Professionalism Equals Legitimacy

When observing how my office functions, one theory that keeps coming to mind is Leader Legitimacy. Tom R. Tyler defines legitimacy as a psychological property of an authority that leads followers to believe that it is proper or just. Under this definition, I have met colleagues who are both legitimate and illegitimate.

The Vice President of Marketing and Product Development is very legitimate. She has an impressive resume, is creatively gifted, and is always very sure about what she does or does not like. Not only does her title of VP give her legitimacy, but so does her confidence. She is very particular about what she likes in each project, and when she expresses these views with confidence, the VP’s subordinates fully trust each decision. While she doesn’t express her legitimacy through reward and punishment, she does through her attitude and perfectionism.

The person who I have found to be illegitimate is the Director of Events Marketing. Not only is she junior to the VP, but her attitude also is what makes her less legitimate. When I first began work, she immediately stood out as The Complainer. She has a negative opinion on most things about the office and does not keep these opinions to herself. Her habit of gossiping has led me to view her as more of a friend than as a superior. Of course, I would still do anything she asks me to, but I would do it with less intent than if the VP asked me to.

After observing my office, I’ve realized that legitimacy is conveyed through an array of forms. The two most apparent forms have been through formal title and one’s attitude/work style. The legitimate employee is more senior, positive, confident, and particular. The illegitimate employee is more junior, negative, and a gossip. I do believe that the title is less important than how a person carries themselves. My direct supervisor is the same level as the illegitimate employee and I find her to be much more legitimate. Both she and the VP are professional and strong in their work styles.

I find the Leader Legitimacy theory to be a great theory when testing leadership effectiveness and emergence.  This is because it takes into account how the followers view and respond to particular leaders. I would never find myself wanting a leader that is negative and a gossip. I want a leader who is professional and confident. It is clear that the more legitimate employees in my office are doing better with the company than those who are less than legitimate.

One thought on “Professionalism Equals Legitimacy

  • July 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Interesting reflection – you definitely have styles all along the spectrum. For the major paper this fall you’ll need to do a deep dive into a theory, so if you are thinking of further exploring legitimacy theory I encourage you to think more about the ways in which this manifests itself at your internship. For the fall paper you’ll need to address all the elements of the theory and provide examples that illustrate (or do not illustrate) the various elements. So identifying up front the various elements and then reflecting on those and providing examples for your second ‘theory in action’ reflection will be beneficial.

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