LMX Theory at a Tech Startup

Leadership theories can be applied in countless different professional settings, but they truly come to fruition when you are working at such a small company. LMX Theory (Leader-Member Exchange Theory), for instance, is a very effective theory in explaining how leader/member relationships work within the organization that I am working at this summer. LMX Theory is defined by the idea that leaders will foster more high quality relationships for the sake of better organizational performance. The theory states that leaders should provide all followers with access to the LMX process. This process goes from stranger to acquaintance to mature relationship. Through this process, the relationship moves from a contractual exchange to more relaxed reciprocity, reciprocal influence, trust, respect, mutual obligation, and internalization of common goals.

Since I’m working for such a small organization, it is very easy for my CEO and my supervisor to communicate with and foster relationships with the interns. The small number of people makes it very easy for us to get to know one another, talk about weekend plans, and have drinks after work on a Friday. Since we have such strong relationships in the company, we work very well with one another and almost all of the projects that take place at Boxcar are collaborative. 

As much as I enjoy working in this kind of environment, I definitely also see some shortcomings in the effectiveness of LMX Theory in my organization. LMX Theory ignores the benefits of distributed leadership and formal hierarchy as group size increases. This kind of working environment is not sustainable if Boxcar continues to grow. In addition, as I have stated in previous posts, I feel as though the internship program at my organization as a whole would benefit from more of a hierarchical leadership style. Having more defined boundaries and instructions when working in a new field and at a new organization I think would be very beneficial for future professional success. It is very clear that there are both strengths and drawbacks to different leadership styles when working as a summer intern, and I am looking forward to examining this delicate balance more as I continue working this summer. 


Leave a Reply