The role of cognitive-motivational traits in leader identity development: an expectancy theory perspective

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Greeley, Sarah Ashley
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University College Cork
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Leader identity is the aspect of the self that is viewed as being and behaving as a leader. The development of leader identity is an important process to understand as it guides multiple facets of an individual’s leadership from affect to cognition and behavior, ultimately influencing leader and leadership development. However, there is little knowledge of how leader identities develop. While motivation is theorized to be integral to catalyzing leader identity development, no research has yet viewed leader identity development through a motivational lens. In not discerning the essential role of motivation in this process, complete understanding of leader identity development remains unclear, disallowing the practical application of this foundational leadership phenomenon. The purpose of this study is to understand the role of cognitive-motivational traits in instigating leader identity development. To clarify the antecedent relationship of motivation on leader identity development, this study develops a conceptual expectancy model which posits that self-efficacy, goal orientation, and perceived prototypicality instigate leader identity development through enhancing the motivation to engage in identity work. The conceptual model is tested by employing a three-wave, longitudinal, quantitative research design to track the rates of leader identity development of 109 individuals engaged in leadership development programs. Utilizing structural equation modeling and cross-lagged panel analyses, the findings reveal that self-efficacy and perceived prototypicality are the most influential in the development of a leader identity. However, these relationships weaken over time, suggesting that leader identity development experiences a plateauing effect. This study makes a significant theoretical contribution by advancing understanding of leader identity development as a function of expectancy perceptions. Self-efficacy and perceived prototypicality predict individual expectancies, which motivate active engagement in identity work, resulting in leader identity development. A critical methodological contribution is made through identifying a new factor structure within the currently accepted global measure of leader identity. This study suggests that to harness the power of leader identity development, it is important for organizations and practitioners to approach every stage of designing and implementing leadership development initiatives from an identity perspective. In doing so, organizations can begin to develop more effective leaders through placing a greater focus on the foundational role of leader identity within the broader leadership development process. This will have effects from the intrapersonal level of leader identity to the collective level of organizational leadership.
Motivation , Expectancy theory , Self-efficacy , Goal orientation , Leader identity development , Perceived prototypicality
Greeley, S. A. 2022. The role of cognitive-motivational traits in leader identity development: an expectancy theory perspective. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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