Strategic Management: Formulation and Implementation

The Attribution Theory Of Leadership

The attribution theory of leadership suggests that a leader's judgment about his employees is influenced by the leader's attribution of the causes of the employees' performance. This model has to facets:

  1. leader attributions for and reaction to poor performance by subordinates, and
  2. observer attributions for and reactions to poor performance by the leader

Leader's Attributional Processes

The attributional approach starts with the position that the leader is essentially an information processor. Based on information about subordinates and their behaviors, the leader makes a determination an attribution of the cause of each subordinate's behaviors and selects strategies to deal with any poor performers.

Attributions are based upon the leader's ability to process information based on three dimensions on behavior:

Did the behavior occur in this task only?
Is this level of performance usual for other employees?
Is this level of performance usual for this employee?

The answers to these three questions identify for the leader either external (situational) or internal (personal) causes for the employee's performance. This attribution is critical to leaderemployee relations. The judgment of responsibility moderates the leader's response to an attribution.