ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (9): 1151-1162.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.01151

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I will perform effectively if you are with me: Leader-follower congruence in followership prototype, job engagement and job performance

PENG Jian; WANG Xiao   

  1. (School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China)
  • Received:2015-08-17 Published:2016-09-25 Online:2016-09-25
  • Contact: PENG Jian, E-mail: WANG Xiao, E-mail:


In organizational settings, scholars have suggested that individuals naturally tend to classify people into two types: leader and follower. While a substantial body of research has established implicit leadership theories (ILTs) in the past three decades, the corresponding notion of implicit followership theories (IFTs) has relatively received little research attention (Sy, 2010). IFTs are defined as individuals’ personal assumptions about the traits that characterize followers, which include followership prototype and anti-prototype. To date, most research focuses on the consequence of followership prototype and suggests that followership prototype could enhance job performance through leader’s performance expectations, leader-member exchange and liking for followers. From these aforementioned studies, however, some research gaps have not been addressed. Firstly, the previous research on followership prototype becomes less convincing for they failed to integrate the follower’s followership prototype into the model for examination. Secondly, prior studies have predominantly focused on the effect of followership prototype on task performance and organizational citizenship behavior, while ingoring contextual performance. Thirdly, very few studies discuss the mediating role of job engagement in the relationship between followership prototype and performance. To fill such research gaps, the present study aims to examine the effects of leader-follower congruence in followership prototype on task and contextual performance, as well as the mediating role of job engagement. Data were collected from 243 leader-follower dyads in 64 teams of nine companies in China. Since our data contained a hierarchical structure in which individual scores were nested within teams, we used hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to conduct cross level polynomial regression combining with response surface analysis. Based on the results, our research presents four conclusions: (1) In terms of the effects on different performance type, leader-follower congruence in followership prototype is positively related to contextual performance but not task performance. (2) In the case of leader-follower congruence, task and contextual performance is higher when followers and leaders are aligned at a high level of followership prototype than when they are at a low level. (3) In the case of incongruence, task and contextual performance is higher when a follower’s followership prototype is higher than a leader’s as compared to when a leader’s followership prototype is higher than a follower’s. (4) Job engagement mediates the effect of leader-follower congruence in followership prototype on task and contextual performance. Our findings offer several important theoretical and practical implications. With regard to theoretical implications, the present research extends the extant IFTs literature from a single-sided perspective to a leader-follower congruence perspective, supporting the person-supervision fit theory and contributing to the research on IFTs, job performance and work engagement. As far as practical implications, we suggest that managers should consider testing leader-follower IFTs before building or reconstructing a team and arrange the leaders and followers who share similar self-reported IFTs in a team. Finally, limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

Key words: followership prototype, implicit followership theories, task performance, contextual performance, work engagement.