George B. Graen
Center for Advanced Studies
University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (Ret.)

This contribution to the symposium whose theme is, Leadership, Followership and Identity suggests the possibility of an intellectual marriage of two of the most popular bodies of knowledge in organizational behavior and organizational psychology.  Identity theory of leadership concentrates on the development of follower and leader dyadic identity and LMX theory focuses on the development of team member and leader unique strategic alliances LMX-USA in autonomous teams (Graen & Schiemann, 2013; Kark & Epitropaki, 2016). 

These two compatible research-based, theoretical frames are attempts to understand how the leader-follower leadership dyad develops into and dyadic charismatic LMX-USA and identities in teams employing proper antecedents and consequences.  My proposed primary goal is to successfully integrate these two approaches into a dual theory of building leadership and finds out which develops first and leads to the other or which develops in parallel.  My other goals are the intellectual and emotional development of (1) an effective LMX LMX-USA networks and (2) a mutually acceptable identities of "we" and not "me" or "you". (Graen & Canedo, 2017; Steffens, Haslam, Reicher, Platow, Fransen, Yang, Ryan, Jetten, Peters & Boen, 2014). 

This proposed marriage of the two theoretical approaches was recently made less complex (Kozlowski, Mak & Chao, 2016).  This article in the Annual Review of Organizational Behavior and Organizational Psychology raised the philosophy of science question regarding levels of analysis between team and individual members (Kozlowski & Bell, 2003).  The methodological error of theories of average leadership styles of supervisors with their teams was clearly stated for TFL theory.

"Although treating TFL [transformation-charismatic-authentic leadership] at the team level is consistent with theory, it is not clear how an average style of leadership at the team level would lead to variable outcomes at the individual level." (Kozlowski, et al., 2016, p. 26)

One way to look at this conundrum is to understand that an individual charismatic LMX-USA score is a description of the trustworthiness one's direct leader's communications.  This score predicts the performance, engagement and career optimism of a follower.  In contrast, the average or mean of a team's LMX-USA score is an unrepresentative description of the relative charisma of a team in a larger unit.  A proper measure of team charismatic is the proportion of trustworthy actors behavior in context (ABC) of team. Team score is a function of a multitude of team advantages in actors, behaviors and context (ABC) variables between teams.  In addition, to larger proportion of partners of the leader, a team may be fortunate in having more people who fit by virtue of their needed abilities, temperament, passion for work and any other relevant characteristics (actors), in having less difficult work (behaviors), and resources for conditions of different kinds (context).  Only the individual LMX-USA scores may be interpreted properly as influencing follower performance.  Unfortunately, many articles have been and are currently published in the best journals that miss this critical difference (Chen, Kirkman, Kanfer, Allen & Rosen, 2007).

The implications for the marriage of Identity of leader inventory (ILI) and LMX-USA (Tables 1 and 2)are that the leadership process takes place at the individual or dyadic level as found (Graen, Hui, & Taylor, 2006) and may moderate or mediate each others relationship with subsequent follower performance (Table 3 and Figure 1).  ID may very well act similarly.  In contrast, the within team variation (LMX-Differentiation) is a function of mean, variance, skewness and platosis of the distribution of LMX-USA in a team and is another team difference (average leadership style). 

Finally, a meta-analysis of meta-analyses concluded regarding the role of LMX-USA theory and average leadership theories stated:

"In short, the leader-follower relationship [LMX USA], as perceived by followers, is what seems to chart the pathway from leadership to follower performance, suggesting an important shift in leadership theory and practice.  (Gottfredson & Aguinis, 2016). 

In addition, this investigation concluded in practice, leaders should work to develop better and closer LMX-USA with followers working with them and developing trust, respect and benevolence.  Followers generally respond well to their LMX-USA team leadership. (Table 4).

I propose to measure charismatic LMX-USA at the individual level using the latest version (Graen & Schiemann, 2013) and the "identity of leadership inventory ILI (Steffens, et al., 2014).  I will collect individual scores and team distributions scores from both members and leaders along with plausible antecedent and outcome variables.  The design would be longitudinal and take new employees as they join the corporation and follow them through their fitting effectively into a team.  Data would be collected on at least four points in time.  A longitudinal design will be used and analyzed as a structural equation model of the developmental process of leadership-making and identity-making leading to follower performance at both individual and team-level. 

My proposal for the symposium is to present and participate in a discussion of the marriage of two theories over stages of team leadership development from "strangers" to "associates" to "partners" in teams (Figure 1).  I'm well versed in LMX-USA research and theory (Figure 2), but I would benefit from learning more from my colleagues about identity theory.  I have talked at length to Bob Lord about our respective work over the years and I consider him an expert on the applied cognitive literature of leadership (Bob and I are charter members of the Society of Organizational Behavior).  I look forward to a great learning experience and visit to one of the best places to visit and experience the world of ancient Greek thinkers including my supreme mentor Socrates the Great.


Chen, G., Kirkman, B. L., Kanfer, R., Allen, D., & Rosen, B. (2007) A multilevel study of leadership, empowerment, and performance in teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92: 331-346.

Gottfredson, R. K., & Aguinis, H. (2016).  Leadership behaviors and follower performance: Deductive and inductive examination of theoretical rationales and underlying mechanisms.  Journal of Organizational Behavior. Wiley Online Library.   DOI: 10.11002/job.2152.

Graen, G. B. & Canedo, J. (2017) A theory of coaching interpersonal alliances: Demystifying charismatic teams.  Administrative Science Quarterly.  (Under review)

Graen, G., B., Hui, C. & Taylor, E. A. (2006) Experience-based learning about LMX leadership and fairness in project teams: A dyadic directional approach, Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5(4) 448-460.

Graen, G. B., & Schiemann, W. (2013). Leadership-motivated excellence theory: An extension of LMX. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(5), 452–469.

Kark, R. & Epitropaki, O. (2016).  Theme: Leadership, followership and identity.  2nd Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Leadership Symposium.

Kozlowski, S. J., & Bell, B. S. (2003). Work groups and teams in organizations. In W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski, Handbook of psychology (Vol. 12): Industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 333-375). New York: Wiley.

Kozlowski, S. W. J., Mak S. & Chao, G. T. (2016).  Team-Centric Leadership: An Integrative Review.  Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Vol. 3: pp 21-54.

Steffens, N. K., Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., Platow, M. J., Fransen, K., Yang, J., Ryan, M. K., Jetten, J., Peters, K., & Boen, F. (2014).  Leadership as social identity management: Introducing the Identity Leadership Inventory (ILI) to assess and validate a four-dimensional model   The Leadership Quarterly, 256, 5, pp 1001-1024.

[1] IPLS attendees have my permission to use LMX-USA without charge for research and teaching.e your paragraph here.


George Graen, Organizational Psychology Ph.D. University of Minnesota, has more than 50 years of experience in “people operations” globally.  He is well known internationally for his work discovering, refining and validating Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory of role making for team performance.  Retiring from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, he stepped up his record of ground breaking discoveries of research-based, innovative best HR practices.  He also continues to share his research-derived knowledge of people operations with Human Resources, Industrial-Organization Psychology and Academy of Management researchers and practitioners without any fee.  In 1976 he was made an American Psychological Association Research Fellow.  His preferred slogan reads:  “Employees should be valued for their contributions as much as customers for their coin”.


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George (Bear) Graen, Ph.D.