Conceptualizing leadership perceptions as attitudes: Using attitude theory to further understand the leadership process

Allan Lee, Robin Martin, Geoff Thomas, Yves Guillaume, Gregory R. Maio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


Leadership is one of the most examined factors in relation to understanding employee well-being and performance. While there are disparate approaches to studying leadership, they share a common assumption that perceptions of a leader's behavior determine reactions to the leader. The concept of leadership perception is poorly understood in most theoretical approaches. To address this, we propose that there are many benefits from examining leadership perceptions as an attitude towards the leader. In this review, we show how research examining a number of aspects of attitudes (content, structure and function) can advance understanding of leadership perceptions and how these affect work-related outcomes. Such a perspective provides a more multi-faceted understanding of leadership perceptions than previously envisaged and this can provide a more detailed understanding of how such perceptions affect outcomes. In addition, we examine some of the main theoretical and methodological implications of viewing leadership perceptions as attitudes to the wider leadership area. The cross-fertilization of research from the attitudes literature to understanding leadership perceptions provides new insights into leadership processes and potential avenues for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-934
Number of pages25
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Attitude strength
  • Attitudes
  • Leadership
  • Leadership perceptions
  • Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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