SPREADING THE WORD: THE ROLE OF S...
SPREADING THE WORD: THE ROLE OF SURROGATES IN CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP PROCESSES BENJAMIN M. GALVIN University of Washington, Bothell PRASAD BALKUNDI University at Buffalo DAVID A. WALDMAN Arizona State University By integrating a social networks perspective with charismatic leadership theory, we attempt to explain how charismatic perceptions of leaders spread among distant followers through third-party individuals (surrogates). We propose a mediated model considering how individuals engage in surrogate behavior (promoting the leader, defending the leader, and modeling followership) that increases charismatic percep- tions among distant followers. We consider the behaviors associated with this role, as well as antecedents and moderators that may explain motivation to engage in the role and effectiveness of the role in influencing followers. Charismatic leadership is a term often used to characterize extraordinary forms of influence, and it is frequently associated with leaders who are perceived as exceptional, gifted, and even heroic (Bass, 1990 Conger, 1989). Scholars com- monly conceptually such leadership as a rela- tionship between leaders and subordinates involving ���a unique bonding,��� emotional attach- ment, respect, and trust (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002: xvii). Subordinates who view a leader as charismatic will tend to see the leader and his or her vision as core to their own identity and will be willing to sacrifice so as to benefit the collective and achieve the goals and vision of the leader (Howell & Shamir, 2005). Implicit leadership and cognitive categoriza- tion theories explain that individuals create leader prototypes in their mental schema and evaluate behaviors and actions of leaders ac- cording to those prototypes (Lord & Brown, 2001 Lord & Maher, 1991 Shamir, 1992). It follows that charismatic leadership is based on highly favor- able perceived attributes and personal charac- teristics of a leader, such as confidence, power, success, and influence (Burns, 1978 Jacobsen & House, 2001). Individuals in leadership positions have the ability to enhance follower perceptions of their charisma by engaging in behaviors (e.g., symbolic acts, speeches/statements, and direct interactions) that amplify such attributions in accordance with follower schemas and proto- types (Bass, 1985, 1990). Such influence is based on direct contact between leaders and subordi- nates. We define direct contact as interactions via rich channels of communication, which al- low for a maximum amount of information to be transmitted through dialogue between the two parties (Daft, 2008 Lengel & Daft, 1988). For ex- ample, face-to-face communication provides a high degree of channel richness since the two parties get instantaneous feedback from each other when they interact. In addition to the ac- tual words exchanged, the facial expressions and the vocal intonations provide contextual in- formation not available through other mediums of communication, such as a written memo (Daft, 2008 Lengel & Daft, 1988). However, many leaders do not have direct contact with all of the subordinates under their authority. This lack of direct contact between We thank Jeff LePine and three anonymous reviewers for the significant time and effort they contributed to ensure that this article met its potential. We also thank Anne Tsui for her guidance and encouragement during the writing of early drafts of the manuscript. We further acknowledge Mar- tin Kilduff for his insightful comments regarding an early draft. Academy of Management Review 2010, Vol. 35, No. 3, 477���494. 477 Copyright of the Academy of Management, all rights reserved. Contents may not be copied, emailed, posted to a listserv, or otherwise transmitted without the copyright holder���s express written permission. Users may print, download, or email articles for individual use only.
leaders and subordinates in organizations gen- erally can be attributed to time constraints, geo- graphic distance, or simply the distance created by the size or extensive hierarchy of organiza- tions. Without substantial direct contact be- tween a leader and subordinates, there may be a void of leader behaviors and actions for sub- ordinates to evaluate and compare against pro- totypes in their mental schema. A lack of posi- tive information about the leader will likely make it difficult for subordinates to develop charismatic perceptions (Bass, 1990). Yet it is not uncommon for subordinates who have had little direct contact with a leader to perceive the dis- tant leader as charismatic. This raises the ques- tion of why some subordinates, who have had little direct contact with their leaders, perceive their leaders as charismatic. One explanation may be that some individu- als inherently romanticize leaders and tend to associate greatness and charisma with individ- uals in positions of power (Meindl, Ehrlich, & Dukerich, 1985). Another explanation may be that some leaders successfully engage in efforts that minimize the distance between themselves and subordinates. For instance, leaders may hold company-wide events to build support for their directives and initiatives. They may even disseminate their bios and photos in an attempt to personalize themselves and help subordi- nates see them in a positive light. Further, they may share video addresses and written state- ments via email, webpages, and blogs. In short, leaders may provide positive information about themselves, which followers can then use to form their own perceptions by making compari- sons against schema and prototypes of effective leadership. Attempts to garner charismatic perceptions such as those discussed above may be some- what successful in overcoming distance be- tween leaders and distant followers. However, such attempts represent only a portion of the information that distant followers consider when developing their perceptions of leaders. Indeed, distant followers will also glean infor- mation about leaders from other individuals