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Holly H. Brower*
Butler University
F. David Schoorman
Purdue University
Hwee Hoon Tan
National University of Singapore

This aruch: presents a model of relational h:adership ba~ed on a review of leader-memhcr exchange
(LMX) and interpersonal trust. This model asserts that lhe LMX rela11onsh1p 1s hu11t through
interpersonal exchanges m which parlles to the relauonsh1p evaluate the ah1hty. benevolence.
and integrity of each other. The~c perception~. in turn . infiucnce the hehav1or~ predicted hy LMX
researchers. This integrated model ol relational leadership provide\ ms1ght~ mto the dynamics
of leader-subordinate relat1onsh1ps and resolves some of the mcon~1stenc1es m the LMX re~earch
without lo~mg the richnes~ and uniquenes~ of the exchange theory. A numhcr of propos111ons
for future research in relational leader~h1p arc al'o ~uggeMed.

Discussions about leadership and trust have been intertwined for decades in fields
as diverse as religion. philosophy, psychology. and management. In fact. leadership
and trust are common themes in mythology and literature from diverse cultures
representing all ages. In spite of this widespread attention. there has been very
little systematic investigation of how these two con!>tructs are differentiated, and how
they are similar. Theories about leadership and trust have developed independently,
although there is significant overlap in the concerns and effects of each. If a leader
trusts a subordinate, will the subordinate be more likely to follow? How will subordi-

* Direct all correspondence to: Holly Brower. College of Bu~mc~~ Admint~tration. Butler Untvcrsll}'.
4600 Sunset Avenue. Indianapolis. IN ~6208: l.'-111t11/: hhrower<.n'

Leadership Quarterly. 11 (2). 227-250.

Copyright «:· 2000 by El~cv1er Science Inc.
All nghb of reproduction m any form re~erved.
ISSN: 1048-9843

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

228 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

nates perceive the level of trust their leaders have in them, and how will this
perception affect subordinate behavior? If a subordinate feels trusted and valued,
will he or she work harder and be loyal to the firm? Intuitively, we would like to
answer "yes" to each question. but none have been sufficiently addressed in leader-
ship or trust theories. Answers to these questions would have important implications
for leadership in organizations.
Recent theoretical developments in both leadership and trust have given us a
unique opportunity to examine these questions in the context of organizations and
to advance our understanding of the complex relationships between supervisors
and subordinates. Jn this article, we will integrate seminal theories of trust and
leadership, and set the stage for answering these questions through the development
of a new theory of relational leadership.
The last few years have seen a significant increase in interest in trust as a construct,
particularly in the context of organizations (Currall & Judge, 1995; Mayer, Davis, &
Schoorman, 1995; McAllister, 1995; Sitkin & Roth, 1993). This is best reflected in
the recent special issue of the Academy of Management Review (vol. 23, 1998) that
is devoted to trust. Recent models of trust have also moved the research away
from definitions that examine trust for generalized others (e.g., Rotter, 1967) to a
definition of trust as a characteristic of dyadic relationships (e.g., Hosmer, 1995;
Mayer et al., 1995). These trends toward a focus on interpersonal, dyadic relation-
ships, and on trust in the context of organizations. place these theories of trust
squarely in the domain of theories of leadership, thereby facilitating an integration
of the theories.
The research on dyadic leadership, represented most commonly as leader-mem-
ber exchange (LMX), differs from other theories of leadership that address general-
ized leader behaviors and traits to all followers. This dyadic perspective makes this
research more related to the contemporary theories of interpersonal trust. For
instance, LMX theory is concerned with dyadic relationships, assumes that leaders
differentiate among subordinates in the establishment of these relationships, and
describes a role-making process that leads to the development of the relationships
(Dienesch & Liden. 1986; Graen & Uhl-Bien. 1995; House & Aditya, 1997). LMX
is also concerned with the outcomes of these relationships for individuals and the
organization. Jn all of these respects, we assert that the assumptions and interests
of LMX theory are closely aligned with theories of interpersonal trust.
We will explore the overlap between LMX and trust research from both theoreti-
cal and empirical perspectives. After briefly describing a seminal theory in each
domain, we will review the similarities as well as the differences between the theories
and identify critical issues at the intersection of these research streams. We will
identify ways in which the integration of these research streams allows us to learn
more about each theory. The trust literature can be used to inform us about rela-
tional leadership by helping to clarify some of the difficulties that have plagued the
LMX literature. In addition, the LMX literature serves to inform the field about
trust in hierarchical relationships. Based on this integration, we describe a theory
of relational leadership and develop a number of research propositions regarding
the antecedents and consequences of the quality of the relationship between leader
and follower.

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Relational Leadership 229


LMX theory had its early roots in vertical dyad linkage theory (VOL) developed by
Graen and his colleagues (Cashman, Dansereau, Graen. & Haga. 1976; Dansereau,
Graen, & Haga, 1975; Graen , I976: Graen & Cashman, 1975). The basic premise
of VOL theory was lhat leaders differentiate between subordinates in the way they
supervise them (Graen & Uhl-Bien. I 995) such that the leader develops a much
closer relationship with some subordinates (in-group) and gives them more "negoti-
ating latitude" than other subordinates (out-group) (Cashman et al.. 1976; Danser-
eau et al., 1975). Crouch and Yett on ( 1988) argue that hierarchical relationships
vary in terms of support and openness, which they define as trustworthiness. Trust
has generally been ascribed to "in-group" relationships.
This view of leadership contrasted dramatically with the prevailing approaches
(behavioral and situational) to leadership that generally assumed that leaders
treated all subordinates the same (see House & Aditya, 1997: Schriesheim. Castro, &
Cogliser. 1999; Yuki & Tracey, 1992, for recent reviews). This perspective facilitates
the integration of leadership theory with theories of interpersonal trust. The research
on LMX can be leveraged to help us better understand how trust develops between
leaders and their subordinates.
As this stream of research developed and became known as LMX. the in-group
and out-group labels were dropped, and the quality of the relationship was measured
on a continuum. This development was more consistent with the original premise
that each relationship was unique. A role-making model (Graen & Scandura. 1987)
was widely accepted as descriptive of the interaction between manager and subordi-
nate that develops early to shape the quality of their relationship. The role-making
concept of LMX was also extended to include social exchange and attribution
theories (Dienesch & Liden, 1986; Uhl-Bien. Graen, & Scandura. 1997). These
models extended LMX theory by describing the process by which the relationship
developed. According to them, LMX develops quickly and remains stable over
time (Bauer & Green, 1996: Dienesch & Liden. 1986: Liden, Wayne. & Stillwell,
1993). A high LMX relationship is characterized by mutual trust, loyalty, and
behaviors that extend outside the employment contract. A low LMX relationship
is one that is within the bounds of the employment contract such that the employee
performs his or her job, but contributes nothing extra.
Scholars from many disciplines are turning to trust as a perspective for reexamin-
ing many of the basic assumptions about human relationships in organizations
(Lewicki & Bunker. 1996). Jn particular, several recent articles have integrated past
literature lo identify conditions of interpersonal trust (e.g., Butler, 1991; Curra II &
Judge , 1995: Driscoll , 1978; Mayer et al., 1995: McAllister, 1995: Whitener. Brodt,
Korsgaard, & Werner, 1998). Hosmer (1995) noted that there have heen a number
of different definitions of trust and attributes this lo the fact that trust has been
studied in a wide range of disciplines and contexts. For example. the economic
perspective conceptualizes trust as a rational and institutional phenomenon (e.g..
Ring & Yan de Yen. 1992). To be consistent with the domain of LMX, we require
a theory of trust that is interpersonal and relevant in the context of organizations.
A few salient issues framed research on interpersonal trust: the notion of risk

