High Quality Through Transformational Leadership

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Lotte Bøgh Andersen of Aarhus University, Bente Bjørnholt of VIVE–The Danish National Welfare Research and Analysis Center, Louise Ladegaard Bro of Aarhus University, and Christina Holm-Petersen of VIVE–The Danish National Welfare Research and Analysis Center. They recently published a paper in Public Personnel Management entitled, “Achieving High Quality Through Transformational Leadership: A Qualitative Multilevel Analysis of Transformational Leadership and Perceived Professional Quality,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Andersen reflects on the motivation for pursuing this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

The purpose of many public organizations is to deliver services to citizens and users. As suppliers of (e.g.) daycare, education and elderly care, public organizations play an important role for the welfare and development of individual users – and for the society at large. It is therefore not unreasonable to request high-quality services, or to expect that “good leadership” matters in this regard. But what is professional quality? Does all professionals in an organization have to have the same understanding of “quality” in order for the quality-level to be high? And what can leaders actually do to increase a shared understanding – and high levels – of quality? These are some of the questions that we strive to answer in our research.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

While the understanding and levels of professional quality were central to our paper, we were also interested in the number of employees which a given leader oversees (also known as span of control). This is because many (Danish) leaders in later years have experienced merges, resulting in fewer leaders and broader spans of control. The article thus contributes with knowledge about whether span of control is important for the effects of leadership.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

We wanted to understand the quality concept as seen by the leaders and employees; to explore the daily lives and interaction of leaders and employees; and to examine the potential importance of the number of employees per leader. We therefore decided to conduct interviews and observations in a number of public service institutions with varying sizes of spans of control. We find that shared understandings of quality matters for the levels of quality; but also that this understanding does not necessarily have to be in terms of specific output- or outcome measures. In most of the organizations with high levels of quality, there is a shared focus on the work-processes – such as reflected practice and professional discussions. Furthermore, we see a more shared understandings of professional quality and higher quality when leaders use transformational leadership. This type of leadership is, however, most prevalent in organizations with medium-sized spans of control.

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Are Good Citizens Also Good Transformational Leaders?

9320914837_eab120a4f3_z[We’re pleased to welcome Sophia V. Marinova of University of Alabama in Huntsville. Sophia published an article with co-authors Linn Van Dyne and Henry Moon in the February 2015 issue of Group & Organization Management entitled “Are Good Citizens Good Transformational Leaders as Well? An Employee-Centric Perspective on Transformational Leadership.”]

Leadership is viewed as the sine qua non of organizational behavior because leaders are extolled or blamed for organizational successes and failures. Conforming to a traditional top-down view of organizations, when we discuss leadership both in academic as well as in practitioner terms, we tend to think of leaders as those individuals who are already in formal managerial positions in organizations.  However, in the context of organizational empowerment, employees from all levels of the organization can be viewed as critical to effective leading in the workplace. In other words, employees have opportunities to serve as leaders from the bottom up in increasingly flatter organizational designs.

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Thus, the inspiration behind our research is to investigate how types of prominent employee organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which reflect employee engagement, lead to perceptions of employee leadership capabilities. We draw on self-sacrifice and evolutionary notions of costly cooperative behaviors to offer OCB as an avenue for being recognized by others in work groups as leader-like. We examine four types of OCB- taking charge, helping, compliance and sportsmanship. In terms of leadership, we focus on transformational leadership because of its importance to contemporary organizations as reflected in four different dimensions- role modeling, intellectual stimulation, interpersonal consideration, and fostering goal acceptance.

We conduct our study with a diverse sample of professional employees employed in a variety of organizations in different industries. Relying on data obtained from over 1000 coworkers, supervisors, and focal employees, we analyze the relationship between the extent to which a focal employee engages in various citizenship behaviors as rated by their coworkers and perceptions of the focal employee’s transformational leadership as rated by the employee’s supervisor (while controlling for potential confounding variables for stronger inference).

We find support for the notion that good citizens emerge as good leaders as well. Specifically, different citizenship behaviors lead to perceptions of transformational leadership and sometimes have opposite relationships to different types of transformational leadership. For example, although seemingly mundane, an employee who helps others emerges as a positive role model for other employees and as someone who shows interpersonal consideration, both important aspects of transformational leadership. We thus demonstrate that engaged employees who display OCB enhance transformational leadership in organizations from the bottom up.

Overall, our theory and findings call attention to employees as active participants in the leadership process, a non-traditional view that calls for far more attention to leadership in organizations from the bottom up rather than solely from the top down. From a practical perspective, leaders in organizations may be well-advised to focus on how to encourage their employees to engage in OCB, not only for the benefit of a more engaged workforce, but also to cultivate the leadership capabilities of their workforce.

The abstract for the article:

Research has demonstrated robust positive relationships between transformational leadership and employee attitudes and behaviors. To date, the preponderance of the literature has been leader-centric and focused on individuals who are already in leader roles. In this article, we adopt an employee-centric perspective and focus on behaviors of professionals who are not in formal leader roles. Specifically, we apply evolutionary theory as a theoretical lens for proposing that those who perform organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) will be seen as transformational leaders. We hypothesize linkages between four types of OCBs and four dimensions of transformational leadership. Multi-source field sample results based on more than 1,000 participants provide general support for the predictions. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

You can read the article, “Are Good Citizens Good Transformational Leaders as Well? An Employee-Centric Perspective on Transformational Leadership,” from Group & Organization Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Group & Organization ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts, and click here to follow the journal on Twitter!

