The psychology of legitimacy: Implications for organizational leadership and change
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Three distinct chapters explore the individual-level dynamics of legitimacy judgments and support for leaders and their initiatives. Chapter 1 develops a theoretical framework for understanding the content of legitimacy judgments and the process by which those judgments develop and change over time. Chapter 2 explores the role of group orientation in moderating the impact of instrumental, relational, and moral concerns in determining support for leaders. Chapter 3 explores the role of power in moderating leaders' assumptions about the types of behaviors that will elicit support for followers.
In Chapter 1, I build on institutional, social psychological, and sociological theory to develop a theoretical framework that specifies both the content underlying judgments of the legitimacy of social entities and a model of the process by which these judgments develop and change over time. With respect to the content of legitimacy judgments, I argue that individual-level judgments of the legitimacy of social entities are based on perceptions and beliefs about the entity that fall along three key dimensions: instrumental, relational, and moral. With respect to the process by which legitimacy judgments develop and change over time, I specify three modes of the legitimacy judgment process (evaluative, passive, and socialization), and I explain which of these modes is likely to predominate as individuals move through the stages of the legitimacy judgment process. The model specifies the circumstances under which the legitimacy of existing institutions is likely to be either challenged or bolstered. I conclude by discussing the implications of this framework for advancing a more detailed understanding of the micro-level dynamics of critical areas of inquiry in organizational studies.
In Chapter 2, I present a series of three studies demonstrating that individuals' intrinsic or extrinsic orientation toward their group moderates their responsiveness to different types of behaviors and appeals, such that individuals who have an intrinsic orientation (such as high identifiers and individuals who feel a high level of group belongingness) are more responsive to moral behaviors and appeals, while individuals with an extrinsic orientation (such as low identifiers and individuals who feel a low level of group belongingness) are more responsive to instrumental behaviors and appeals.
In Chapter 3, four studies demonstrate that subjective feelings of social power impact leaders' assumptions about the bases of their legitimacy with followers, which in turn impacts leaders' decisions about what types of leadership behaviors and tactics to engage. Study 1 demonstrates that leaders who feel a high level of power within their group or organization perceive support from followers as stemming primarily from their instrumental rather than relational behaviors, while leaders who feel a low level of power perceive that the support they receive from followers stems primarily from their relational rather than instrumental behaviors. Study 2 is a vignette study in which individuals primed with high power report greater expectations of support in response to decisions made on instrumental rather than relational bases, while individuals primed with low power report greater expectations of support in response to decisions made on relational rather than on instrumental bases. Study 3 replicates this interaction and shows that the effect is mediated by leaders' assumptions about the types of behaviors that followers prefer. Study 4 demonstrates that leaders primed with power are more likely to engage in instrumental behaviors in their attempts to persuade followers, while individuals primed with low power are more likely to engage in relational behaviors in their attempts to persuade followers. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Chapter 4 describes a final study that integrates the findings from Chapters 2 and 3. Specifically, Chapter 4 demonstrates that there is a positive effect of leader power on support for the leader among low, but not high, identifying groups. The findings further indicate that this effect is mediated by followers' perceptions of the leader's instrumental behaviors. Implications, limitations, and future directions of the research are discussed.
CitationTost, Leigh Plunkett (2010). The psychology of legitimacy: Implications for organizational leadership and change. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10161/3038.
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