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230 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

is central to the definition of trust (e.g., Currall & Judge, 1995; Rousseau, Sitkin.
Burt, & Camerer, 1998); the antecedents and outcomes of interpersonal trust (e.g ..
Butler, 1991 ; Farris, Senner. & Butterfield, 1973): and the process of trust building
(e.g., Lewicki & Bunker. 1996; McKnight. Cummings. & Chervany. 1998). In their
commentary on the articles in the recent special issue on trust in organizations
(Academy of Management Review. vol. 23, 1998), the editors report that the most
common definition of trust across all the research articles in the volume was that
proposed by Mayer et al. (1995). where trust was defined as the "willingness to be
vulnerable .. (Rousseau et al.. 1998). The Mayer et al. ( 1995) model of trust focuses
on the interpersonal relationships between two parties. the trustor and the trustee.
Their model represents a compilation of previous research on antecedents and
outcomes of trust. It can be applied to any dyad and is thus particularly useful in
describing leader-subordinate relationships. We will use this model of trust as the
basis for our integration.


The most important aspect of each of the theories to be examined is the construct
that defines the quality of the relationship between two individuals. We will first
examine how the conceptual definitions of LMX and trust compare on a number
of critical issues regarding the nature of the relational construct.

Reciprocity is central to both LMX and trust. although it does not mean the
same in both research areas. LMX is an exchange theory of leadership. As such,
it asserts that both parties bring something of value to the exchange. and that the
two individuals become interrelated (Graen & Scandura. 1987: Sparrowe & Liden.
1997). The two parties interact, and the history of those exchanges builds the
relationship. Over time, it is believed that the relationship between the two parties
will reach an equilibrium. or balance (Emerson, 1962; Smircich & Morgan, 1982).
Thus, the quality of the relationship is mutually perceived. with balanced reciprocity.
Theoretically, the dyad constitutes the unit of analysis. and there is no differentia-
tion between a subordinate's and a supervisor's measure of the quality of the
exchange. LMX is defined as a measure of the quality of the exchange. Thus. the
theory assumes that the quality of the exchange is something that can be established
as a reality in and of itself. Theoretically, all parties observing the relationship would
have the same perception of the quality of the exchange between the supervisor and
the subordinate. In keeping with the theory. empirical research has asked third
parties (coworkers) to assess the exchange between a subordinate and a supervisor
(Duchon . Green, & Tabor, 1986) and has sought agreement in the measure of LMX
between measures taken from supervisors and subordinates (Liden et al., 1993).
This element of LMX is discussed in more detail later in this article.
Similar to the exchange process in LMX, Zand (1972) described the development
of trust as a spiral reinforcement process. It also has been described as a cyclical ,
mutually reinforcing process (Butler, 1991) and , more recently, as a social exchange

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Relational leadership 231

process (Kramer. 1996: Whitener et al.. I 998). The behavior of each player influences
the other in an iterative fashion . In this sense. then. there is reciprocity in trust.
Although this reciprocal influence is possible and often likely. it is not essential to
trust. Trust need not be mutual (Mayer et al.. 1995). Thus, it is possible for a leader
to trust a subordinate, and at the same time, the suhordinate to not trust the leader.
In fact, it is likely that the leader's trust of the !>Uhordinate is not equal to the
subordinate's trust of the leader. Thus. trust is different from LMX in that it does
not assert that reciprocity will be mutual or balanced.
The available empirical evidence in the LMX literature has not supported the
assertion that LMX has balanced reciprocity (Gerstner & Day. 1997). Supervisor
estimates of the relationship have not been highly correlated with subordinate
estimates. Therefore. the empirical LMX literature is consistent with the conceptual
arguments of the trust model. Thus, we will adopt the trust perspective that leader
and follower assessments of the quality of the relationship are not reciprocal.

Perception Versus Actuality

In LMX theory, Graen and his associates (Graen, Cashman, Ginsburg. & Schie-
mann. 1977) assert that there are three elements to LMX: the supervisor. the
subordinate, and the exchange relationship. They represent the quality of the ex-
change relationship as something separate from the individuals involved in the
relationship-that it is objective, not perceptive.
A consistent aspect of various conceptualizations of trust is that it is a perception
held by the trustor, rather than an objective reality (Mayer et al.. 1995). Thus. the
measure of trust is a measure of a construct that exists within an individual. In fact.
there is no objective measure of trust. We can measure behavior that indicates trust
through risk taking. but it is a consequence of trust. not a proxy. Therefore. the
trustor is the most appropriate source of measures of trust. In a dyadic leadership
context, only the leader can assess the extent to which he or she trusts a particular
subordinate. The subordinate may assess how much he or she believes the leader
trusts in him/her, but his/her perception may not <1grce with the leader's report of
his or her trust in the subordinate because it is based on perception. not actuality.
Although subordinates may not be able to know the degree of trust the leader has
in them, their perception of leader's trust in them, based upon attrihutes of the
leader's behavior, will affect their attitudes and behavior. This notion of perception
can be used to resolve much of the lack of convergence in the LMX literature.

