Interpersonal perceptions and the emergence of leadership structures in groups: A network perspective

Scott S. DeRue, Jennifer Craig, Susan J. Ashford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


We develop and test a multilevel theory explaining how patterns of interpersonal perceptions explain the emergence of informal leadership structures in groups. At the group level, we hypothesize that the network pattern of competence and warmth perceptions among group members determines the amount of leadership exhibited (leadership structure density) and the degree to which the emergent leadership structure is centralized or shared (leadership structure centralization). We then identify two individual-level mechanisms underlying these group-level effects: (a) individuals' identification with the group and (b) the differentiation of leader-prototypical roles within the group. Using social network analysis, we test these hypotheses in a sample of 255 MBA consulting teams working full time on projects in 41 different countries over seven weeks. Our findings establish the emergent nature of leadership structures in self-managing teams and foreground interpersonal perceptions as an explanation for why emergent, informal leadership structures vary across teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1192-1209
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Groups
  • Interpersonal perception
  • Leadership
  • Social network
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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