Leading by the collars’ color: A systematic review on leadership behaviors across occupations

Wouter van Zwol*, Jeroen de Jong, Ellen Rusman, B.I.J.M. van der Heijden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference Abstract/Poster in journal Academicpeer-review


Context is considered to have a crucial impact on the process of leadership and its effects. Despite the urgent calls to include and expand the investigation of the role of context in leadership research, however, scholarly work in this field that includes contextual variables remains cluttered (Johns, 2018). In particular, there is limited insight into how occupational contexts impact leadership behaviors (Oc, 2018), leaving questions such as “do leaders of construction workers engage in similar behaviors compared to, for example, nurses and accountants?” unanswered. In this study, we systematically review the literature on leadership behavior to create insights into the literature on leadership behaviors among three occupational types: blue-, white-, and pink-collar occupations. Drawing on 548 articles, we first conclude that occupational context is only mentioned in 31% (n=174) articles on leader behavior and follower outcomes. An analysis of these 174 sources reveals that occupation is rarely included in research models (e.g. as a moderator), as research usually focuses on one occupational group. Moreover, there is some overlap in the broad pallet types of leadership behaviors studied, but there are also distinct differences in the types of leader behaviors studied within the different occupational groups.


  • leadership
  • context
  • occupation
  • skills


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