This research investigates the role of implicit theories in influencing the effectiveness of successful role models in the leadership domain. Across two studies, we test the prediction that incremental theorists (‘leaders are made’) compared to entity theorists (‘leaders are born’) will respond more positively to being presented with a role model before undertaking a leadership task. In Study 1, measuring people’s naturally occurring implicit theories of leadership, we showed that after being primed with a role model, incremental theorists reported greater leadership confidence and less anxious-depressed affect than entity theorists following the leadership task. In Study 2, we demonstrated the causal role of implicit theories by manipulating participants’ theory of leadership ability. We replicated the findings from Study 1 and demonstrated that identification with the role model mediated the relationship between implicit theories and both confidence and affect. Additionally, incremental theorists outperformed entity theorists on the leadership task.

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Copyright © 2012 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc. Article first published online: 5 DEC 2011. DOI: 10.1177/0146167211427922.

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Hoyt, C. L., J. L. Burnette, and A. N. Innella. "I Can Do That: The Impact of Implicit Theories on Leadership Role Model Effectiveness."Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38, no. 2 (February 25, 2012): 257-68. doi:10.1177/0146167211427922.