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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

In the April 2010 issue under Good Science–Good Practice, Jamie Madigan and Tom Giberson review an LMX leadership study in some detail. I did not recognize what they described as LMX leadership theory (see Graen, 2010).

They purported that LMX theory is about two-way Leadership Motivated Xcellence relationships initiated by leaders with their subordinates. This is but one set of two-way psychological mission commitment required for leadership. In addition, LMX leaders initiate such relationships with worthy superiors and peers. Leaders actively recruit any person that they think can help and that they can convince that the mission is the right thing to do even though it is beyond business as usual. They will not get any immediate pay or recognition for joining the mission. According to LMX leadership theory, leaders are people coworkers can believe in to keep their promises and work to put the mission's service to what's right over self. Such leaders are rare, but we have developed the technology to separate them from the much larger organization's hi-po manager group.

Leaders also are hi-po managers most of the time and only when the extra organizational need arises do they gather their volunteers and do the right thing. Other hi-po managers should be trained in advanced management and not subjected to leadership programs that they know they will never be used and frequently find irrelevant to their jobs. In spite of this technology, organizations spend billions (12 billion in 2007) subjecting all their hi-po folks to leadership training when they should be given advanced management training.

Now more than in the recent past, we are experiencing a strong need for leadership. A 2010 study of 500 C-suite executives by SHRM found that their two key problems were “leadership succession and leadership retention.”  We desperately need to identify and train those who can lead others and not waste valuable leadership training resources on those who cannot rally volunteers.

We hope this helps. We can measure leadership and identify hi-po leaders.

They are both born and raised by a proper village and possess fundamental leadership ability by their early 20s. We need to find them early and grow them quickly.  I-O psychologists are needed in this mission.

George Graen


     Graen G. B. (2010).  The LMX protocol: How to indentify, train, and enable managerial leadership for teams designed to boldly go beyond business as usual. M. G. Rumsey (Ed), The many sides of leadership:  A handbook.  London, UK: Oxford University Press.