A Formal Model of Leadership Goal Striving: Development of Core Process Mechanisms and Extensions to Action Team Context

Le Zhou, Mo Wang, Jeffrey B. Vancouver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This research develops and tests a formal process-oriented theory of leader goal striving. Drawing on self-regulation theory, we developed a computational model that explicates the core process mechanisms involved in a leader-subordinate dyadic goal pursuit system. We then extended this core model to incorporate action team features (i.e., negative external disturbances, deadlines, and task interdependence) to account for leadership behavior in action team context. We simulated our proposed model to generate predictions about trajectories of a critical leadership function (i.e., leader engaging in team task-specific actions) under different conditions of disturbances, deadlines, task interdependence, and leader attributes. The predicted relationships were then tested in a laboratory experiment. As predicted by the model, time-related factors, including disturbances and deadlines, had significant effects on trajectories of leader actions. Over time within a given task, leaders were more likely to take actions when further than closer to the deadline. Leaders were also more likely to take actions when external disturbances set task states back. In addition, leaders' time allocation was less evenly distributed across subordinates when the deadline was short (vs. long). We discussed the implications of the model and how future research can extend our model to account for more complicated goal pursuit and team processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-410
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Le Zhou's work on this research was partly supported by the Lawrence Fellowship from Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation (grant 1533151). Mo Wang's work on this research was supported as part of his sabbatical research project by School of Business Administration, Zhejiang Gongshang University, and Warrington College of Business, University of Florida.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Action team
  • Goal pursuit
  • Leadership
  • System dynamics
  • Team
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Male
  • Group Processes
  • Young Adult
  • Employment
  • Systems Analysis
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Interpersonal Relations

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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