Contextual moderators for leadership potential based on trait activation theory

Gil Luria, Allon Kahana, Judith Goldenberg, Yair Noam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tested the moderating role of group properties in the relationship between two prototypical leadership attributes (cognitive ability and adjustment) and leadership potential. Building on trait activation theory, we investigated one organizational cue (degree of centralization in the informal social structure) and one social cue (average level of the relevant attribute among other group members) and posited that the two prototypical leadership attributes would more likely be activated (leading to leadership potential) in more centralized groups and in groups where others have lower levels of the studied attribute. We tested 874 combat soldiers undergoing basic training in 71 teams. In a time-lagged design, we measured general cognitive ability and adjustment before conscription and then used regression analyses to calculate the group informal social structure and leadership potential several months after conscription. As predicted, the relationships of both adjustment and cognitive ability with leadership potential were moderated by group informal structure, with stronger relationships in groups with more centralized structures. Other group members' cognitive ability moderated the relationship between cognitive ability and leadership potential (stronger relationships in groups with lower mean of others' cognitive ability), but other group members' adjustment did not moderate the relationship between adjustment and leadership potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-911
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • adjustment
  • centralized group structure
  • cognitive ability
  • friendship network
  • leadership potential
  • trait activation theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology (all)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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