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Romance of leadership and motivation to lead

Jörg Felfe (Department of Work, Organizational and Business Psychology, Helmut-Schmidt-Universität, Hamburg, Germany)
Birgit Schyns (Durham Business School, International Centre for Leadership and Followership, Durham University, Durham, UK)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




There is a growing interest in understanding the motivational processes explaining the emergence of leadership. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between Romance of Leadership (RoL), that is the over-attribution of responsibility for performance to leaders, and motivation to lead (MtL) as well as moderation effects of self-efficacy and personal initiative.


Data were collected using a questionnaire design. The sample consisted of n=1,348 participants at different career stages (students and employees). Structural equation modeling was used to examine the hypotheses.


Individuals high in RoL tend to be more motivated to lead. The results also support the assumed moderating effects. This relationship is stronger for individuals high in self-efficacy and high in personal initiative. This was particularly true for the student sample.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the cross sectional design causal inferences are limited. The findings contribute to a better understanding of the socio-cognitive processes that influence MtL at different career stages and shed new light on the outcomes of RoL.

Practical implications

–The research can help career counselors, coaches, and HR managers to better understand socio-cognitive processes underlying MtL of different groups and therefore improve the quality of advice to their clients.

Social implications

Career planning is an important issue when the pool of talented leaders needs to be increased. The study contributes to knowledge on antecedences of MtL. This may help to clarify newcomers’ and other applicants’ career ambitions.


This is, to the authors knowledge, the first study to investigate the effect of RoL on MtL.



Felfe, J. and Schyns, B. (2014), "Romance of leadership and motivation to lead", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 850-865.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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