Adult attachment and perceived parental style may shape leadership behaviors

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of both attachment and parental styles in shaping
leadership behavioral patterns. Research predictions were that childhood perceived parental experiences will
be associated with attachment style, and that both perceived parental and attachment styles will fulfill a
significant role in shaping the individual’s leadership orientation in adulthood.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors tested the research hypotheses with a field survey data
from 90 supervisors belonging to diverse industrial and service organizations. During their attendance in a
leadership seminar, the managers’ attachment style was assessed using the Experiences in Close Relationship
Inventory. They were also asked to report on their childhood experiences using the Parenting Style Index,
and to answer questions regarding their leadership behavior, using a short version of the Multifactor
Leadership Questionnaire.
Findings – Results indicated associations between parental style, attachment style, and leadership.
Specifically, parental autonomy granting was negatively associated with both attachment anxiety and
avoidance. Both transformational and transactional leadership styles were positively associated with parental
autonomy, but only transformational leadership was also positively associated with parental involvement.
In addition, transactional leadership was positively associated with attachment avoidance in close relationships.
Research limitations/implications – Testing the contributions of perceived parental style in childhood
and attachment style in adulthood to the manager’s manifested leadership style helps to advance our
theoretical understanding of important leadership antecedents. The findings may also help practitioners in
developing leadership skills and assisting managers in finding ways to moderate their natural tendencies and
better depend on, delegate, and empower subordinates.
Originality/value – This empirical study provides evidence of the important role of perceived parental style
in the development of adult attachment and leadership styles. The effects found in the study also extend
the existing findings by showing that not only the attach

Rom Eldad and Joy Benatov

Attachment, Leadership, Parental style

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