Construct Differentiation and Perspective

Two related issues that have caused ambiguity in the measurement of LMX are
the clarity of the construct and the perspective from which it is to be measured.
Throughout the history of research on LMX. the way of operationalizing LMX
has been in terms of leader behaviors (and behavioral intentions) directed at the
subordinate (Bauer & Green, 1996; Gerstner & Day. 1997: Graen & Uhl-Bien,
1995; Liden & Maslyn. 1998: Liden, Sparrowe, & Wayne. 1997: Schriesheim et al..
1999), and the measurement of LMX has generally been from the subordinate's
perspective. When studies have compared the perspective of the leader with that

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232 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

of the subordinate, there has been little agreement (Gerstner & Day, 1997; Graen &
Scandura, 1987; Liden et al., 1997). In part because of the assumption of reciprocity,
the LMX literature has not attended to these issues. If, in fact, the exchange
relationship reaches an equilibrium or balanced state, both parties in the relationship
should converge in their assessment of the quality of the relationship. The trust
literature. on the other hand, argues that the leader's trust of a subordinate is a
different construct from the subordinate's trust in the leader. In addition, for each
construct, the perception of the level of trust may be different depending on which
party is responding to the question. Thus, if we were to use trust as the relational
construct in the leadership context, we would have two constructs. leader trust in
subordinate (LTS) and subordinate trust in leader (STL), each measured from
either the leader's perspective or the subordinate's perspective.
Measures of LMX have not teased these issues apart. In fact, the most widely
accepted and commonly used measure of LMX (Gerstner & Day. 1997: Graen &
Uhl-Bien, 1995), a 7-item measure. confounds these two constructs. For instance.
one of the items asks subordinates. "Do you know where you stand with your
leader ... do you usually know how satisfied your leader is with what you do?, ..
which is measuring LTS from the subordinate's perspective. A different item in
the same scale asks, "Regardless of how much formal authority he/she has built
into his/her position, what are the chances that your leader would use his/her power
to help you solve problems in your work?" This last item assesses STL from the
subordinate's perspective. We believe that in differentiating these constructs and
perspectives, we can better understand what is happening in the relationship be-
tween the subordinate and the supervisor.

Summary and Integration

Each of the issues, reciprocity. construct differentiation. perspective, and percep-

tion versus actuality, have all been sources of difficulty in explaining the results of
LMX research. Both theories address an iterative process by which the relationship
between subordinate and supervisor is formed. Though trust has rarely been re-
searched in this specific domain, it clearly fits the domain specifications and contains
the relational constructs that are found in LMX. Fitting the conceptual assumptions
of the trust model to the empirical results in LMX research reconciles what have
been critical discrepancies between LMX theory and results. In short, the empirical
evidence from LMX studies is more consistent with predictions from trust theory
than from the LMX theory.
This analysis suggests that the quality of the relationship is best represented by
two constructs, since we do not expect the relational construct to be balanced. In
the leader-subordinate dyad, the constructs would be LTS and STL. Convergence
of measures would be expected only when the construct being measured is the same.
Therefore. we may measure the leader's perception of LTS and the subordinate's
perception of LTS and expect convergence, but it is not necessary that LTS and
STL converge. For example. our approach is illustrated in Table I, which defines
each of the variables that represents an aspect of the relational construct that
measures the quality of the relationship between the leader and the subordinate.

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Relational Leadership 233

Table 1. Key Constructs of Relational Leadership

Approp11tllt' '"'tr«' 11/
C1111Strl/L'/ De{111111tm /11('(/\///"l!/111!1// Trlt.\/Or Tm.\/ee
LTS 1 The leader·~
perception of the L L s
trustworthmes~ of the
~ ubordinate
LTS, The subordmalc\ percepllon s L s
of how much the leader
tru5ts m him/her
STL1 The leader·, perceptmn of L s L
how much the ~ubordmatc
trust~ m him/her
ST~ The subordinate·, perception s s L
of the tru~tworthiness of
the leada
.'VnfC\ L denote' leader. S tlcnotc' 'uhorihnatc


This review of these two relational theories has demonstrated their overlap in the
domain of leader-subordinate relationships. By integrating the two theories. we can
better understand the development of that relationship and the outcomes that are
consequential to the relationship. In the field of organizational behavior. parsimony
of theories deepens our understanding and simplifies its expression. To that end.
we propose a model of relational leadership that integrates these two theoretical
The model of relational leadership presented in Fig. l adopts LTS as the construct

1\'-tual R1 ,) ~

~ (<>numlln<nt
Propensity to
Rd a1c
I CU17.CO.)h1p

EZJ From 1hi:: \ubordmatc · ~ Ptrcpectlvc

.:=:» :\c1uul \oru.tNCl

Figure 1. Model of Relational Leadership

Copy11911c 2000. Alt 11g11ts 1eservea.

234 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

defining the quality of the relationship. This model can also be extended to illustrate
the reciprocal relationship of STL. At the same time that the leader is making an
assessment of the subordinate"s trustworthiness, the subordinate is assessing the
leader's trustworthiness, so STL forms simultaneously.
Although we believe that understanding both LTS and STL are important to
fully understanding the leadership relationship, this article will focus on the model
of LTS. We make this choice for two reasons. First. the majority of the research
literature on trust in hierarchical relationships has focused on STL, so this integra-
tion provides us with a unique opportunity to develop a model of LTS. For example,
Whitener et al. (1998) developed a model of STL based on the trust literature.
However, their model does not address LTS, and therefore does not incorporate
much of the research available from the LMX literature. Davis, Schoorman. Mayer,
and Tan (1999) and Mayer and Davis (1999) present empirical tests of the Mayer
et al. (1995) model in supervisor-subordinate relationships, where the conceptualiza-
tion of trust is STL from the subordinates' perspective. Kramer (1996) discusses
the development of both LTS and STL and makes the case that the relationship
develops differently depending on where one is in the hierarchical relationship. He
proposes that different aspects of trustworthiness are more salient to subordinates
than to leaders and vice versa. Second, an attempt to develop both complete models
would unnecessarily complicate the presentation of the model and make for an
extremely long manuscript. We also feel that each model should be able to stand
on its own.
Therefore, the model in this article will address only the leader's assessment of the
subordinate's trustworthiness and the subordinate's perception of that assessment.
Based on our previous discussion regarding the perceptual nature of the quality of
relationship construct, we also will indicate whether LTS is taken from the leader's
perspective (LTS1.), or from the subordinate's perspective (LTS5 ) .
As stated earlier, we would expect convergence between these two perceptions
of the same construct (LTS 1 and LTS 5). However, we do not expect STL and LTS to
converge, because the focal person of the evaluation of trustworthiness is different. If
we were developing a model of STL, the subordinate must evaluate whether he or
she thinks the leader is trustworthy. Issues of importance to this judgment might
include the following questions. ls it reasonable to expect that the leader will defend
me in a management meeting? Can I expect the leader to follow through on
promises? Like LTS, STL must also be examined from both perspectives. The
leader is likely to make a judgment about how much the subordinate trusts him or
her. It is each individual's perception that affects his or her behavior. A leader who
believes that a subordinate trusts him or her may feel more confident about asking
the subordinate to engage in behaviors that make the subordinate more vulnerable.

