The aim of this study was to investigate which leader behaviors mediate the relationship
between leader expectations and employee engagement in learning activities. Based on
Rosenthal’s Pygmalion model, five potential mediators of the Pygmalion effect were distinguished:
leader–member exchange relationship, goal setting (i.e., goal specificity, goal difficulty),
providing learning opportunities, and feedback. Data from 904 manager–subordinate
dyads in six organizations showed that leader expectations were related to employee engagement
in learning activities. Goal specificity, goal difficulty, and providing learning opportunities proved
to be mediators. These findings suggest that goal setting lies at the heart of the Pygmalion effect.
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