Predicting leaders’ behaviours – the determinant of perceived behavioural control

Theory of Plannned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991)


The third determinant of intention is ‘the degree of perceived behavioural control and refers to the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behaviour and is assumed to reflect past experiences’ as well as anticipated challenges (Ajzen, 1991, p. 189). However, perceived behavioural control not only influences behaviour indirectly, through intention, but also has been shown to have a direct effect on behaviour (Ajzen & Madden, 1986), as illustrated by the bold black line. Perceived behavioural control is most compatible with Bandura’s (1977) concept of perceived self-efficacy, which concerns the judgements that individuals make in how well they think they can execute courses of action required to deal with future situations (Bandura, 2006).

In the field…

In a leadership context, perceived behavioural control can be described as the leader’s beliefs about whether they can perform the desired action, and how these beliefs influence their behaviour to perform that action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). This relates to a leader’s self-efficacy. The kinds of considerations that can interfere with a leader’s control can concern their belief in their ability, such as an individual factor, or their beliefs about an opportunity, or their beliefs about an organisational factor (Ajzen & Madden, 1986). Ajzen’s understanding of perceived behavioural control can be applied to the existing research findings on principals’ accountability. For instance, in high-stakes accountability regimes, Shipps (2012) found that ECPs believed that their own lack of ability (individual factor) hindered their enactments of mandated accountabilities. These same principals perceived that factors in the community (organisational factors) were an important influence for not attending to their accountability requirements (Shipps, 2012). Ajzen’s understandings of perceived behavioural control can be directly applied to Shipps’s (2012) study, where the principals’ beliefs about their organisational factors influenced their behaviours by not attending to their accountability requirements.

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