Antecedents of Relational Leadership

LMX is believed to form through a role-making process (Dienesch & Liden,
1986; Graen & Scandura, l 987). Dienesch and Liden suggest that, early in the
process, individual characteristics influence the initial attraction between the leader
and the member. The relationship then develops as the leader tests the subordinate

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

Relational Leadership 235

through a series of delegated tasks. Graen and Scandura suggest that the relationship
is shaped through role taking, role making. and finally role routinization. This
process is essentially a trust building one.
According to theories of trust. an individual's propensity to trust determines the
base rate of the relationship (Mayer et al.. 1995; McKnight et al., 1998; Whitener
et al.. 1998). This propensity is a characteristic of the trustor, much the same as
what Dienesch and Liden (1986) describe as individual characteristics observable
during the initial contacts between supervisor and subordinate. The trustor may
test the relationship by sharing information or delegating tasks that involve little
risk for the trustor. If the trustee proves trustworthy in these preliminary exchanges,
the trustor may then share more sensitive information and delegate more significant
tasks to the trustee. Thus, the developmental procc!-.s is virtually the same for both
LMX and trust.
This developmental process can also be understood from the social cognition
literature, as our model of relational leadership rests heavily on using social percep-
tions as key mediating processes. In particular. attribution theory is one of the key
mechanisms in determining the leader's trust of the subordinate from the leader's
perspective (LTSL), or the extent to which the subordinate believes that the leader
trusts him or her (LTS 5 ). The social cognition literature provides one means to
understanding these mediating processes (e.g., Kipnis, Castell, Gergen, & Mauch,
1976; Martinko & Gardner, 1987).

Dimensions or Antecedents?
There is some ambiguity in the LMX literature as to which variables are consid-
ered dimensions of LMX and which are antecedents. The most frequently used
and recommended (7-item) measure of LMX (Gerstner & Day, 1997; Graen &
Uhl-Bien, 1995) is presumed to be unidimensional. However. recent work by Liden
and his associates has challenged the assumption of unidimensionality (Dienesch &
Liden, 1986; Liden et al., 1997). For example. Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995) present
a different three-dimensional conceptualization of LMX. The three dimensions they
suggest are loyalty, respect, and trust. In a recent review, Schrieshe1m et al. (1999)
argue that six dimensions are predominant in the LMX research: mutual support,
trust, liking, latitude. attention, and loyalty.
Liden and Maslyn (1998) have developed a measure of LMX that contains the
following four dimensions: affect, loyalty, contribution. and professional respect. It
is interesting to note that Liden and Maslyn suggest that any particular LMX
relationship could be based on one, two, three, or all four of the dimensions. They
assert that the dimensions contribute to the level of LMX in an additive fashion,
and that none of the dimensions are necessary conditions for LMX. Such a conceptu-
alization suggests that the dimensions may also be viewed as antecedents that
contribute to LMX. Liden and Maslyn also report that a fifth dimension, trust, was
deleted because it was too highly correlated with the loyalty dimension. Interest-
ingly, these constructs correspond very closely to the antecedents of interpersonal
trust proposed by Mayer et al. (1995).
According to the Mayer et al. (1995) model, the trustor assesses the ability,
benevolence, and integrity of the trustee. Ability i!-. defined as the ··group of skills,

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236 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

competencies, and characteristics that enable a party to have influence within some
specific domain" (Mayer et al., 1995. p. 717). In organizations. ability might be
measured through performance or credentials. Benevolence. on the other hand, is
the degree to which the trustee, aside from an egoistic motive, wants to benefit
the truster. The perception that a trustee is benevolent comes from friendliness,
citizenship behaviors. social interaction. finding commonalities, and liking. Integrity
is the degree to which the truster's actions reflect values acceptable to the trustee-
for example, consistency and predictability. There is a great deal of overlap between
the antecedents of LMX and these antecedents of trust. as can be seen in Table 2.
Integrating research from both fields, we are able to better understand the anteced-
ents of relational leadership.

Propensity to Relate
One antecedent of trust that corresponds with some of the research on LMX is
propensity to trust, which is a trait-like quality found in the truster that predisposes
him or her to a general level of trust. This base level of trust has been explored as
a generalized level of trust (Dasgupta, 1988) and as a personality trait (Farris et
al., 1973; McKnight et al., 1998). The propensity to trust is influenced by culture,
experience, and personality (Mayer et al., 1995). In theoretical work on how initial
intentions to trust are formed. McKnight et al. ( 1998) describes a disposition to
trust that is shaped in childhood. Our view of propensity is based on Mayer et al.
(1995) who consider personality as one of the antecedents of propensity, but also
add that culture and experiences also influence an individual's propensity to trust.
This makes our conceptualization of propensity to trust more dynamic than that
of a disposition or personality trait alone because it can change with new experiences.
Thus, propensity to relate is an individual difference variable that exists at some
level in all individuals before any exchange occurs. It sets a base rate of trust for
the relationship.
In LMX theory, one might expect that a leader is predisposed to a certain number
of high LMX relationships. in that some leaders may be predisposed to develop
more high relationships than other leaders. Indeed. several studies have explored
individual differences in LMX relationships. Characteristics of hoth the leader and
the member influence their initial relationship (Dienesch & Liden, 1986: House &
Aditya, 1997). These characteristics include attitudes, experiences, and values. Day
and Crain (1992) showed that a leader's positive affectivity had some limited influ-
ence on LMX. Further research is needed to specify how propensity for LMX
relationships develops, and whether individual traits have differential effects on
the relationship.
As we develop an integrated model of relational leadership, we refer to this
trait-like antecedent as the propensity to relate. It is the base rate of the relationship,
before the members of the dyad are able to evaluate specific characteristics of the
other individual. Thus. propensity to relate describes a leader characteristic that
indicates the quality of the relationship at the beginning of the leader-subordinate
relationship. We use the term .. propensity to relate•· to mean propensity to trust
in a hierarchical relationship. For any individual, the base rate for the propensity
to trust a new subordinate is likely to be different from the generalized propensity
to trust. This is likely because specific experiences with respect to other subordinates

· Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.


