Taking an Interest in Taking the Lead: The Influence of Vocational Interests, Leadership Experience and Success on the Motivation to Lead

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Abstract

Motivation plays a crucial role in leadership, particularly when facing difficult situations and decisions. This long-term study investigates whether vocational interests predict an individual's motivation to lead (MtL). Moreover, it examines whether the link between vocational interests and MtL is mediated by the extent and success of prior leadership experiences. To this end, 471 participants (291 male, 180 female, Mage = 22.65, SDage = 7.95) provided information on their vocational interests. Two years later, participants rated their MtL and provided information on both the extent of their prior leadership experiences and the respective success gained from these. Results show that enterprising and conventional interests positively affect MtL two years later. Additionally, enterprising and social interests also indirectly influence a person's motivation to lead through the extent and success of prior leadership experiences: people with higher enterprising and social interests report more prior experience in leading. This experience is linked to more self-perceived leadership success, which consequently enhances these persons' motivation to take on leading roles. These findings enrich theory on the antecedents and malleability of MtL. From a practitioner's view, the findings equip recruiters with information on how to search for motivated leaders and how to maintain their motivation.

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