Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management and Marketing


This thesis looks at how constructions of leadership develop, by investigating children’s implicit representation of characteristics of leaders (Implicit Leadership Theories – ILTs) between five and 12 years old. ILTs refer to beliefs held by followers and leaders about how leaders behave in general, and what is expected from them (Eden & Leviatan, 1975; Shondrick, Dinh, & Lord, 2010; Sy et al., 2010). The examination of this area will enlighten the understanding of how future leaders perceive this social role and its characteristics (Ayman-Nolley & Ayman, 2005), and also contribute to research on leadership development.

Considerable strides have been made in the study of leadership aimed at understanding ILTs in the context of adult forms and emergence of leadership (Edwards, 1994; Trawick-Smith, 1988), and even though it has been found that ILTs develop early in life (Keller, 1999; Offermann & Coats, 2018; Shondrick et al., 2010), limited research can be found on ILTs antecedents, including children’s ILTs (Lord, Epitropaki, Foti, & Hansbrough, 2020; Shin, Recchia, Lee, Lee, & Mullarkey, 2004). It has been established that children as young as five have a concept of a leader, can distinguish between leaders and non-leaders, that ILTs can be positive or negative, and can be task-oriented, level-of-involvementoriented, or relationship-oriented (Ayman-Nolley & Ayman, 2005; Matthews, Lord, & Walker, 1989). Hence, children’s ILTs may vary both in their content and structure and also in the way they make decisions about leaders in their own groups (Ayman-Nolley & Ayman, 2005).



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.