The Impact of Previous Leaders on the Evaluation of New Leaders: An Alternative to Prototype Matching

Ritter, Barbara A.; Lord, Robert G.
November 2007
Journal of Applied Psychology;Nov2007, Vol. 92 Issue 6, p1683
Academic Journal
In 2 studies, this research demonstrated the existence of leader transference, a cognitive process whereby mental representations of previous leaders are activated and used for evaluation when new, similar leaders are encountered. The 1st study demonstrated that exposure to a new leader who was similar to a past leader led in erroneous generalization of leader characteristics and associated underlying attributions. The 2nd study showed that expectations of just treatment and abuse were also subject to transfer from old to new, similar leaders, although positive and negative affective responses were not. Results suggested that individuals exposed to a leader who was not reminiscent of an old leader were more likely to use a general leader prototype to form leader expectations, whereas individuals exposed to a leader who was similar to an old leader activated a significant other mental representation for use in making judgments. These results have implications for individual- and relational-level processes as characterized by implicit readership theory and leader-member exchange theory as well as macro theories of leader succession and organizational culture change.


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