Self-Regulatory Focus in the Leadership Process

Topics: Leadership, Motivation, Sociology Pages: 80 (17388 words) Published: February 2, 2014
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஽ Academy of Management Review
2007, Vol. 32, No. 2, 500–528.

Bar-Ilan University
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
In this paper we integrate recent theories of motivation and leadership. Drawing on the self-regulatory focus theory and on self-concept based theories of leadership, we develop a conceptual framework proposing that leaders’ chronic self-regulatory focus (promotion versus prevention), in conjunction with their values, influences their motivation to lead and, subsequently, their leadership behavior. We further suggest that leaders may influence the motivational self-regulatory foci of their followers, which will mediate different follower outcomes at the individual and group level.

chological processes and mechanisms through
which leaders motivate followers. Recent developments in motivation theory stress the importance of people’s self-regulatory focus as a central component shaping their motivations and behavior (Higgins, 1997, 1998). This theoretical

development may be helpful in attempting to
understand the ability of leaders to influence
and motivate followers by arousing different
self-regulatory foci of followers.
Our goal here is to draw from transformational and charismatic leadership theory (e.g., Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1999; Conger & Kanungo,
1998) and from identity and self-concept-based
theories of leadership (e.g., Kark & Shamir, 2002;
Lord & Brown, 2004; Lord, Brown, & Freiberg,
1999; Shamir et. al., 1993; van Knippenberg &
Hogg, 2003), as well as from the theory of regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997, 1998), to develop a conceptual framework to advance further studies on the underlying mechanisms that enable leaders to behave in a transformational/charismatic manner and to influence followers’ motivation and, ultimately, their behaviors and organizational-related outcomes. Thus, our aim here is twofold. First, we aim to

understand how leaders’ self-regulatory foci
(chronic and situational) and leaders’ values,
which serve as strong regulatory guides
(Schwartz, 1992), affect leaders’ motivation to
lead (MTL) and their subsequent behavior (i.e.,

In the last two decades, evidence has accumulated that transformational and charismatic leadership is an influential mode of leadership
that is associated with high levels of individual
and organizational performance (e.g., Dvir,
Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002; Lowe, Kroeck, &
Sivasubramaniam, 1996). Leadership effectiveness is critically contingent on, and often defined in terms of, leaders’ ability to motivate followers toward collective goals or a collective
mission or vision (Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 1998). Scholars who have investigated transformational and charismatic leadership
have, in many cases, discussed motivational
constructs as central components in their frameworks (e.g., Bass, 1985; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). In fact, researchers have explicitly defined
transformational leadership in terms of the motivational effects it has on followers (Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978).
Although recent work has stressed the importance of motivation to leadership processes (e.g., Yukl, 1998), the leadership literature, in general,
has paid limited attention to the underlying psy-

We thank Elizabeth Mannix and three anonymous AMR
reviewers for their constructive and helpful feedback, and
we appreciate the comments of Ahron Bizman and Leah
Rabinovits on an earlier version of this paper. The International Leadership Association awarded this paper the Best Paper Prize (runner-up) at the ILA conference in Amsterdam,...

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