Table 2. Antecedents of LMX!frust "'r-"'


l.M X a111ecede111 Study Tru.'1 11111ecede111 S111dy "'a.."'

Similarity Bauer and Green (1996). Green et al. Shared value~ Harl et al. (1986). Sukin and Rolh (1993) "'
(1996): L1dcn ct al. (1993) Value congruence -o·
Delegation Bauer and Green (I 996 ): D1ene~ch and Risk takmg m Relationship Mayer et al (1995)
L1dcn (1986) (as an outcome)
Ability/competence Da~ and Cram (1992). Docker~ and Ab1hty/competence Mayer and Davis ( 1999): Mayer el al.
Steiner (199<1). Snyder and Bruning ( 1995): Buller ( 1991 ). Deutsch ( 1960).
(1985) Good (1988): Jones el al (1975):
Kee and Knox ( 1970):
S1tkm and Roth (1993)
§ Performance L>cluga and Perry (1994): L1dcn cl al.
(1993). L1den and Graen (1980)
Pa~l in1erac1ions
Boyle and Bonac1ch (1970)
Buller (1991)
Previous outcome~ Gabarro (1978)

::r. Liking/affect Dockery and Stemc1 (1990). L1den et Benevolence and ca1 mg Davis et al (1999): Larzclc and Huston
al. ( 1993): Wayne and Ferris (1990); (1980): Mi~hra (1995): Solomon (1960):
L1den el al. ( 1997): L1den and Strickland (1958): Mayer el al. (1995)
Ma,lyn (1998)
lngralmllon/ Wayne and Ferm ( 1990): Deluga and Percepllon~of henevolence Sec ahovc
1mpress1on Perry ( 1991. 1994) and ab1h1y
Loyally D1cn~~ch dnd L1den (1986) ln1egnty/crcd1b1l11y Buller ( 1991 ): Rmg and Van de ven ( 1992):
Da~gupla ( 198.'{): L1ehcrman ( 1981 ).
Davi~ el al ( 1999): Mayer and Davis
Sex cla\~ and ~talu\ Duchon cl al. ( 1986) Propcn~lly lo lru~l Mayl'r cl al. ( 1995 ): Mayer and Davis
Stahle charactcnsuc~ D1cnc,ch and l.1dcn ( 1986) (1999). Davi\ cl al (1999)
Po\lllve af£cc11v11y Day and Cr,un ( 1992)


238 LEADERSHIP QUARTERL y Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

will have a greater impact on establishing the propensity to trust a new subordinate
than experiences in other relationships. To capture this distinction, we will use the
"term propensity to relate" in developing our model.

Integrity, Ability, and Benevolence

Member integrity has not been explored explicitly in LMX research, but can be
reasonably inferred. In the trust literature, integrity is defined as the trustor's
perception that the trustee adheres to a set of principles that are acceptable to the
leader. This definition has some overlap with the loyalty dimension of LMX, al-
though integrity is a broader construct than loyalty. Loyalty is generally more
focused on a specific referent. Dienesch and Liden (1986, p. 625) defined loyalty
as "the expression of public support for the goals and personal character of the
other member of the dyad." Jn both cases. one member of the dyad judges the
other member's values. In comparing the antecedents of trust and LMX, it is clear
that trust is a broader construct that is applicable to relationships across many
contexts. LMX research and definitions help to focus the formation of trust in this
specific hierarchical relationship at work. Thus, the antecedents of LMX are nar-
rower and more focused because they are applied in a specific context. This focus
adds value for how trust is formed in the hierarchical relationship.
The other two antecedents of trust, ability and benevolence, have more apparent
overlap with the LMX literature. Table 2 presents a summary of six of the most
often studied LMX antecedents. First. similarity between leader and member has
been demonstrated as an antecedent of LMX. This variable has also been central
to the trust research (Zucker, 1986). For instance, research has indicated that shared
values (Hart. Capps, Cangemi, & Caillouet, 1986) and value congruence (Sitkin &
Roth, 1993) predict trust. Furthermore, the negotiation literature has found that
establishing bases of similarity between parties will affect trust building early in
the relationship (Lewicki, Litterer, Minton, & Saunders, 1994). McAllister (1995)
also found gender similarity to be correlated with affect-based trust. Thus, we would
expect that similarity between supervisor and subordinate would increase trust in
both parties.
In both literatures, ability and competence are important antecedents. In addi-
tion, performance is both an antecedent and outcome of LMX. Performance influ-
ences trust through the feedback loop. lt has been examined in trust research in
the form of past interactions (Boyle & Bonacich, 1970) and previous outcomes
(Gabarro, 1978) that affect a trustor's assessment of the trustee's ability and benevo-
lence. Performance has been shown to be both an antecedent and outcome of high
LMX relationships. Thus, in both literatures. positive performance has a positive
impact on the nature of dyadic relationships.
LMX research has found a robust relationship among liking, affect, and LMX.
Benevolence and caring are antecedents of trust and have some overlap with liking
and affect. Benevolence is defined as "the extent to which a trustee is believed to
want to do good to the trustor" (Mayer et al.. 1995, p. 718). Therefore, one might
like someone whom one believes is benevolent toward him or her. Liking is not
explicitly examined in the trust literature. but liking and benevolence are similar,
and benevolence clearly enhances trust over time.

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

Relational Leadership 239

Delegation has been shown to lead to high LMX (Bauer & Green. 1996; Schries-
heim, Neider. & Scandura, 1998). It is also a significant part of the role-making
process in LMX (Dienesch & Liden, 1986). Delegation would more readily be
explained as an outcome of trust, as a form of risk-taking hehavior on the part of
the leader. It is interesting to note that both p~rformance and delegation are
characterized as antecedents in the LMX literature and as outcomes in the trust
literature. As with performance. however. there is a feedback loop between the
outcomes such as delegation and the antecedents of trust. Thus, successful delegation
would lead to an increase in the perception of the trustee's ability. and therefore.
an increase in trust. in much the same way that delegation operates in the role-
making process in LMX.
Based on the overlap in the antecedents. we will adopt the four major antecedents
identified above (propensity. ability, benevolence. and integrity) as the antecedents
of LTSL The terms are used to identify similar processes. although the terminology
is borrowed from the trust literature since our .central construct is a leader's trust
in subordinate. The leader makes a subjective judgment about a subordinate's
ability, benevolence, and integrity and formulates a level of LTS,. This assessment
is also influenced by the leader's propensity to relate.

