situational contingencies

Focusing on path b (behaviors→outcomes) highlights different situational contingencies. For instance, a leader’s performance might decline when encountering a particularly complex and demanding situation that taxes one’s available cognitive, affective, and attentional resources (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005; DeRue & Wellman, 2009). This can occur when leaders must simultaneously manage multiple competing goals or engage in tasks that are anxiety provoking, because these kinds of tasks de- plete the brain’s metabolic energy resources and interfere with one’s ability to self-regulate and effectively process information (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007; Gailliot et al., 2007).

Although traditional dispositional approaches offer great parsimony in understanding how leaders generally behave, we suggest that the typical failure to separate within-person effects and external effects on leadership outcomes presents several limitations with this per- spective. One limitation relates to the general absence of dispositional research that examines the within-person differences in the trait– leadership behavior relationship. Aswewill argue, intrapersonal variability across situationshas important consequences for understanding leadership processes, which implies that leadership might be best understood at the event, rather than at the person-level of analysis. An- other limitation is rooted in themeasurements used to assess traits andother individual difference variables. As Shondrick et al. (2010) sug- gest, these types of measures frequently ask respondents to indicate how leaders generally behave, and therefore, may lack utility in situations that are non-routine or dynamic (e.g., Carmeli &Halevi, 2009; Uhl-Bien &Marion, 2009). Under these situations, different factors may moderate paths a and path b, and thus change the relation of traits to leadership outcomes. Finally, when we consider that there are typically two types of dependent variables that are used as criteria in leadership research (i.e., leadership perceptions and leadership per- formance; Kaiser, Hogan, & Craig, 2008), additional problems can emerge from a dispositional viewpoint because the nature of this medi- ation by behavior is different for leadership perceptions than for leadership performance outcomes.Wewill elaborate on these issues in the following sections.

Individual Differences

C Leadership Outcomes

Classic Trait Approach

Intrapersonal Effect

External Environmental Effect

Individual Differences

A Behavior


Alternative Approach

Leadership Outcomes

Fig. 1. Alternative perspectives linking individual differences to leadership outcomes.

654 J.E. Dinh, R.G. Lord / The Leadership Quarterly 23 (2012) 651–669

  1. Difficulties with dispositional approaches in understanding leadership processes

4.1. Moderators and their effects on leadership perception

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