The Role of Attachment Styles in Leader Member Exchange Theory

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The Role of Attachment Styles in Leader-Member Exchange Theory Will A. Gibson
Kansas State University

Leader-member Exchange Theory (LMX) deals with the quality of a work relationship between a leader and a member. A higher quality LMX places members in an in-group with their leader and therefore benefit from increased communication, attention, and consideration. When there is a lower LMX, members are in an out-group characterized by less communication and effort on behalf of the member. This proposal hypothesizes that the basis for formation of in-groups and out-groups is related to the attachment styles of both the leader and member.

Leader-member Exchange (LMX) Theory was first formally conceptualized by George Graen (1978). The theory posits that the dynamic existing between a leader (or manager, supervisor, etc.) and their member (employee, subordinate, etc) is a product of three separate factors. First are the traits, behaviors, and attitudes of the leader. This is one of the more obvious of the three criteria. If a manager has very poor leadership skills and does not enjoy working with people, it may be very difficult for that manager to form successful working relationships with his or her employees. Similarly, traits, behaviors, and attitudes of the followers affect the working relationship between the leader and the follower. The third and final factor is the exchange, or the interaction between the two individuals' traits and personalities. Leader-member exchange materializes into a dichotomy of workplace relationships. When there is a high degree of LMX between a leader and any member, that member is considered to be in the "in-group." Members in an in-group profit from increased communication and interaction with the leader. Often members in an in-group receive preferential treatment and individualized consideration. They may be privy to more information. Members of in-groups...
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