When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Mieke Koeslag-Kreunen of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, Piet Van den Bossche of the University of Antwerp, Michael Hoven of Maastricht University, Marcel Van der Klink of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, and Wim Gijselaers of Maastricht University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss some of the findings of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are fascinated why some leaders succeed and others don’t in getting the most out of their teams. Knowing that team processes determine team effectiveness we wanted to know how leadership makes a difference in teams. Keeping in mind that one of the fundamental team processes is sharing knowledge and discussing what is shared to build advanced or new knowledge that enable developing the necessary solutions as a team. We were intrigued by the question how team leaders can facilitate this process of team learning without over-structuring it and leaving no space for team members to exhibit the necessary behaviors themselves. Many different leadership behaviors can be effective, but team leaders simply cannot display all necessary behaviors by themselves. Moreover, what can you do as a team leader when your team faces a task that is unstructured or for which you also do not have the answers? What is the best advice for these team leaders? In answering this question, we wanted to identify when leadership propels teams in building new or advanced knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative and can it impact the field?

After synthesizing the 2000+ scientific hits on the topic, we showed that encouraging, structuring and sharing team leadership behaviors all support team learning. Interestingly, we also found new evidence that the type of team task determines which leadership behaviors can best be displayed to support teams in building new or advanced knowledge. As a consequence, the advice for team leaders is to vary their behavior depending on the team task and to ascertain the specific team situation in their choice. If pioneering ideas and new products of teams are aimed for, team leaders should mainly invest in building trust, creativity and enthusiasm, and not inhibit teams from learning by putting too much emphasis on the task. If advancing existing knowledge and adaptation of the products is enough to reach team success, team leaders who focus on the task, methods and outcomes are beneficial because such behaviors reinforces using known protocols.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

It would be interesting to dig into the reciprocal effect of the team process and leadership behavior, as well as how leadership behavior may shift in style and source over time. We mainly found cross-sectional studies that covered just one or two types of team leadership behavior and examines its influence on team learning behavior. Experimental and longitudinal studies on this topic may bring new perspectives on how team leaders can vary their behavior, what kind of effect that has on team learning, and what team leaders can do to use that information in future team interactions, subsequently.

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Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Robert Sroufe of Duquesne University Pittsburgh and Dr. Venugopal Gopalakrishna-Remani of The University of Texas at Tyler. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships: An Empirical Examination of U.S. Firms,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sroufe discusses the motivations for this research:]

O&E_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe motivation for this study on Management, Social Sustainability and Reputation can be found in our profound interest in how innovative organizations integrate sustainability. We developed a unique sample of top ranked Fortune 500 multinational companies to better understand how sustainability practices lead to improved performance. In doing so, we propose new constructs and item development while testing relationships to tradition measures of financial performance. This study looks at exemplary MNCs as identified by Newsweek, The Corporate Knights, and Best Corporate Citizens rankings. Firm level performance is assessed during the time of country level cuts to GHG emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol, and during a period of time in which there was a difficult recession in the U.S. The uniqueness of our study and the results operationalize multiple dimensions of sustainability and ask the question has social performance lived up to the promises made on its behalf?

A challenging aspect of this study is the development of new sustainability constructs involving management, social performance and reputation. We were able to utilize multiple measures from both Newsweek and Bloomberg to develop and assess new constructs. We found there are significant benefits to sustainability management practices, yet there is more to explore and learn about the practices and relationships involving social sustainability performance. We hope this study provides a foundation for future research into social sustainability and evolving management practices.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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CEO Characteristics That Influence A Firm’s Investing Strategy

[We’re pleased to welcome author Bruce C. Rudy of The University of Texas at San Antonio. He recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Chief Political Officer: CEO Characteristics and Firm Investment in Corporate Political Activity,” co-authored by Andrew F. Johnson. From Rudy:]

In setting outB&S_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg to study what drives organizations to engage in corporate political activity (CPA), my coauthor (Andrew F. Johnson, Ph.D.) and I were struck by how little was known about the role that the firm’s leader played in this regard.  This was especially surprising considering that we have a well-researched theory on the influence of the firm’s leader on its strategic choices (i.e., Upper Echelons Theory).  When we combined the concepts underpinning CPA and Upper Echelons Theories, a number of novel ideas emerged and we knew we had the opportunity to make important contributions to both theories.  The data we collected supported many of these ideas.  We are thrilled that Business & Society has provided us the opportunity to share our research with you.

