Leadership substitutes theory

Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, Mats Ehrnrooth, Jennie Sumelius

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The Leadership Substitutes Theory entry includes sections that define the theory, explore developments in the theory, demonstrate specific application of the theory to HRM, and provide suggested topic areas for future research. Leadership Substitutes Theory (; ) offers a way to probe the possibility that the relevance of person-centric leadership to organisational performance tends to be overestimated. The theory provides a set of potential explanations for how leadership matters to organisations, to what extent, and why, which challenge the effectiveness of leadership behaviour in several respects. Leadership Substitutes Theory is also known as “substitutes for leadership theory”, “substitutes-for-leadership theory” or simply “substitutes theory”. It can be defined as pertaining to “individual, task, and organizational variables [that] act as ‘substitutes for leadership’, negating [or neutralising] the hierarchical superior’s ability to exert either positive or negative influence over subordinate attitudes and effectiveness” (). The theory and especially its later reinterpretation () offers important potential for HRM research as a potential substitute for leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Guide to Key Theories for Human Resource Management Research
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Publication date2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Leadership substitutes theory
  • Human resource management


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