The LMX Theory operates in one of two ways, by describing leadership and prescribing leadership.  Regarding both, the principal notion is the dyadic relationship which is shaped between every leader and their follower.  Descriptively, the LMX theory proposes the following:

  • “It suggests that it is important to recognize the existence of in-groups & out-groups within an organization.

  • Significant differences [exist] in how goals are accomplished using in-groups vs. out-groups.

  • Relevant differences within in-group vs. out-group behaviors” (Northouse, P., G., 2016, p. 145-148).

Prescriptive Approaches To Leadership underscore necessary justifications for high-quality exchanges for all followers, not just the select few. There are Three Phases in Leadership which develop over time.

These phases seek out every effort of each follower to believe that he/she are a part of the “In-Group,” thus circumventing injustices and undesirable, adverse, and/or harmful inferences of being in the “Out-Group” (Northouse, P., G., 2016).

Phase 1 - Stranger. Allows for inter-actions within the leader-follower relationship dyads and are usually strict and contractually define. This is where leaders and followers associate with one another within prescribed roles amidst the organizational culture. The lower-rated exchanges parallel out-group interactions but the follower’s motives during this phase are guided toward self-centered behaviors verses what’s good for the group (Northouse, P., G., 2016, p. 143).

Phase 2 - Acquaintance. Introduce a proposed agreement by the leader or follower/learner in order to enhanced career oriented social exchanges which encompass sharing additional resources, as well as personal or professional information. This mutual trial period is used to determine whether the follower/learner wishes to assume more responsibilities as well as establishing whether or not the leader wishes to afford new challenges or opportunities regarding the creation of new methods of operating within job descriptions of delineated roles or functions (Northouse, P., G., 2016, p. 143).

Phase 3 is identified through high-rated leader-member exchanges. This involves a higher-level of reciprocated trust, admiration and commitment.  Leaders and followers/learners affect and are affected by one another (Northouse, P., G., 2016, p. 144).

According to Northouse (2016), “…leadership making promotes partnerships in which the leader tries to build effective dyads with all followers in the work unit (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).  In addition, leadership making suggests that leaders can create networks of partnerships throughout the organization, which will benefit the organization’s goals and the leader’s own career progress” (Northouse, P., G., 2016).

Another example of leadership is available through a great lecture given in a TED Talk type forum titled, "The Randy Pausch: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  When Mr. Pausch recorded this lecture he had been diagnosed with cancer with a remaining three month life expectancy.  He is an extraordinary example of transformational, adaptive and servant leadership.  As you will see, his approach to his last days were focused around how to best utilize the remaining days of his life. He made a choice, as he said, "...to share how he achieved his childhood dreams while providing what he termed as “Head Fakes.”  Mr. Randy Pausch displayed all of the traits of a great leader which were further supported by the overwhelming outpouring of love from all who crossed his path.


Northouse, Peter G.  (2016). Leadership: theory and practice.  Los Angeles, Ca.  Sage Publishing.

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