Organizational opinion leader charisma, rolemodeling, and relationships

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International Journal of Organizational Analysis



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Affective commitment, Idealized influence, LMX, Normative commitment, Opinion leaders, Organizational opinion leadership, Perceived organizational support


© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: This cross-disciplinary, empirical study aims to examine the phenomenon of organizational opinion leadership. Extant research concerning social capital and both referent and expert power suggests that informal opinion leaders within an organizational setting have the ability to influence their co-workers. This study focuses on the transformational leadership characteristics of idealized influence-attributed (charisma) and -behavior (role modeling). The social exchange aspects of the opinion leader–seeker relationship process are examined through an application of dyadic concepts found within leader–member exchange (LMX) theory. This study examines potential outcomes of opinion leader influence, specifically, opinion-seeker perceived organizational support (POS), affective commitment and normative commitment. Design/methodology/approach: This study examines the dynamics of organizational opinion leader (OOL)–organizational opinion seeker (OOS) relationship to determine whether OOLs influence OOSs through role modeling and charisma, captured through the idealized influence aspect of transformational leadership. The OOL–OOS relationship is examined through the lens of LMX, commonly used to examine supervisor–subordinate exchange relationships. This study also examines whether OOLs’ idealized influence and OOL–OOS exchange relationships are related to OOSs’ perceived organizational support (POS) and both affective and normative commitment, and whether POS mediates their influence. Hypotheses are offered and survey data collected from a heterogeneous sample of 646 individuals is examined using structural equation modeling. Findings: The results suggest that idealized influence consistently positively influences the outcomes. LMX-affect, -loyalty and -professional respect influence OOS perceptions of POS. Idealized influence and POS influence OOS affective and normative commitment. LMX-affect influences OOS affective and normative commitment, while LMX-loyalty influences normative commitment. LMX-professional respect slightly influenced OOS affective commitment negatively, suggesting that respect does not engender positive feelings and had no influence on normative commitment. Research limitations/implications: This interdisciplinary study integrates concepts found within marketing, political science and organizational literature works to shed new light on the informal influence organizational members have on one another, which furthers our understanding of both shared leadership and opinion leadership. This research provides another frame for the concept of shared leadership, suggesting that OOL influence occurs horizontally and vertically within organizations. The overall findings suggest that both the characteristics of opinion leaders and the quality of OOL–OOS relationships matter. Practical implications: This research highlights the importance of recognizing and enabling organizational members whose opinions are sought by their peers. Organizational opinion leadership exists within organization and influences organizational members’ attitudes and perceptions. Therefore, it is a necessity that organizations understand the phenomenon and guide it, much as organizational culture is guided, so that it produces positive organizational outcomes. Originality/value: Very little research exists concerning organizational opinion leadership. This study breaks new ground by developing theory, applying accepted constructs to the phenomenon and empirically testing the impact of opinion leadership.

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