Proposition 1. The level of LTSL is a function of the leader's perception of

the subordinate's ability. benevolence. and integrity and the leader's
propensity to relate.

Proximal Consequences of Relational Leadership

When a leader trusts a subordinate, the leader will likely engage in behaviors
such as delegation that involve taking risks (Bauer & Green. 1996; Lewicki &
Bunker, 1996). Schriesheim et al. (1998) found that leaders were more likely to
delegate to subordinates in high LMX relationships. This finding is consistent with
the proposed model of relational leadership. The amount of risk taken will be
related to the level of trust. For example. if a plant manager hired a new college
graduate as an assistant manager, in the first few months he may be willing to allow
the assistant to make decisions about production schedules and hiring. However.
he may not be willing to allow the assistant to run the plant for a week in his
absence. Here. the level of trust warranted the delegation of tasks that involved
somt: risks but not the tasks that involved bigger risks.

Proposition 2. The leader's assessment of the trustworthiness of the subordi-

nate (LTSL) will be positively related to risk-taking behavior such as
delegation by the leader.

In addition to assessing the trustworthiness of the subordinate. the leader must

assess the extent of the potential risk involved in delegating the particular task. If
the LTSL is sufficient to justify taking this perceived risk. then the leader will
delegate, thereby exhibiting Risk Taking in Relationship (RTR). For example, if
a leader must assign responsibility for planning and coordinating management

· - - ·-- -- ------..,,eo~pymr"'"lgmtirt200Q!:llYin_-iAJ~l,..,.rl'"g"'tlt"'S..,.,re""S"'e"'N""ed,....---------------
240 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No 2 2000

meetings to a subordinate, he or she may be willing to assign the task to a new

hire who has not had much opportunity to learn about the organization. The risk
of a mix-up in the planning is perceived to be minimal. However, if one of the
upcoming meetings is the annual meeting of the board of directors of the company,
the leader may perceive great risk and therefore delegate the assignment to a staff
member in whom the leader has a higher level of LTSL. It is important to note
here that the behavior with respect to RTR is based on •·perceived'' risk associated
with the action. Misperception of risk will be associated with the success or failure
of the RTR and is reflected later in the model where we discuss "actual" risk and
the outcomes of relational leadership.

Proposition 3. Perceived risk will moderate the relationship between LTSL

and RTR.

The risk-taking behaviors that the leader demonstrates give cues to the subordi-
nate about how much the leader trusts in the subordinate. Thus, the subordinate
makes an assessment about the leader·s trust in him or her based upon the leader's
risk-taking behavior. Jn other words, the leader may or may not assign responsibility
to the subordinate, who. in turn. makes an attribution about that behavior. There-
fore, the two different perspectives of LTS are mediated by the leader's risk-taking
behavior, or RTR.

Proposition 4. The leader's risk-taking behaviors (RTR. such as delegation)

will be positively related to LTS 5 •

Proposition 5. RTR will mediate the relationship between LTSL and LTS 5 .

Outcomes of Relational Leadership

Comparing the outcomes of LMX and trust provide further insight into the
similarities between LMX and trust. Outcomes in the trust model are generally
specified as behaviors of the trustor. As noted above, these behaviors are risky in
nature (Butler. 1991; Mayer et al., 1995). In the work context. examples of the
outcomes of trust are empowerment. delegation. awarding a promotion, and less
monitoring or surveillance (Kruglanski. 1970: Strickland. 1958; Whitener et al.,
1998). This risk-taking behavior leads to various outcomes for the subordinate that
include higher levels of satisfaction and performance, and lower rates of absenteeism
and turnover. Other trust literature has found outcomes of trust to include a choice
of a stewardship style of influence (Davis, Schoorman. & Donaldson. 1997; Scott.
1980) and a willingness to influence others and receive their influence (Zand, 1972).
In the LMX literature, the five most widely studied outcomes are satisfaction
with supervisor and overall satisfaction (Dansereau et al., 1975: Duchon. et al.,
1986; Green. Anderson. & Shivers, 1996: Liden & Graen 1980; Liden & Maslyn,
1998, Seers, 1989). turnover (Dansereau et al.. 1975; Liden & Maslyn, 1998; Spar-
rowe. 1994), performance (Duarte, Goodson. & Klich, 1993, 1994; Liden & Graen.
1980; Liden & Maslyn, 1998; Scandura & Schrieshiem. 1994; Dienesch & Liden.

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

Relational Leadership 241

1986: Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996), commitment (Duchon ct al. . 1986; Green
et al.. 1996; Liden & Maslyn. 1998). and citizenship behaviors (Anderson & Williams.
1996; Wayne & Green, 1993). Some of these outcomes arc behavioral outcomes such
as performance. turnover. and citizenship behaviors. These behavioral outcomes are
consistent with subordinate outcomes expected in Lhe trust model. In addition.
LMX literature has found robust effects for subordinate attitudinal outcomes such
as satisfaction and commitment. Thei.c outcomes have not been demonstrated in
the trust literature. However, if the i.imilarities between theories arc as we have
theorized. we would expect the same results found in LMX literature to be found
in relational leadership where trusting a subordinate is the key motivational engine.
When a leader's previous calculation of the perceived risk of the action and the
judgment of LTS, are accurate. then the subordinate is likely to successfully perform
the delegated task. If. on the other hand. the leader underestimates the actual risk
involved, then the subordinate is less likely to succeed in performing the delegated
task. Actual risk is a characteristic of the environment. It one undere!>timates the
actual risk. it creates a false expectation about the vulnerability of the leader in
delegating the task . In our example. if the plant manager mi!>judgcs the risk involved
in allowing the new assistant manager to sc:t production schedules during a period
of very tight deadlines on critical shipments to major clients. the con~equences of
the subordinate not performing are great. Th<:: role of actual ri~k in the model 1s
important to the extent that the leader accurately judges the risk of ..:ngaging in a
particular risk-taking behavior. If the leader overestimates the suhordinate ·s ability.
benevolence. and integrity relative to the perceived risk. then the leader's trust is
misplaced. Also. if the leader underestimates the actual risk associated with the
lack of performance of the delegated tasks. trust i..; misplaced. In either event. the
leader i'> more vulnerable.

