Searching for a Needle in a Haystack: Trying to Identify the Illusive Moderators of Leadership Behaviors
Journal of Management, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 422-470, 1995
49 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2010 Last revised: 13 May 2014
Date Written: April 5, 2010
Because the notion that various individual, task, or organizational-level variables moderate the relationships between leader behaviors and subordinate criterion variables is a fundamental assumption of most situational approaches to leadership, it is not surprising that a number of studies have been conducted in order to test these effects. Unfortunately, no systematic assessment of this research has been conducted to determine: (a) the nature of the tests for moderation that have been used, or (b) the degree to which the findings actually support the hypothesis that the effects of leader behaviors are moderated by situational variables. For the purposes of this review, we identified studies designed to test the moderators specified by two related theories of leadership: House’s (1971) Path-Goal Approach, and Kerr and Jermier’s (1978) Substitutes for Leadership Model. We then examined the methods used by researchers who tested for the moderating effects predicted by these models, the percentage of moderating effects actually found, and the nature of the moderating effects identified, The results indicate that: (1) although the percentage of moderators identified is clearly better than chance; (2) many of the tests conducted to identify moderating effects in this leadership area are inappropriate; (3) most of the results reported in this domain have not been replicated; and (4) the information reported by many of the authors is incomplete. The implications of the results of the review for both researchers and practicing managers are then discussed.
Keywords: Leadership, Substitute, Moderation
JEL Classification: M30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation