Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory

Published on March 30, 2022   7 min
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My name is Professor Christopher Achua. I teach at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. I teach marketing, strategy and leadership. Leadership is one of those courses that I enjoy teaching very much. The topic of my presentation today is Leader-Member Exchange Theory, commonly known as LMX theory.
Prior to LMX theory, there was an implied assumption that leader behavior towards all followers is uniform and non-specific. Followers were viewed and treated as a collective unit. The leader's approach towards followers was described as an average leadership style, ALS. The first problem with this approach is that there was little or no value placed on the quality of the interpersonal relationship between a leader and a follower. The second problem with this approach was that there was little or no recognition that follower behavior was impacted by the nature of the leader-follower relationship.
The early developments of LMX started from what we call vertical dyadic linkage theory, VDL. Vertical dyadic linkage theory represents a paradigm shift from average leadership style, which I mentioned a few minutes ago. Remember average leadership style held that all followers were treated equally. However, vertical dyadic linkage theory believes that leadership consists of a series of vertical dyadics, that's pairs, between each leader and each follower. The dyadic relationship is described as the individualized relationship that develops between a leader and each follower in a work unit. Vertical dyadic linkage theory focuses on the heterogeneity of dyadic relationships, arguing that a single leader would form different relationships with different followers. The resulting effect is a creation of in-groups and out-groups within the same work unit.