During the early 1970s, the generally accepted practice for studying leadership was to use an average leadership style—that is, asking subordinates to report on their manager’s leadership style and then averaging their responses across the work unit. Leader–member exchange (LMX) theory, which originated as the vertical dyad linkage (VDL) model, offered a contrast to this approach by presenting a dyadic model of leadership. The VDL model demonstrated that it is not appropriate to assess a common managerial leadership style because managers have a different type of relationship with each of their subordinates.

From its origins in the VDL model, LMX theory evolved into a study of leadership relationships in the workplace. Its central assumption—that higher quality LMX relationships are positively related to work outcomes—is supported ...

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