Proposition 6. Actual risk will moderate the relationship between RTR and

One interesting difference between the two theoric~ is that the trust model argues
that leader trust in a subordinate results in leader behavior (e.g .. delegation) that.
in turn, results in subordinate outcomes (e.g .. satisfaction and performance). More
recently. this mediating effect of leader behavior is omitted from the models of
leadership. although one could argue that this mediation ill implied. It is intere!>ting
to note that in the early reseurch on vertical dyad linkage, l>Ubordinatcs were
asked to describe the amount of negotiating latitucfo they had with their supervisor
(Cashman et al.. 1976: Dansereau et al.. 1975: Graen ct al.. 1977). Although the
subordinates descrihed the negotiating latitude. the implication was that the leader
extended the latitude to the subordinate. Negotiating latitude in VOL research was
found to predict subordinate performance and job ..;atisfaction. This finding suggests
that leader action is a precursor of the commonly studied subordinate outcomes.
Thus. an integrated model of relational leadership would suggest that the leader's
view of the quality of the relationship with a subordinate (LTS 1 ) leads to leader
behaviors directed at the subordinate thal. in turn. result in positive -;ubordinate
outcomes. In terms of processes. thi!. is similar to Eden's work (e.g.. Eden. 1988.

- - - - - - - -· - - - . · - - -""yrrlil"QflTlll~211'10001"1'1'.-.!A1~1""11""Q'"li"'lS""l'"'GS""'6"'10"'Gll'4d-
. ----
242 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

1992) on self-fulfilling prophecies. Specifically, Eden suggested that a leader's higher

expectations of the subordinates would result in higher performance. Performance
and performance expectations, however, are but some of the components on which
trust is built. Our model is more encompassing and comprehensive because we
propose other attitudinal outcomes as consequences of the leader's RTR behaviors.
When a leader delegates authority and responsibility to a subordinate and, in doing
so, clearly takes a risk and makes himself or herself vulnerable, the subordinate
will likely value this behavior. recognizing the leader's trust. As a result, the subordi-
nate will be more satisfied, committed. and likely to engage in citizenship behaviors.
Returning to our previous example, when the plant manager delegates the important
tasks of production scheduling and hiring to the new assistant manager, the subordi-
nate will assess the LTS5• Because the subordinate perceives the LTSs to be high,
his or her attitudes will become more positive and his or her sense of obligation to
the leader will increase. As a result, the subordinate will likely engage in citizenship
Another perspective from the social cognition literature that contributes to our
understanding of the relationship between RTR and subordinate attitudinal out-
comes is that of the reflected self concept proposed by Mead (1934). Mead proposed
that our sense of self is inseparable from social experience, and we make sense of
actions by imagining people's underlying intentions. Hence, subordinates infer their
levels of competence and attitudes through the reflected reactions of their leaders,
and in this case, RTR of the leaders.

Proposition 7. LTS~ will mediate the relationship between RTR and subordi-
nate satisfaction, commitment and organizational citizenship behaviors.

Finally, because the model is a relational model resulting from role-making

processes, the feedback loops are significant. Subordinate performance on a task
will shape how the leader perceives the subordinate's ability, benevolence, and
integrity. There is also some evidence from the social cognition research that sug-
gests that the leader's RTR behavior itself will have an impact on the leader's
future perceptions of the subordinate's ability, benevolence, and integrity (e.g.,
Kipnis et al., 1976). This would suggest a direct feedback loop from RTR to the
antecedents of trust. However, for the present purposes, we will limit the feedback
effect to that which is mediated by subordinate performance.

Proposition 8. Subordinate performance on previous tasks will have a posi-

tive effect on a leader's perceptions of subordinate ability, benevolence,
and integrity.

In addition, a subordinate's attitudes and citizenship behaviors will positively

influence the leader's perception of the subordinate's benevolence and integrity.
We do not expect subordinate attitudes and citizenship behaviors to influence
perceptions of subordinate ability. Subordinate attitudes are more directly related
to intentions and less to the ability to perform.

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Relational Leadership 243

Proposition 9. Subordinate satisfaction. commitment, and citizenship behav-

iors will have a positive effect on a leader's perception of subordinate
benevolence and integrity.

Significance of the Model of Relational Leadership

This model of relational leadership extends the LMX theory to its next logical
step. It also specifies how a trusting relationship between subordinate and leader
is formed, and what consequences we can expect from a relationship of explicit
trust between a leader and a subordinate. Although other models have described
how STL develops (Kramer, 1996; Whitener et al., 1998). this model specifies the
development and consequences of LTS. By integrating the model of interpersonal
trust. the difficulties that have troubled LMX research and theory are resolved
without losing the richness and the uniqueness of the exchange theory. The relation-
ship is built through a series of interpersonal exchanges. The relationship begins
at a point where contractual behaviors are expected of both parties in the dyad.
As the exchange progresses. each party is able to evaluate his or her own perceptions
of the ability, benevolence, and integrity of the other member.
Each member is also able to form a perception of how much the other member
trusts in him or her. These perceptions influence the behaviors that have been
predicted by LMX researchers. Because a subordinate may trust in his or her leader
as a supervisor more than the leader trusts the subordinate as an employee, these
perceptions are not required to converge. In fact, the majority of research on LMX
has found little convergence between the leader's and the subordinate?s estimation
of the relationship. This lack of convergence presents the argument that. in power
differential relationships. often the two members in the dyad do not trust each
other equally and do not perceive the relationship the same.
This realization has important consequences for research and practice. Research-
ers should assume that trust between supervisors and subordinates may not be the
same; therefore, when examining the relationship. they will need to focus very
clearly on whose perception they are measuring. For instance, if we arc interested
in satisfaction, we can create hypotheses about the effects of the subordinate's
perception of LTS as well as the subordinate's own STL. These evaluations may
have different effects on satisfaction. In addition, leaders may find it to be socially
desirable to report equal levels of LTS across subordinatec;, hut asking subordinates
about their perceptions of LTS probably affects the performance of the subordinate
more than the leader's report of his or her own LTS. Therefore. this theory has
very specific prescriptions about the study of these relationships.
This theory of relational leadership may be troubling to leadership theorists who
assert that all relationships between leaders and subordinates move toward a balance
(Emerson, 1962). This theory argues that balance is not necessary. In fact, as noted
earlier, the empirical LMX research is consistent with this view.
LMX is domain specific in that the theory is applied solely to hierarchical relation-
ships in organizations. Except for a very limited extension into the team setting
(Seers, 1989), LMX has been applied to the dyadic relationship between a supervisor

--eopyriQht 200J. Ali tiQllf§ ld§UIVUd.

