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Perceived similarity / dissimilarity

Perceived similarity was also a component of Napier and Ferris’s investigation (1993). Comparable to Shamir’s (2013) findings, Napier and Ferris’s research assumes that perceived similarity reinforces psychological distance, demographic similarity, and value similarity simultaneously. The authors describe perceived similarity as “the degree to which an individual believes that (s)he is similar to a target individual” (Napier & Ferris, 1993, p. 331). Demographic similarity refers to differences in socio-demographic variables (e.g., age, gender), whereas values similarity is associated with similarities in values, beliefs, and attitudes between two parties (Napier & Ferris, 1993, pp. 329-332). A longitudinal investigation revealed that perceived similarity is essentially important in the dyadic leader-follower relationship for the emergence of LMX (Liden, Wayne & Stilwell, 1993). Bauer and Green (1996, p. 1560) noted that similarity in affectivity is important in early stages of a leader-member dyad, whereas, in later stages, it is followers’ performance that matters.

Liberman and Trope (2008) agree that dissimilarity is an important aspect of distance although it might not be a dimension of leadership context (Shamir, 2013). The findings suggest refraining from treating dissimilarity as a dimension of distance and rather applying its elements as control variables. For Shamir (2013) dissimilarity however goes beyond perceived differences in age, gender, race, ethnicity or culture, including socially manifested constructs. This becomes obvious when observing leaders who try to lower the perceived social distance between themselves and their followers by deliberately emphasizing similarities.

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