Ferrin, D.L. (2002). Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and implications for research and practice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 611-628. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.4.611
  • Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R.E., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Graen, G.B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 219-247. https://doi.org/10.1016/1048-9843(95)90036-5
  • Hartog, D.N.D., & Belschak, F.D. (2012). Work engagement and Machiavellianism in the ethical leadership process. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(1), 35-47. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1296-4
  • Northhouse, P.G. (2021). Authentic leadership. In Leadership: Theory & Practice (9th ed., pp. 307-346). Sage.
  • Uhl-Bien, M. (2006). Relational leadership theory: Exploring the social processes of leadership and organising. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(6), 654-676. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2006.10.007
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