The folly of theorizing "A" but testing "B" A selective level-of-analysis review of the field and a detailed Leader-Member Exchange illustration

Chester A. Schriesheim, Stephanie L. Castro, Xiaohua Zhou, Francis J. Yammarino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

107 Scopus citations


Leadership research has recently begun to emphasize the importance of examining the level of analysis (e.g., individual, dyad, group, organization) at which phenomena are hypothesized to occur. Unfortunately, however, it is still not commonplace for theory to clearly specify, and for investigations to directly test, expected and rival level-of-analysis effects. This article first selectively reviews a cross-section of theories, models, and approaches in leadership, showing generally poor alignment between theory and the level of analysis actually used in its testing. A multiple levels of analysis investigation of the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) model is next presented. This theory has as its foundation the dyadic relationship between a supervisor and his or her subordinates. Yet, less than 10% of published LMX studies have examined level of analysis-and none has employed dyadic analysis. Using within- and between-entities analysis (WABA) and two different samples, four LMX level-of-analysis representations are tested, which involve monosource data; three of these models are then tested using heterosource data. Overall, good support is found for the LMX approach at the within-groups and between-dyads levels. Implications for aligning theory with appropriate levels of analysis in future research are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-551
Number of pages37
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

Cite this