“Exchange lost” in leader–member exchange theory and research: A critique and a reconceptualization

Vivian C Sheer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


Several problems have persisted in the voluminous body of leader–member exchange (LMX) literature. The most salient problem is the absence of an explicit conceptual definition of LMX in earlier theoretical works and later research. In general, LMX is treated as attributes of the leader and the leader–member relationship rather than interaction-based exchange behavior. The lack of clarity in conceptual definition has led to LMX instruments that measure a hodgepodge of leader and relationship attributes other than LMX. Consequently, findings gleaned with different LMX measures cannot be synthesized meaningfully. This essay introduces a reconceptualization of LMX as a behavior-based construct that consists of four exchange aspects: tangible work, tangible social, work communication, and social communication. A systematic approach to creating a valid measure (LMX-Behavior) is proposed for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-229
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Early online date9 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management

User-Defined Keywords

  • communication exchange
  • exchange behavior
  • LMX
  • reconceptualization


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