Original Research

A conceptual framework for understanding leader selfschemas and the influence of those self-schemas on the integration of feedback

J.W. (Cobus) Pienaar, Petrus Nel
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 15 | a772 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.772 | © 2017 J.W. (Cobus) Pienaar, Petrus Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 November 2015 | Published: 24 March 2017

About the author(s)

J.W. (Cobus) Pienaar, Arbinger Institute South Africa, South Africa
Petrus Nel, Department of Industrial Psychology, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Orientation: Recently, the importance of blind spots, derailments and failures of leaders have been in the spotlight. Enhancing their levels of self-awareness is one of the steps leaders can take to avoid derailment. While it promotes self-awareness and decreases leadership blind spots, feedback is also considered one of the most effective tools available to modify behaviour. Researchers and practitioners are encouraged to explore the individual characteristics that will enhance or impede the feedback received from others so as to bring about behavioural change and increased levels of self-awareness.

Motivation for the study: The aim of this theoretical article was to consider various conceptual frameworks and literature in an endeavour to illustrate how leaders’ self-schemas might explain the underlying reasons why some leaders are more likely to receive, integrate, assimilate and act on the feedback, while others are not, based on how they see themselves in relation to others.

Research design, approach and method: A literature-based method was utilised for this study in order to provide a critical analysis of the available literature and illustrate the different theoretical perspectives and underpinnings. Practical/managerial implications: Leaders who are more likely to consider feedback and/or ask for feedback from others seem to be less prone to develop a blind spot and will therefore have a more accurate view of themselves. Those who have an over-rating of themselves are unlikely to have an accurate view of themselves. In an attempt to ‘protect’ this inflated view, such individuals will be less open to negative feedback, as it may challenge their own perspectives and opinions they hold of themselves. Individuals who hold an overly negative view of themselves are more likely to reject positive feedback and less likely to request or accept positive feedback as it may contradict the viewpoint they hold of themselves. They may however be more open to negative feedback that may ‘support’ their negative view of themselves.

Contribution: This article provided some suggestions as to why leaders may be less willing to accept and integrate feedback into their self-schemas as well as how to develop their levels of self-awareness in order to benefit from feedback.


leadership; feedback; self-perceptions; schema; blind spot; derailments; self-awareness; failure; ineffective leadership; 360 degree feedback


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