Attachment and Leadership Styles

Attachment and Leadership Styles

Attachment and Leadership Styles

Do you ever wonder what separates effective leaders from ineffective leaders? What about your role as a facilitator or practitioner? What factors contribute to strong leadership in the classroom or workplace?  Previous research on attachment theory has focused its attention on adult functioning mechanisms such as trust (Mikulincer, 1998), conflict resolution (Simpson et al., 1996), and how individuals view others (Pietromonaco & Barrett, 2006). These are all important tools to take into account when attempting to understand what makes an effective leader (Avolio, 2007). Breshnahan and Mitroff (2007) suggest that individuals use attachment-based internal working models about themselves and about others as they learn about their environment. The study of attachment theory could help create a better understanding of a leader’s internal working-model when managing others, interacting with subordinates, and in training situations (Bresnahan & Mitroff, 2007). Furthermore, as the attachment theory continues to expand in the leadership literature (Kahn & Kram, 1994; Popper et al., 2000), there is a possibility for the attachment theory to help better understand relationships between leaders and followers (Bresnahan & Mitroff, 2007).

Several studies have confirmed the relationship between secure attachment style and transformational leadership (Berson et al., 2006; Boatwright et al., 2010; Popper et al., 2000; Popper & Mayseless, 2003; Popper & Amit, 2000). For example, transformational leaders have an internal secure working model, which increases followers’ security towards them (Popper & Mayseless, 2003). Securely attached individuals are more likely than dismissing and preoccupied individuals to be transformational leaders (Boatwright, Lopez, Sauer, VanDerWege, & Huber, 2010; Manning, 2003).

Please feel free to share comments on this topic. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the relationship between attachment and leadership styles. Most importantly, how these findings may help shed light on leadership effectiveness as facilitators and practitioners!



Dr. Rehema Underwood






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James Ashton's picture James Ashton | April 16, 2018 11:41 am MST

Dr. Rehema,


Great topic!  You are correct by saying that attachement style and transformational leadership are confirmed. When you have both of these topics working in tamdem with each other, you have a great leader that understands the whole picture and know how to correct challenges, becomming more innovative, and assigning the apppropriate tasks to the appropriate people for success not only to an organization but to that organizations team member as well.  



Dr. James Ashton

Rehema Underwood's picture Rehema Underwood | April 16, 2018 12:52 pm MST

Greetings Dr. Ashton!

I appreciate your reply to my post! I think yiou hit it righ on when you mentioned how the relationship between a secure attachment style and transformational leadership can help overcome today's organizational challenges!  The fact that many organizations do suffer from high turnover rates is due to the lack of effective leadership skills. The more organizations become more aware of individual differences, the better prepared they will be when faced with hardships!

Thank you Dr. Ashton for sharing your thoughts!

Dr. Underwood

James Ashton's picture James Ashton | May 1, 2018 4:14 pm MST

Dr. Underwood,


My pleasure!  I am looking forward to your next post! :)



Dr. Ashton

Donna Smith's picture Donna Smith | May 8, 2018 1:41 pm MST

Hi Dr. Underwood,

I enjoyed reading your posting about the relationship between transformational leadership and attachment style.  It's often costly for a workplace to suffer from a high turnover rate, and having transformational leaders in place is one way to prevent employee exodus.

I recently read a study that compared and contrasted the transformational leader with the charismatic leader.  The results of that study indicated that transformational leaders were more likely to engage followers, where the charismatic leaders were more likely to inspire awe, not loyalty.

Well-presented and relevant information!

Dr. Smith

About the Author

Rehema Underwood, PhD



Journal of Leadership Studies-Symposium Piece-Relational Leadership: Perspectives of Key Constructs on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Equity in Higher Education

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American Psychological Association Conference-Utilizing Clinical Hypnotherapeutic Intervention with CBT to Treat Pandemic-Aug. 13-2021 Symptomology

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