The full abstract to their article is below:

Research on corporate political activity has considered a number of antecedents to a firm’s engagement in politics. The majority of this research has focused on either industry or firm-level motivations that lead to corporate political activity, leaving the role of the firm’s leader noticeably absent in such scholarship. This article combines ideas from Upper Echelons Theory with research in corporate political activity to bridge this important gap. More specifically, this research utilizes CEO demographic characteristics to determine (a) whether a firm will invest in political activity and (b) how these characteristics influence the particular approach to political activity the firm undertakes. Considering 27 years of data from large U.S. firms, we find that a CEO’s age, tenure, functional, and educational backgrounds influence whether and how the firm invests in political activity.

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Gerstner, König, Enders, and Hambrick (2013). CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities

[We’re pleased to welcome Johnathan Cromwell and Michael Lee, both of Harvard Business School. Jonathan and Michael recently had the opportunity to interview the authors of “CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities” from Administrative Science Quarterly.]

Republished with permission. The original post was published on the ASQ Blog.

Authors:
Wolf-Christian Gerstner – University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Andreas König – University of Passau
Albrecht Enders – IMD International
Donald C. Hambrick – The Pennsylvania State University

Interviewers:
Johnathan Cromwell – Harvard Business School
Michael Lee – Harvard Business School

Question 1. One of the aspects about this paper that we found so fascinating was that it integrated two sets of literatures in a way ASQ_v60n2_Jun2014_cover.inddthat hadn’t been done before. We can imagine that while this leads to highly novel and interesting research, it can also add additional challenges during the review process. Were there any specific challenges that you had to overcome during the review process in communicating your research to these different audiences?

This is, in fact, a very good question, and something that one should always be aware of when integrating two streams of research. In a way, doing so is in and of itself a discontinuous change because it means applying a new theoretical lens to an already studied phenomenon, with potentially challenging epistemological and theoretical contradictions. However, in our case, we were lucky because, although the upper echelons literature and the literature on discontinuous change have not yet been integrated to a great extent by previous studies, the theoretical assumptions underlying these two fields and the foci of their analyses are highly compatible and complementary. In particular, the discontinuous change literature has always had a top executive view on strategic decision making, which stems from the fact that decisions in turbulent times are typically top management decisions. As such, it was somewhat intuitive to envision that CEO narcissism has a stake in decisions about technology adoption in large companies.

Question 2. We were struck by the amount of work that was put into constructing the main independent variable on CEO narcissism. If students were interested in testing a different cognitive attribute or personality characteristic to explain organizational decisions, how would you recommend trying to measure them? What might be a common mistake that we should try to avoid?

Of course, gathering the data on CEO narcissism involved a lot of meticulous work, in particular because we had to collect data from years back, even before 1980. To get access to these sources, which can’t just be downloaded from an online database, we ended up having to visit places like the Chicago Public Library and order microfiche copies. However, we benefited greatly from the fact that the measure itself had already been developed by Chatterjee and Hambrick (2007).

As for measuring other CEO attributes, we see numerous new opportunities for further research. In particular, new ways of using language, voice, and body language are emerging, which might just allow us to gauge numerous facets of personality, both stable traits and more transient states. For instance, at the Academy of Management last year in Philadelphia, we organized a symposium on the use of content analysis to further advance this area of upper echelons research. The diverse approaches presented there included aspects such as perceptions of time and cognitive structures as reflected in conceptual metaphors. Moving forward, we believe it is pivotal to focus on aspects of executive personality that are influential, but whose influence, at the same time, is not unilateral but rather dependent on context. This is surely one of the features that make narcissism so interesting to study (apart from the fact that almost everyone who has worked in an organization has experienced working with a narcissist, with all its upsides and downsides).

Question 3. We usually think of the discussion section as a place to interpret results, discuss strengths and weaknesses of analysis, or discuss broader implications of the research. We found the discussion section in this paper to be interesting, because it also introduced new quantitative analyses to help support the main findings of the paper. Why were these included in the discussion instead of as a robustness check in the results section?

That is an interesting question, particularly because there seem to be different perspectives on such post-hoc analyses. Some colleagues do not think they should be part of a paper; conversely, others, including ourselves, believe that these elaborations illuminate interesting aspects and add to the liveliness and granularity of the research presented. Note also that, in our case, the post-hoc discussion is not a robustness check but rather an exploration of the reasons why we did not find significant results for our last hypothesis.

Question 4. Given your interesting findings, what do you feel are the most important implications for managerial practice from this work?

