Can some leaders have a good relationship with many followers?

Birgit Schyns (Durham Business School, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom)
John M. Maslyn (College of Business Administration, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Marc P.M. van Veldhoven (Department of Human Resource Studies, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 24 August 2012



The purpose of this paper is to report a study of the relationship between Leader‐Member Exchange (LMX) and span of control. The paper argues that depending on their extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness, some leaders will find it easier to establish and maintain LMX relationships with their followers in larger groups.


A survey was conducted among 52 leaders and 389 followers. As matched data were used, the final sample consisted of 244 individual employees who worked in 41 different groups.


Results show that extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness moderate the relationship between span of control and various dimensions of LMX. The results for agreeableness, however, were in the opposite direction than expected.

Research limitations/implications

The moderation effects that were found for leader personality indicate that organizations could foster LMX relationships by selecting leaders with certain personality patterns for larger groups or taking care to train leaders who do not show this pattern to overcome possible problems of low LMX relationships in large groups.


To the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of the first to address the relationship between span of control and LMX dimensions, and the first to examine the effects of leader personality on that relationship.



Schyns, B., Maslyn, J. and van Veldhoven, M. (2012), "Can some leaders have a good relationship with many followers?", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 594-606.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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