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Dissertation Abstract

Taking the Child to Work: The Relationship of Adult Attachment Styles
And Implicit Leadership Theories in Organizational Settings

Brenda E. Johnson
June 2007

Individuals hold enduring beliefs and mental models of traits required for one to be considered and classified as a leader. Attachment theory states that mental models originate from early life experiences with parents and represent a person’s entrenched strategies of relating. Identifying and categorizing a target as leader, then, is representative of the way attachment patterns with parents are re-experienced in the present. This study investigated Keller’s (2003) proposition that follower attachment style will influence the characteristics in the follower’s mental representation of a leader. Using Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall’s (1978) taxonomy of attachment styles (secure, anxious, and avoidant), this study empirically examined the relationship of the follower characteristic of attachment style and the implicitly held theories of leadership along Offermann, Kennedy, and Wirtz’ (1994) eight dimensions of leader traits. A significant multivariate effect was found across attachment styles, supporting the theory that adult attachment styles have an effect on implicit leadership theories. However, when controlling for situational and demographic variables, no significant multivariate differences occurred among attachment styles with covariates of liking of current leader and level of education overcoming the effect of attachment style in affecting preferred leader traits. This study adds to the understanding of implicit leadership theories as Hall and Lord (1995) supposed that the self serves as a significant interpretive structure guiding leadership sensemaking.