[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:]
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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