The Power of Many: A Follower-Centric Concept of Leader Error and Influence

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Crayne, Matthew Philip
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 07, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Samuel Todd Hunter, Dissertation Advisor
  • Samuel Todd Hunter, Committee Chair
  • Susan Mohammed, Committee Member
  • Rick R Jacobs, Committee Member
  • Vilmos Fosnocht Misangyi, Outside Member
  • Leadership
  • Laboratory
  • Historiometric
  • Followers
Through a multi-study, multi-method approach, the present research aimed to address the impact of both leader error characteristics and timing on the influence attributions of followers. Study 1 consisted of a live laboratory study, in which leader error timing, type, and severity were manipulated in a 2x2x2 factorial design. Participants took on the role of a subordinate of the leader to complete a task during which the error occurred. Historiometric analysis was employed in Study 2, where academic biographies of historical leaders were coded for instances of error, error attributes, and affects the errors had on both leaders and their followers. Results indicated that followers reacted more negatively to errors that damaged their view of the leader as a person than errors that affected their ability to execute job tasks. Additionally, subordinate willingness to follow was found to act as a mediator of the relationship between error severity and the number of errors leaders committed over a career, indicating that leaders may alter their behavior in response to follower reactions to error. Surprisingly, the impact of error timing on follower attributions was largely negligible, both as a main effect and a moderator of other relationships. Theoretical and research implications of these results and others are discussed in further detail.