Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)

Do you get along with your boss?  Do you duck behind your cubicle walls when your supervisor approaches?  Do you have an employee that reports to you that you struggle with?   A critical relationship for any employee of an organization is that of the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX).  This theoretical model has been studied for over 40 years to help advance our understanding of how the interpersonal relationship between an employee and his immediate supervisor impacts work performance, job satisfaction, and more.1

When you have employees directly reporting to you, it is important to consider the quality of the relationship you have with each person.  What type of relationship do you have with the all-star performers on your team?  How does that compare to the less productive members?  Our relationship with an employee may vary based on a variety of factors, but it is important to consider how that impacts the success of your team or organization.  As a leader, you have the opportunity to strengthen these relationships to get more from your employees as well as adding value to the employee’s experience (which could help things like retention and recruitment).  Some studies may suggest that increasing LMX ratings over time can improve team performance.2

You may feel that your work is task-focused and if you do a good enough job on your assignments a promotion will be in your future.  This may be the case for some, but I would argue that the majority of us would struggle without a high quality LMX with our supervisors.  Think about how you can connect better with your boss or your employees and strengthen this exchange to improve the outcome of your work.

1.         Dienesch RM, Liden RC. Leader-Member Exchange Model of Leadership: A Critique and Further Development. Academy of Management Review. 1986;11(3):618-634.

2.         Naidoo L, Scherbaum C, Goldstein H, Graen G. A Longitudinal Examination of the Effects of LMX, Ability, and Differentiation on Team Performance. Journal of Business & Psychology. 2011;26(3):347-357.

Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

3 Responses to “Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)

  • Brandon Patterson
    4 years ago

    Interesting theory indeed. When one of the major scholars of that instrument came by to discuss it, one surprising thing he shared is how the construct generally measures how well you like your supervisor, nothing more nothing less. I like your approach to integrating new concepts for discussion in the field Joey. Keep up the good work.

    • I’m still new to the area, so it is all fascinating to study and see where these models may apply. I hope my work over the next few years allows me the opportunity to meet some of the “thought leaders” in these fields.

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  • Employees First: A lesson from the coach of my alma mater. :

    […] in an employee’s life and career success strengthens the boss-employee relationship (aka: Leader-member exchange, LMX), which could help increase job satisfaction and improve outcomes for the business.  If an […]

    4 years ago

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