In 1975, the phrase “vertical dyad linkage” (VDL) was introduced to begin examining the quality of the roles between the leaders and direct reports, and it was soon discovered that the linkages ranged between high quality and low quality. That linkage progressed into “leader–member exchange” (LMX) in 1982. In essence, research reached a point where it found a continuum of the quality of the relationship between the two members. High-quality relationships put the employees into the leader’s “ingroup,” while low-quality relationships left employees on the outside looking in. It followed that those in the ingroup would have some say in the decision-making, would have easier access to the leader, and would garner more respect and “liking.”
Researchers have used the LMX-7 to examine how the quality of superior/subordinate relationships affects individual, interpersonal, and organization factors like job satisfaction, communication motives, and organizational identification (as did the original LMX scale). Although the LMX-7 remains one of the most prominent psychometric measures of LMX, researchers still debate whether the construct should be considered unidimensional or multidimensional.
While the intricacies of LMX-7 versus LMX have been argued, and with teams becoming more of an organizational resource, team–member exchange (TMX) was found to be a supported extension of LMX. While at this point TMX is lacking in the volume and pace of research, due to the difficulties of measurement among a group of people who might have a variety of leaders during the process, the existing research has produced some results that are extremely relevant, now and in the future. Examples of what has been found when the team exchange relationship is high include reduced stress, increased psychological empowerment, increased creativity, increased team performance, increased individual performance, increased organizational citizenship behaviors, increased organizational commitment, and increased job satisfaction, just to name a few.
In sum, the investigation into LMX provides a history of the field of LMX and its many iterations and the role it plays in leadership studies. This research includes LMX antecedents, consequences, moderators, mediators, and outcomes, as any field in which over 4,500 papers have been published needs an effective way to highlight the progress and pathways.