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Leader–member exchange in public organizations: a qualitative study

Reza Salehzadeh (Department of Management, Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani University, Isfahan, Iran)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 17 January 2020

Issue publication date: 28 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to propose the new typologies of leader–member exchange (LMX) theory.


This research conducted a thorough, targeted literature review along with a qualitative research method involving in-depth, open-ended and semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted with 21 managers and 70 employees of different public organizations during the two years. After interviews, data were transcribed and the qualitative research method of theory elaboration was used to extract the themes from the transcripts.


The results showed that the LMX has a dynamic nature with four different versions. Also, the results discovered the multi-level of LMX with three different types of leaders’ styles. In addition, four factors that cause damage to high-quality relationships have been identified (i.e. perceived dissimilarity, feeling of being betrayed, failure to meet the expectations and impression management). Finally, the results discovered five dark sides of LMX.


This research proposes the new typologies of LMX and the approach and findings of this research contribute to the literature of leadership theories.



Salehzadeh, R. (2020), "Leader–member exchange in public organizations: a qualitative study", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 59-87.



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