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Why People Attempt to Lead

Hemphill, John K
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Individual Needs, Leadership, Leadership Styles, Motivation


These four closely interrelated experiments provide some insight into a complex of personal and situational variables which explain what motivated a group member to try to lead. On the side of positive motivation, we find, (1) large rewards promised by accomplishing the group's task, (2) reasonable expectancy that by working on the task it can be accomplished, (3) acceptance by other members of the group for attempting to lead, (4) qualities of the task which require a high rate of group decisions, (5) possession of superior knowledge of competence relevant to the accomplishment of the task, and (6) previously acquired status as the group's leader. On the negative side, we find, (1) low task reward, (2) low expectancy of task accomplishment, (3) rejection by group members for attempting to lead, (4) qualities of tasks which set requirement for only a few decisions, (5) low competence on the task or little knowledge relevant to it, and (6) respect for the leadership status of another group member. Attempting to lead presents the possibility of receiving certain negative functions, probably the most severe being a rejection by fellow members of the group. Motivation to lead appears as a resultant of probability of achieving rewards of task accomplishment and the probability of negative sanction.

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