Psychological Exchange between Leaders and Followers:
A Grounded Theory
Mary Diane Valentine
Social exchange (Blau, 1964) is the theoretical orientation used to explain the underlying dyad-level relationship occurring in leader-member exchange (LMX) theory (Graen, Novak, & Sommerkamp, 1982). A recent hypothesis asserted a variation of LMX employing the psychological component of social exchange (Messick, 2004) but without empirical evidence. Using the Straussian approach in procedures and techniques, this study developed a grounded theory of leader and follower’s perceptions of psychological exchanges. Qualitative leadership research in the relationship between the priest/pastor and his follower, the parish catechetical program director, was nonexistent (Bilquin, 2002); the participants included 20 priest/pastor leaders and 18 Director of Religious Education followers in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Illinois. Based on the methodology, theory emerged from data, which integrated and endeavored to explain the descriptive data. Grounded theory about psychological exchange between leaders and followers segregated the psychological benefits from the broader spectrum of social exchange behaviors in the LMX leadership literature, developing a theoretical variation distinguished as psychological exchange theory (PSX). This study made an original contribution to the understanding of the priest/pastor leadership and contemporary follower relationship as it is experienced in the parish. The PSX model reflected the theological and organizational trajectory of the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church and paradigm toward collaborative ministry: as a result of the examination of perceptions of the psychological exchanges and the development of PSX, an implication considered integrating the concept complementarity into the collaborative ministry dialogue regarding a leader and followers in the parish setting. An unexpected, but significant, finding occurred during the process of applying the procedures, a concern for qualitative researchers; this finding added to the knowledge of techniques in the Straussian approach.
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