What kind of person is likely to emerge as an informal leader in the workplace? Experimental research shows that high self-monitors—who tend to adjust their attitudes and behaviors to the demands of different situations—emerge as informal leaders in temporary groups. By contrast, low self-monitors—who tend to be true to themselves in terms of consistency in attitudes and behaviors across different situations—are less likely to emerge as leaders. But this prior research does not address the criticism that the emergence of high self-monitors as leaders represents ephemeral impression management in the context of laboratory experiments. To address this issue, we collected and analyzed data from a 116-member high-technology firm. Our results show that self-monitoring is related not only to leadership emergence, but also to the provision of advice to co-workers. Further, people who occupied brokerage positions (being trusted by those who did not trust each other) tended to be seen as leaders if they were high rather than low self-monitors. From these results, we build a picture of the high self-monitoring emergent leader as someone who notices problems and ameliorates them through the provision of advice and the brokerage of relationships across social divides. The occupation of a structurally advantageous position may well be more advantageous for some (i.e., high self-monitors) relative to others (i.e., low self-monitors).
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Kilduff, Martin; Mehra, Ajay; Gioia, Dennis A.; and Borgatti, Stephen, "Brokering Trust to Enhance Leadership: A Self-Monitoring Approach to Leadership Emergence" (2017). Management Faculty Publications. 1.