The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) as a Determinant Measure of Leadership Style
The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) as a Determinant Measure of Leadership Style


The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire – or MLQ, is a very popular tool of behavioral measure used by researchers, leaders and change management experts to gauge and measure leadership behaviors. These behaviors are studied as a measure of leadership style and leadership style effectiveness especially in relation to organizational change planning. The MLQ can also be used in a team to ensure that team members are on the same page in terms of preferred leadership styles. This helps for easier management of teams and it strengthens team cohesion.

How does the MLQ work?

The MLQ was developed from Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory that leaders possess certain traits and characteristics that influence their followers’ actions and behaviors. Bass argues that leaders need to possess a mix of transformational qualities and transactional qualities in order to be effective. To this end, the MLQ measures 5 transformational leadership factors, 2 transactional leadership factors and 2 laissez-faire leadership factors using a set of 45 questions. Each question is ranked and the overall score for a factor is calculated using the average score of the questions related to the factor being measured.

The Laissez-Faire Leadership Factors

Management by Exception: Passive (MBE-B)looks for a way to get things together when mistakes occur without investigating, identifying mistake or putting mechanisms in place to eliminate chances of reoccurrence.

Laissez-Faire (LF)leaves followers to act as they like, shows little or no interest in how and when tasks are completed, gives little input and expects little in return.

The 2 Transactional Leadership Factors

Contingent Reward (CR)clarification of tasks and objectives, rewards for performance, cautionary measures for low performance and punishment for non-performance

Management by Exception: Active (MBE-A) – takes decisive actions in correcting mistakes and strictly monitors tasks to ensure that mistakes do not reoccur

The 5 Transformational Leadership Factors

Idealized Attributes (IA) – ability of the leader to build and earn the trust of his followers and the ability to inspire followership based on freewill and not coercion

Idealized Behaviors (IB)ability to be a role model that followers want to look up to, ability to appeal to their individual persons, ability to give and earn respect and the ability to motivate followers to give their best

*Both IA and IB fall under the ‘Idealized Influence’ Category

Inspirational Motivation (IM) – ability to relay the mission, vision and overall organizational objective effectively, ability to show followers how their individual contribution adds to organizational growth and development.

Intellectual Stimulation (IS) – ability to stimulate creative thinking and problem solving by helping followers see how one problem can be addressed from different perspectives, ability to help followers shed old thinking in favor of new ideas

Individualized Consideration (IC)ability to assign tasks based on individual strengths, ability to connect to followers on a personal level, ability to show equal level of concern and pay equal level of attention to each follower, ability to ensure equal participation and improve work engagement


An advantage of the MLQ as a tool of measure comes to play when followers are allowed to use this to describe their leader’s leadership style. It compares perceptions from both sides of the table and creates a balance between the leader’s perception of his leadership style and the followers’ perception of the leader’s leadership style. Allowing this to be done may give a balanced, more accurate view of the kind of leadership that is truly at play in any organization.

It may also be useful in the hiring process if the organization is intent on streamlining to hire people with inclination towards a particular style. This is especially useful in the development of a uniform people culture that can align with the overall organizational culture

However, critics argue that the MLQ is not a valid and accurate measure of what leadership truly is in reality as it;

  • Does not take the external cultural environment into account and how this can affect and influence the kind of leadership style the leader will adopt
  • Lacks high degree of validity and reliability as a true measure of leadership effectiveness
  • Does not factor in job experience which is a very significant influence on leadership style
  • Ignores level of interaction and engagement required by each job duty, project or task
  • Measures factors that are closely related instead of distinct factors and as such is very narrow in focus

Contact Ascenditur today to get more information about leadership style assessment opportunities!





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