Am I worthy to my leader? Role of leader-based self-esteem and social comparison in the LMX-performance relationship


  • Afshan Gul
  • Serrano-Archimi Carolina
  • Landry Guylaine
  • Javed Uzma

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BACKGROUND: Most leadership theories, such as transformational, ethical, and servant leadership, emphasize the notion that leaders influence their followers’ in-role and extra-role work performance by treating them collectively and similarly. On the other hand, leader-member exchange (LMX) theory challenges this idea and argues that leaders treat followers differently and have high-quality exchange relationships with some followers and low-quality ones with others. However, few studies have examined LMX differentiated relationships in social contexts. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to investigate the role of employee leader-based self-esteem (LBSE) (i.e., employees’ self-evaluation of their worth derived from the quality of the relationship with their supervisor) in the relationship between LMX and two types of performance: task performance and organizational citizenship behaviour at individual level (OCB-I). Using an integrated theoretical framework of social comparison and self-consistency theories, we develop a moderated mediation model in which the mediating role of LBSE in the LMX-task performance and OCB-I relationships is conditional on the values of LMX social comparison (LMXSC). METHODS: Using a research sample of 298 manager-employee matching dyads working in 43 branches of a leading bank in Pakistan, results of hierarchical multiple regression analyses provided support for our developed model. RESULTS: We found that LMX positively led to LBSE which, in turn, served as a mediator between LMX and both performance types, with a stronger effect on OCB-I. We also found that by moderating the relationship between LMX and LBSE, LMXSC moderated the mediating role of LBSE, which had stronger effect on performance at high values of LMXSC than at low values. CONCLUSIONS: Following these findings, we discuss the contributions that this study offers to LMX and self-esteem literature and its managerial implications.

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