Contemporary so called follower-centric leadership theories often argue that "good leadership is in the eye of the beholder". Leader categorization theory, for instance, suggests that subordinates use their cognitive representation of an ideal leader (ideal leader prototype) as an implicit "benchmark" to determine their openness towards the target's leadership, i.e., influence. With the present study, we extend this rationale by hypothesizing that such benchmarking processes are subject to follower individual differences. In particular, we argue that the process of leader categorization plays a bigger role for subordinates who perceive themselves as ideal (potential) leaders. Moreover, this two-way moderation is proposed to be further qualified by subordinates' disposition to engage in social comparison orientation. Results of two field samples with employees (N = 140; N = 287) confirm our hypotheses. In integrating the leader categorization perspective with an individual difference perspective, we not only expand the scope of follower-centric theorizing on social influence, but also support its validity.

ILT, Implicit Leadership Theories, information processing, leader identity, leader prototypes, leader schema, leadership categorization, self-concept,
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Quaquebeke, N, van Knippenberg, D.L, & Eckloff, T. (2011). Individual differences in the leader categorization to openness to influence relationship: The role of followers' self-perception and social comparison orientation. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(5), 605–622. doi:10.1177/1368430210391311