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Beyond LMX: toward a theory-based, differentiated view of leader–member relationships

Manuel London (College of Business, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA)
Judith Volmer (Work and Organizational Psychology Group, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany)
Jetmir Zyberaj (Work and Organizational Psychology Group, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 19 May 2023

Issue publication date: 7 June 2023




This conceptual article develops a theory-based set of themes that characterize how a leader and member interact based on their attachment style, motivation to lead and follow and their interpersonal orientation.


This study proposes that the leader's and member's attachment styles, effectuated by their motivation to lead and/or follow and their interpersonal orientation, determine the emergence of primary (most frequently occurring) and secondary (less frequently occurring) leader–member relationship (LMR) themes.


The themes are labelled mutual affirmation, control, prestige, mutual indifference, conflict, imbalance and co-dependence. The article describes how these seven themes are grounded in their own streams of research, including leader–member exchange (LMX) as the basis for the first three, and how the themes vary in behaviors that generate the operational outcomes of psychological safety, proactivity and functionality, which, in turn, yield performance outcomes. Performance outcomes affect the leader's and member's perceptions of their relationship and their anticipation for the future. Leader–member similarity, situational pressures and perceptions of others' relationships moderate LMR development.

Research limitations/implications

Each theme reflects a pattern of interactions that produces degrees of psychological safety felt by the leader and member, proactivity of the leader and member to devote energy to their relationship and how well the leader and member function together. The behaviors, in turn, influence how the leader and member perceive each other and themselves and their anticipation for the future of the relationship.

Practical implications

The model can be used by organizational development and human resource professionals to assess leader–member dyads and train leaders and members to be aware of factors that influence their relationship and how these factors affect performance outcomes.


The model contributes to the literature on leader–member relationships by suggesting a theory-based set of themes that characterize how the leader and team member interact and how their relationship develops.



The authors thank Avraham N. Kluger for his contributions to the conception of attachment style as the basis for variations in leader-member relationships.


London, M., Volmer, J. and Zyberaj, J. (2023), "Beyond LMX: toward a theory-based, differentiated view of leader–member relationships", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 273-288.



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