It’s indeed interesting to see how executives respond when we present our findings and related findings made by colleagues. What resonates most profoundly with decision makers is the idea that narcissistic leaders have both a dark side and a bright side, and that the bright side might in fact be most salient in times of radical change when tough decisions need to be made. Another aspect they can relate to is our recommendation to be more aware of how external stimuli, including from the media, affect how decision makers and their organizations act. These insights are also – and perhaps most importantly – crucial for board members of companies that “missed the boat” on disruptive innovations (that the board believes will pan out) and need to catch up. In this case, a narcissistic CEO might, ceteris paribus, be an advantage as she or he will drive change on a larger scale than less a narcissistic CEO.

Question 5. Is there anything about this paper that you think is particularly interesting that we didn’t ask about? Please tell us about it.

Thank you for asking! One thing that we think is particularly important is the role of audience engagement in spurring company behavior, especially responses to innovation. While there is increasing debate about how companies’ communication and actions shape the responses of stakeholders such as analysts and journalists, we still know too little about how pressures from these stakeholders affect company behavior. This is especially the case in the context of innovation, which happens in a social environment that surrounds companies and their executives and might influence technological trajectories more than we have previously thought.

Finding the Balance Between Greed and Altruism

yin-yang-1024035-mAre greedy managers or altruistic managers more successful? The answer may not be so black and white. According to Katalin Takacs Haynes, Matthew Josefy, and Michael A. Hitt, authors of “Tipping Point: Managers’ Self-Interest, Greed, and Altruism” from Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, harmony between the two characteristics is actually the most beneficial to firm performance.

The abstract:

We explore the potential effects of managers’ greed and altruism on their behaviors and firm outcomes. Greed represents extreme self-interest whereas altruism reflects concern for others. We argue that managerial greed leads to a focus on short-term decisions JLOS_72ppiRGB_powerpointand short-term firm performance. Alternatively, managerial altruism normally produces a focus on longer term decisions and long-term firm performance. Managerial greed is also more likely to produce wrongdoing, whereas managerial altruism produces greater corporate citizenship behaviors. Managerial greed is likely to lead to turnover for non-performance–related reasons whereas managerial altruism is more likely to produce managerial turnover for performance reasons. Overall, we conclude that measured self-interest keeps managers focused on the firm’s goals and measured altruism helps the firm to build and maintain strong human and social capital. The extremes of either greed or altruism likely will harm firm performance. Thus, balance between managerial self-interest and managerial altruism leads to the greatest success.

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Albert Bandura Responds to Commentaries: “On the Functional Properties of Perceived Self-Efficacy Revisited”

JOM 41(3)_Covers.inddIn his paper entitled “On the Functional Properties of Perceived Self-Efficacy Revisited,” Albert Bandura discussed the functional properties of perceived self-efficacy. He concluded with an invitation to readers to submit commentaries on his article. Since the paper made its appearance in the January 2012 issue of Journal of Management, this call was answered by Jeffrey B. Vancouver; Joshua J. Jackson, Patrick L. Hill, and Brent W. Roberts; Gillian B. Yeo and Andrew Neal; and Ronald Bledow. Dr. Bandura recently published a response to these commentaries in the OnlineFirst section of Journal of Management entitled “On Deconstructing Commentaries Regarding Alternative Theories of Self-Regulation.”

The abstract:

The present commentary addresses issues raised in four replies to my editorial on the functional properties of perceived self-efficacy (Bandura, 2012). In my comments on the paper by Jackson, Hill, and Roberts (2012), I discuss the arbitrary nature of “disposition” and question whether an essentially atheoretical computer-structured inventory based on a mixture of superficially assessed habitual behaviors constitutes a theory of personality. In another set of comments, which speak to the paper by Vancouver (2012), I identify two major flaws in Powers’ (1991) perceptual control theory and document experimental compromises in Vancouver’s efforts to demonstrate that goals and self-efficacy operate counteractively. My comments on the Yeo and Neal (2013) paper center on their unsuccessful efforts to explain and verify the proposition that general and specific self-efficacy work at cross-purposes. In response to Bledow’s (2013) entry, I address the conceptual ambiguity of his theory of unconscious self-motivation, misconstruals of the role of self-efficacy in the process of change, and marginalization of the functional role of consciousness in human behavior.

You can read “On Deconstructing Commentaries Regarding Alternative Theories of Self-Regulation” from Journal of Management free for the next 30 days by clicking here. Interested in reading the original and commentaries as well? Click here to view the collection. Want to know about all the latest research and commentaries like this from Journal of Management? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!