with whom they directly interact in the organi- zation. Individuals who act as secondhand sources of information may, in many cases, be seen as more reliable and trustworthy by distant followers than such formal sources as company websites and staged appearances from leaders. These secondhand sources of information about leaders have the potential to be especially in- fluential in determining distant followers��� per- ceptions of leaders���potentially even more so than firsthand interactions (Bowler & Brass, 2006 Gilovich, 1987). To date, the role of these influential individu- als in the charismatic leadership process has lacked clarity. Theories of charismatic leader- ship generally have focused on leader behav- iors or social processes that occur between lead- ers and followers���that is, relationships. Klein and House (1995) and Gardner and Avolio (1998) suggested that followers may play an important role in charismatic leadership processes. Build- ing on this idea, Waldman and Yammarino (1999) proposed that leader storytelling and sym- bolic behavior increase the likelihood that fol- lowers will spread stories and sagas about the leader that may lead to perceptions of leader charisma. Along related lines, Balkundi and Kilduff (2005) noted the importance of a networks per- spective in understanding how intermediaries from the leader���s network may dampen or en- hance leader influence. This perspective is in line with Bono and Anderson���s (2005) findings that managers who are perceived as transfor- mational tend to hold more central positions in the informal social networks of the organization, as do their direct reports. Accordingly, there is the possibility that managers who are perceived as transformational may exert some influence over distant subordinates through intermediar- ies, including their direct reports. By drawing on charismatic leadership theory (Bass, 1985) and a social networks perspective (Balkundi & Harrison, 2006), we advance new ideas regarding how third-party individuals may increase levels of charismatic perceptions or attributions for a leader among distant sub- ordinates. Our work expands on previous theory and research suggesting that charismatic attri- butions of a leader develop among subordinates through social contagion processes among in- formal networks (e.g., Gardner & Avolio, 1998 Meindl et al., 1985 Pastor, Meindl, & Mayo, 2002). Specifically, our theory provides an understand- ing of the behaviors these individuals engage in that enhance perceptions of leader charisma. Below, we refer to these individuals as surro- gates. An understanding of this largely un- known role and associated behavior can pro- 478 July Academy of Management Review
vide new insight into a process that may be, in great part, responsible for leaders��� gaining in- fluence and being seen as charismatic by their distant followers. By adopting a social networks approach, we clarify how surrogates in key network positions are especially motivated and influential in this role. In doing so we seek to respond to the largely unanswered call for more theory to ex- plain how networks and social processes in or- ganizations are related to leadership and its perception (Balkundi & Kilduff, 2005 Brass, Ga- laskiewicz, Greve, & Tsai, 2004). It is to the issue of how distant leaders can be aided by surro- gates that we now turn our attention. A MEDIATED MODEL OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP To date, little effort has been made to show the connection between perceptions of leaders and the social processes that occur among dis- tant followers in formal (i.e., formally specified work relationships) and informal (i.e., discre- tionary relationships) networks (Ibarra, 1993). In Figure 1 we propose a mediated model that in- volves behavior, performed by individuals we call ���surrogates,��� that enhances perceptions of leader charisma among distant followers in the surrogates��� formal and informal networks. This process of influencing attitudes and emotions is similar in nature to Bandura���s (1977) social learning theory, in that a socially mediated pro- cess occurs in which individuals develop their perceptions (of leaders) based on their observa- tions of the attitudes and behaviors of others (surrogates). We now proceed to describe the nature of surrogates and surrogacy as a behav- ioral construct. The Nature of Surrogates ���Surrogate��� is derived from the Latin term sur- rogatus, the past participle of surrogare, which means to substitute (American Heritage Dictio- nary). It is generally used to designate two types of individuals who stand in the place of, or sub- stitute for, another person in a social or family role (American Heritage Dictionary). First, it is used to describe a formal role, where ���one ap- pointed to act in the place of another��� (Merriam- Webster Dictionary) does so in an official man- ner. Second, it is used more informally to designate ���one that serves as a substitute��� (Mer- riam-Webster Dictionary) for another person. For instance, a formally appointed surrogate court may distribute assets for a deceased individual because the individual cannot distribute them him/herself. However, other examples of the use of the term may include both individuals who are intentionally sent to act in the role and in- dividuals who represent another of their own accord. We will return to the issue of intention- ality below. FIGURE 1 Model of Surrogate Behavior Positive social exchange relationship with the leader Perceptions of leader charisma among distant subordinates Surrogate���s network proximity to leader Surrogate behavior ���Promoting the leader ���Defending the leader ���Modeling followership Strength of existing subordinate perceptions of the leader Perceptions of leader charisma Surrogate���s network position ���Prestige ���Brokerage ���Core/periphery Surrogate behavior Moderators of the influence surrogate behavior Moderators of antecedents of surrogate behavior Antecedents of surrogate behavior Outcomes of surrogate behaviors of 2010 479 Galvin, Balkundi, and Waldman