244 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

and a subordinate. The model of trust. on the other hand, may be applied to any
relationship between two individuals irrespective of age. role, or context. Trust
itself, however, is context specific. The level of trust one individual has for another
is situation specific in that the individual does not carry this level of trust across
settings. For example, a person may trust a ski instructor to teach him or her to
ski a difficult slope (risking serious injury). but not necessarily trust the same
individual to do his or her taxes. Thus. although the model of trust is generalizable
across different domains, an individual will reevaluate trust in different domains;
therefore, trust will not generalize across situations.
In the LMX literature, a high-LMX relationship between a leader and a subordi-
nate would be expected to affect all aspects of that relationship. Because the LMX
model is confined to the context of work. the scope of this effect has not been a
central issue. It is interesting to speculate about this effect outside the context
of work. For example, would a high-LMX subordinate enjoy the same favored
relationship with the same leader in a social organization that is unrelated to
work? The model of relational leadership would suggest that the answer is .. not
Even within the work context, there are interesting differences in the specificity
of the theories. The model of trust suggests that a manager may trust a particular
subordinate to manage the plant in his or her absence. but may not trust the same
subordinate to conduct a press conference. or to represent the organization in
negotiations with the labor union. The model of LMX would suggest that a high-
LMX subordinate would be selected for each of the above responsibilities, but
would the same high-LMX subordinate be assigned to all three tasks, strictly on
the basis of the quality of the relationship? The answer here is less clear.
Another interesting difference between theories of trust and LMX involves the
development of the relationship over time. LMX researchers assert that LMX forms
relatively quickly and remains stable over time (Bauer & Green, 1996; Dienesch &
Liden, 1986). On the other hand, trust is more dynamic. In shaping perceptions of
trust. the trustor continuously evaluates the trustee's behavior to see if it is consistent
with expectations. There is some work on development of initial trusting intentions
(McKnight et al.. 1998) and the development of swift trust in temporary groups
(Meyerson, Weick, & Kramer. 1996) that asserts that trust may be shaped early in
the exchange between two individuals. However. over time, the members of the
dyad must reevaluate the level of trust-especially when betrayals occur.
In the case of a betrayal. the leader must evaluate if the cause was a breach of
ability, integrity, or benevolence and reevaluate the level of LTS. At the same time,
the subordinate who failed forms perceptions about the degree of damage that was
done to the LTS. We believe that viewing the relationship as dynamic is more
closely tied to how these relationships behave in reality. Certainly, early perceptions
of the quality of the relationship arc formed quickly. and we have already discu!.sed
how these early attitudes shape the interpretation of later behavior through attribu-
tion theory and self-fulfilling prophecies. Therefore. we anticipate that the level of
LTS remains relatively stable over time, but when there are violations of expecta-
tions-either positive or negative-the parties will reevaluate LTS and its degree
may shift.

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

Relational Leadership 245

Finally, the propensity to relate extends the LMX literature and provides an
explanation for what many theorists have suspected already-that individuals have
different capacities for the number of high LMX relationships that they can sustain.
Some individuals may have a high propensity lo relate, and therefore. start being
more vulnerable with employees early in the relationship. These same individuals
may feel comfortable with many rather than a few confidants and much delegation.
These issues are new lo LMX development; therefore. this model extends LMX
theory to include individual differences.


In this article, we have attempted to integrate two disparate streams of research.
and in so doing. advance our knowledge in both areas. The vast majority of the
research on trust in business environments is relatively recent. and there remain
many gaps in the empirical literature on trust. Researchers have called for models
and empirical tests to determine how trust is developed between supervisors and
subordinates {Whitener et al., 1998). The research on LMX has accumulated over
the past 25-year period and is thus more extenl>ive and comprehensive. As research-
ers have become more interested in interpersonal relationships between leaders
and their subordinates. there has been greater convergence between general theories
of interpersonal trust and LMX. Thus, we believe that this integrated model of
relational leadership holds promise for research on leadership.
In addition to testing model-specific hypotheses. we envision several other ave-
nues for future research. The most obvious avenue is to explore the relationship
between LTS and STL. In the model of relational leadership. we have suggested
that the two constructs are shaped by a complex interaction of perceptions and
behaviors, but we have not explored how the two influence one another. It is
conceivable that the subordinate's perception of LTS will have a direct effect on
STL. By clarifying why these may affect each other. we could further understand
the reciprocity that functions in dyadic relationships.
We envision three additional avenues for future inquiry: (I) the role of power
in shaping LTS and STL; (2) organizational effects of trusting leadership relation-
ships: and (3) the development and influence of propensity to relate. Power has
been explored extensively in the leadership domain. but relativt:ly little in the trust
literature. We would expect that the power base of the leader would affect the
subordinate's perceptions of both LTS and STL. For instance. if a leader draws
primarily upon institutional power. then STLs and LTS, may be lower or may form
more slowly than if the leader draws upon personal sources of power.
The concepts of relational leadership also can be extended to the organizational
level. The most commonly accepted paradigm for upper echelon roles is an agency
perspective. This perspective dictates that owners employ boundaries and protec-
tions to guard against self-serving managers and chief executive officers. Often. the
board of directors serves this control role. Recently. a stewardship model of these
relationships has been presented as an alternative to the agency perspective (Davis
et al., 1997). It suggests that corporate agents can be expected to be good stewards
of the interests of owners and that, rather than protect against them. owners can

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

246 LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY Vol. 11 No. 2 2000

trust these agents. The specific dynamics of relational leadership at this level and its
impact on organization level outcomes provide a fertile field for future exploration.
Finally, the concept of propensity to relate is relatively new to LMX research.
Some leadership researchers have called for a new look at leader traits because
they differentially affect contingent leadership patterns (House & Aditya, 1997;
Yuki, 1994). One trait that could be examined is propensity to relate. Understanding
how propensity develops and the boundary conditions it places on relationships
could further enhance our understanding of relational leadership.

Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Cindy Emrich and Steve Green for
insightful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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