ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (2): 216-225.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00216

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 Being a prototypic follower: Burdening or enabling? The paradoxical effect of followership prototype-trait match

 PENG Jian1; WANG Zhen2   

  1.  (1 School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China) (2 Business School, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing 100081, China)
  • Received:2016-11-08 Published:2018-02-25 Online:2017-12-26
  • Contact: WANG Zhen, E-mail: PENG Jian, E-mail:
  • Supported by:

Abstract:  In recent years, a novel research topic, implicit followership theories, has infused the organizational behavior literature with new vitality. Implicit followership theories refer to the pre-existing personal assumptions about the traits that characterize a follower. Based on the valence of assumed follower traits, implicit followership theories are classified into two types, namely followership prototype and anti-prototype. In the leader-follower interaction process, leaders’ followership prototypes can usually be activated, which in turn may compete with the followers’ actual trait. In line with the results of implicit prototype-actual trait comparison, leaders will identify the ideal followers. According to the traditional viewpoints on implicit followership theories, prototypic followers whose actual traits match their leaders’ followership prototype may experience a high level of well-being in the workplace. However, some scholars recently point out the potential dark side of being a prototypic follower, namely, the suffering of psychological fatigue. Based on the job demand-resource model, the present study aimed to reconcile the contradictory viewpoints mentioned above by proposing a dual process model wherein the congruence between leaders’ followership prototype and followers’ followership trait migh have a paradoxical effect on followers’ well-being. Specifically, the present study hypothesized that beyond an enabling process of followership prototype-trait congruence (represented by the positive mediating effect of self-efficacy), there would be a burdening process (represented by the negative mediating effect of workload). To test our hypotheses, the current study conducted a multi-wave, multi-resource survey. At Time 1, we sent surveys to 204 voluntary leader-follower dyads, requiring leaders and followers to report their followership prototype and demography information. We obtained 171 surveys with effective responses. About two months later, we conducted the Time 2 survey, requiring leaders to rate their perceived workload of the focal followers and requiring followers to rate their self-efficacy, emotional exhaust, affective organizational commitment and job satisfaction. Eventually, we obtained 132 effective respondents. Based on the two-wave data, we conducted path analysis using Mplus 7.0. The results overall supported the contrasting notions, suggesting that followership prototype-trait match could enhance followers’ self-efficacy and consequently well-being (i.e., high job satisfaction), while at the same time increased followers’ workload, which in turn diminished followers’ well-being (i.e., high emotional exhaust, low job satisfaction and affective commitment). These findings not only advance our understanding of the relationship between implicit followership theories and well-being, but also provide further inspiration for managerial practice.

Key words: implicit followership theory, followership prototype, followership trait, self-efficacy, workload, well-being

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