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A tale of two leaders: employees’ work–family experiences in the context of dual leadership

Michael L. Litano (Solutions Consulting, BetterUp, San Francisco, California, USA)
Valerie J. Morganson (Psychology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 27 October 2020

Issue publication date: 5 December 2020




Despite the prevalence and potential benefits of multiauthority organizational structures (i.e. matrix organizations), research is lacking on the resulting impact on employees’ work–family conflict (WFC). The purpose of this article is to use leader–member exchange (LMX) as a framework to examine how employees who report to two leaders experience WFC.


A sample of 111 engineers and researchers nested within 33 branches and 21 project teams completed an online questionnaire containing measures of LMX and WFC. Hierarchical multiple regressions were used to test the study’s hypotheses.


LMX with one's immediate supervisor (branch manager, LMX–BM) and project manager ( LMX–PM) each contributed unique variance in predicting WFC. LMX–PM moderated the negative relationship between LMX–BM and WFC, such that the negative relationship was stronger in magnitude at higher levels of LMX–PM quality.

Research limitations/implications

While most research studies have focused upon the impact of a single leader, modern organizations often involve dual reporting. Thus, results expand the extant literature to be more applicable to modern organizational realities. Findings provide evidence that future longitudinal research is worthwhile.

Practical implications

Results indicate that LMX theory is relevant beyond one's immediate supervisor. As a result, all managers should communicate with one another to seek better alignment. Particularly in a matrix organization where positional power is limited, leaders stand to reap the many benefits of high LMX relationships.


This study is the first among its type to examine LMX in a dual reporting context, and it is also the first to examine the impacts of dual reporting on WFC.



The authors would like to thank Matheus Teixeira Rohde for his assistance with formatting.


Litano, M.L. and Morganson, V.J. (2020), "A tale of two leaders: employees’ work–family experiences in the context of dual leadership", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 35 No. 7/8, pp. 631-645.



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