Implicit Leadership: Exploring the Role of Leaders on the Implicit Activation of Self-Interest
Komar, Shawn Gordon
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Lord and Brown (Lord, Brown, & Freiberg, 1999; Lord & Brown, 2004) suggest that leaders may impact followers by priming certain goals or ideals in their followers’ minds, which in turn influence judgment and behaviour. The current research examined whether transformational and transactional leaders unconsciously affect the values followers adopt and the goals they pursue, specifically the impact leaders have on follower self-interest. Although the relationship between leadership and self-interest has attracted a good deal of theoretical attention, little empirical work has been conducted to explore the impact of leadership on self-interest. Using established priming techniques, I demonstrated in three studies that transformational and transactional leaders affect self-interest in characteristic ways. In Study 1, participants read about a transformational and transactional leader and were subsequently primed with the image of one of the leaders. The results showed that participants primed with the transformational leader exhibited lower self-interest than those primed with the transactional leader. Study 2 replicated this effect, and demonstrated that the image of the leaders had a nonconscious effect on participants’ self-interest that was measurable after a delay of three days. Furthermore, this study found that participants’ pre-existing levels of prosocial values moderated the effectiveness of the prime. Study 3 extended the results of the first two studies by demonstrating that priming participants with a transformational leader significantly lowered self-interest in a context where individual gain was salient, and the transactional leader increased self-interest in a context focused on collective outcomes.