ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (9): 1162-1171.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.01162

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Mr. Right & Superman: Effect of Implicit Followership on Employee’s Behaviors

KONG Ming, QIAN Xiaojun   

  1. (School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China)
  • Received:2014-06-20 Published:2015-09-25 Online:2015-09-25
  • Contact: KONG Ming, E-mail:


Leaders’ Implicit Followership Theories (LIFTs) are defined as “leaders’ personal assumptions about the traits and behaviors that characterize followers”. It is an extension of implicit leadership theories (ILTs) supported by the social cognitive theory and cognitive information processing theory. From the “followers-centered” perspective, this paper analyzed the leadership process of “how leaders and followers perceive, decide, and act”.

This paper mainly discussed the influence factors on employee’s behaviors from the perspective of implicit followership. The social exchange theory provides a theoretical framework for understanding how employee’s beneficial social exchange with their organizations lead to their positive attitude and behaviors. The study also tests the mediating effect of leader-member exchange (LMX) and the moderating effect of psychological empowerment. It aims to address the following three research questions: (1) Can positive LIFTs affect employee’s behaviors, especially for the In-Role Behavior (IRB) and Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB), and how? (2) Can “Mr. Right” be “Superman”? Why and how? (3) Can and how LMX influence the relationship between “Mr. Right” and “Superman”?
Questionnaire surveys of both employees and their leaders in 19 large and medium-sized enterprises located in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou were conducted. A total of 480 questionnaires were collected and among which 278 were valid (the efficiency is 57.9%). In order to reduce the common method variance, 2 questionnaire surveys with an interval of two months were conducted. After the CFA, we examined the reliability of the scale and tested the correlation between the variables. Multiple linear regression analyses were carried out based on the data from 278 employees in 19 companies.
The conclusion is that positive LIFTs are positively correlated with employee’s IRB and OCB. Moreover, the results of HRM show that LMX mediated the relationships between positive LIFTs and IRB/OCB. And the moderating effect of psychological empowerment is significant. The results of this study not only extends the application of implicit theory and cognitive theory in the studies on leadership, but also enriched the content of social exchange theory.

Key words: implicit followership, employee’s behavior, leader-member exchange, psychological empowerment