In this multi-part series, our journey continues to delve into the foundational principle of convening leadership, which involves gaining a profound understanding of oneself through exploring leadership theories. In Part I, we examined the authentic leadership theory, which emphasizes the significance of leaders remaining genuine to their true selves and the guiding principles that shape their actions. This week, our focus turns to the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory, which centers around the relationship between leaders and their followers. We will delve into the intricacies of this theory and explore how it shapes the dynamics and interactions between leaders and their team members. When considering the nonprofit sector, the relationship is between the convening leader and the stakeholders.

The LMX theory acknowledges that leaders establish distinct and personalized relationships (dyads) with individual followers (stakeholders), marked by trust, mutual influence, and reciprocal exchange. The quality of these leader-member exchanges profoundly affects follower performance, satisfaction, and overall organizational outcomes. Successful collaboration flourishes when leaders possess self-awareness and the ability to adapt their leadership style to accommodate each follower’s diverse needs and characteristics (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

Within nonprofit organizations, many leaders embrace the principles of the LMX theory, which prioritizes establishing strong relationships between leaders and followers, recognizing the significant advantages that arise from such relationships. Here are a few noteworthy examples of nonprofit leaders who embody LMX leadership:

Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, a global organization that supports social entrepreneurs, is known for his inclusive leadership style, fostering strong relationships with his team members. Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, a nonprofit organization that invests in social enterprises, is recognized for her collaborative leadership approach, building close relationships with her team members, and encouraging them to take on leadership roles. Wendy Kopp, the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, a global network of organizations focused on educational equity, is known for developing personal connections with her staff and fostering a sense of belonging and commitment. Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations, is a proponent of inclusive leadership and values building solid relationships with his team. Anna Deavere Smith, an actress, playwright, and the founder of the Pipeline Theatre Company, a nonprofit organization focused on producing socially conscious plays, emphasizes the importance of individual growth and development to achieve their full potential.

These examples illustrate how nonprofit leaders can embody the principles of the LMX theory by prioritizing relationship-building, collaboration, and empowering their team members.

Self-awareness plays a significant role in the LMX theory as it influences the quality of leader-follower relationships and helps leaders recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their leadership style. By understanding their preferred approach to leadership, leaders can align their behaviors with the needs and expectations of their followers. This self-awareness allows leaders to adapt their leadership style to build strong relationships with different team members. Self-awareness enables leaders to identify their values, beliefs, and biases. This awareness helps leaders maintain congruence between their words and actions, which fosters trust and credibility among followers.

Moreover, self-awareness is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence. Leaders with emotional self-awareness can recognize and understand their emotions, strengths, and limitations. This awareness allows leaders to regulate emotions, respond appropriately to challenges, and empathize with followers. By effectively managing their emotions, leaders can create a positive emotional climate within their teams, leading to more productive and satisfying relationships. Furthermore, self-awareness helps leaders recognize and appreciate the individual differences among their team members. Leaders who deeply understand their strengths and weaknesses are more likely to identify and leverage their followers’ unique talents and skills. This recognition of individual differences promotes personalized leader-follower exchanges, where leaders can tailor their interactions to each team member’s specific needs and motivations.

Finally, self-awareness fosters a growth mindset in leaders. By knowing their strengths and weaknesses, leaders can identify areas for improvement and seek opportunities for personal growth and development. This commitment to self-improvement positively influences the leader-follower relationship, as followers observe and appreciate leaders actively engaging in their personal development.

In summary, self-awareness in LMX theory helps leaders understand their leadership style, build trust, manage emotions, appreciate individual differences, and promote continuous growth and development. It forms the foundation for building strong and productive relationships with followers and enhances the overall effectiveness of leadership.

In this multi-part series, we explore leadership theories to gain insight into leadership styles for convening leaders. We started by examining authentic leadership and the inspiring examples of leaders who remain true to themselves. We then shifted our focus to the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory, highlighting its relevance in the nonprofit sector and the importance of relationships between convening leaders and stakeholders. We discussed the impact of self-awareness on leader-follower relationships within the LMX framework, emphasizing its role in understanding leadership style, building trust, managing emotions, recognizing individual differences, and promoting continuous growth and development. Furthermore, we highlighted notable nonprofit leaders who exemplify the principles of LMX leadership, showcasing their commitment to building strong relationships and empowering their team members. Through their dedication, these leaders inspire collective action and drive meaningful change in their respective fields.

Continuing in the mini-series, we will explore the Transformational Leadership Theory and how leaders who convene can effectively implement the principles of this theory when collaborating with stakeholders because community matters.

In community,

Dr. Pat

Patricia A. Clary is a consultant who champions the advancement of strategic community impact agendas to address intricate societal challenges through collaborative efforts, convening leadership, and effective governance. If you would like to know more about the LMX Leadership theory, please get in touch with Dr. Clary through the following channels:

– LinkedIn:

– Facebook: PatriciaAClaryPhD

© 2023 All rights reserved.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Patricia A. Clary, Ph.D.

Columnist Community Matters / Collaboration / Convening Leadership / Governance / Systems-Thinking