Topic: Leader-Member Exchange

Author(s), Title and Publication

Campbell, K., White, C. D., & Johnson, D. E. (2003). Leader-Member Relations as a Function of Rapport Management. Journal of Business Communication, 40(3), 170-194


Leader-member exchange (LMX) is important to organizations, but it also can cause employee distress when leaders lack communication skills. Research has suggested that employees’ satisfaction of communication with leaders is crucial to employee productivity, job satisfaction, and job performance. However, research also revealed that leaders and employees do not agree about the quality of their mutual relationship. This essay addressed how leaders can build quality relationships with their subordinates by focusing on interpersonal communication strategy.

According to the competing values model of managerial communication, four communication styles are typified by certain value quadrants: instructional communication (directs action), informational communication (provides facts), relational communication (builds trust), and transformational communication (stimulates change). This essay argued that within the competing values framework, effective leaders are able to operate in all four value quadrants. They build trust with members, while communicating to inform, instruct, or stimulate members to strive for organizational goals.

Rapport management refers to the use of language to manage social relations. By borrowing concepts from rapport management, the essay defined communication strategies for building better LMX relationships when employees and leaders have disagreements, and employees’ social faces or rights are threatened by leaders. The three strategies are: on record bald strategy (leader’s intended act is more important than leader-member relationship), off record strategy (leader-member relationship is more important than leader’s intended act), and on record plus strategy (both the intended act and the relationship are important). In the case of applying on record plus strategy, leaders express disagreement in a less direct way by apologizing for the threat to the member’s rights (e.g., I am sorry but…).

Implications for Practice

Leaders might communicate more effectively with members by choosing an appropriate strategy (i.e., on record bald strategy, off record strategy, on record plus strategy) based on whether: 1) they are striving to consolidate internal processes and maximize output by communicating this message, 2) they intend to inform, direct, consult, or build trust with the member, 3) they want to achieve urgency in the communication, 4) affect quality of current relationships with members; 5) threaten the member’s rights with the message, or 6) emphasize the message or relationship.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:;40/3/170 (abstract free, purchase full article)




Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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