*Discussion image attributed to Cydcor (CC)

Marie Carasco-Saul on Leadership and Employee Engagement

HRDR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint[We’re pleased to welcome Marie Carasco-Saul of The Pennsylvania State University. Marie collaborated with Woocheol Kim and Taesung Kim, both also of The Pennsylvania State University, on their article “Leadership and Employee Engagement: Proposing Research Agendas Through a Review of Literature” from the March 2015 issue of Human Resource Development Review.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

There has not been much research examining the relationship between employee engagement and leadership. The term employee engagement has received increasing attention since Kahn (1990) introduced the concept as personal engagement in association with positive psychology and positive influences on organizational effectiveness. We were inspired to explore the concept intersections, learn and offer an overarching multi-dimensional picture surrounding the relationship between leadership and engagement as a foundation for organizational leaders and scholars to build the body of knowledge.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

It was surprising that the first empirical study that investigated the relationship between leadership and employee engagement was conducted in 2009, with most studies focusing on transformational leadership and engagement. Given the recent nature of these investigations, other leadership styles have not received significant exploration with engagement.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Since employee engagement and leadership are highly relevant concepts to organizations, we believe that we provided a big picture of the relationship between the broad concepts and an impetus for subsequent efforts to advance knowledge by offering a research-based conceptual framework, and recommendations that could be applicable to the workplace. Additionally, this work will encourage deeper examination of leadership and engagement constructs beyond transformational leadership.

You can read “Leadership and Employee Engagement: Proposing Research Agendas Through a Review of Literature” from Human Resource Development Review by clicking here. You can have notifications of all the latest research from Human Resource Development Review sent directly to your inbox. Just click here to sign up for -alerts!

9c96051c90b9a493a5_l_538f4Woocheol Kim holds a PhD in the workforce education and development program with an emphasis on human resource development (HRD) and organization development (OD) at the Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on positive change, work/employee engagement, workplace learning and performance improvement, employee leadership, and career development within organizations.

6a85e52f39421db748_l_8a024Taesung Kim holds a PhD in the workforce education and development program with an emphasis on HRD and OD at the Pennsylvania State University. He earned both his BA in education and MEd in HRD from Yonsei University in Korea (South) and worked for KPMG Korea as a senior manager in the Learning and Development Center. His research interests include workplace learning and performance, leadership, employee/work engagement, professional ethics, and organizational change management.

blogpicMarie Carasco-Saul is a PhD Candidate in the workforce education and development program with an emphasis in HRD and OD at the Pennsylvania State University. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a graduate degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, and has worked in Talent Management in the Oil and Gas industry. She also holds the Global Certification in Human Resources (GPHR®) from the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). Her research focuses on high-potential leader development.

Building a More Sustainable Business School

Dr. Sanjay Sharma, of the University of Vermont, discusses the ways a Dean can provide support for sustainability research and initiatives in the article, “Pathways of Influence for Sustainability in Business Schools: A Dean’s Eye View,” recently published in Organization & Environment. Read the abstract below:

While faculty members are champions and implementers of change in business schools, deans play a critical role in generating support and resources for fostering sustainable curriculums. The pathways of change can be outside-in by connecting the agendas and visions of external stakeholders to support internal change or inside-out by selling the faculty’s vision to external stakeholders to generate resources. This essay draws loae coveressons from the outside-in and inside-in pathways for developing sustainable curriculums and programs in two very different business schools in Canada and the United States.

Read the full article here and don’t forget to sign up for e-alerts to receive the latest of Organization and Environment in your inbox!

Do Female Leaders Need To Be Masculine, Feminine, or Both?

For years, women in leadership have faced the so-called “double bind”: lead in a friendly and collaborative (i.e. feminine) way, and you are pegged as a weak leader; be assertive and dominant (i.e. masculine), and you are penalized for being unfeminine. A new article in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies looks at these stereotypes in the context of transformational leadership, offering some gender-bending implications for both men and women:

Organizations aiming to enhance female leaders’ career progression may be well advised to encourage female leaders to develop and display various transformational leadership behaviors. What is interesting from our study is that female leaders, and indeed the organizations they work for, should think about the extent to which they possess gender-typical attributes. Our study suggests that although it would be advantageous for them to have masculine and/ or feminine attributes, what does not work is if they lack both. This lack of gender-typical attributes seems to be particularly negative when using charisma/inspiration. When female leaders lack both feminine and masculine attributes, with regard to implied role deficits they may be seen to lack both interpersonal warmth (Heilman & Okimoto, 2007) and professional competence (Eagly & Carli, 2007). For male leaders, our findings suggest that possessing feminine and masculine attributes (i.e., being androgynous) is advantageous, especially when using contingent reward, as this might result in increased workgroup performance.

JLOS_72ppiRGB_150pixWFrom a more practical perspective, organizational career management programs may offer trainings for both female and male leaders in, for example, self-assertiveness along with communication skills to ensure these leaders develop and possess the gender-typical attributes that can positively influence effectiveness. Conventionally, it is recommended that female leaders should be trained in self-assertiveness and male leaders should be trained in communication skills, thereby compensating for stereotypically assumed deficits (i.e., lack of self-assertiveness in female leaders; lack of communication skills in male leaders: Berryman-Fink & Fink, 1985; Sargent, 1981). Our suggestion is to train female and male leaders in both self-assertiveness as well as communication skills. In this way female leaders could be equipped with the feminine and/or masculine attributes that they need to avoid being undifferentiated, whereas male leaders could be provided with the feminine and masculine attributes that they need to demonstrate androgyny.

Read the paper, “Gender Role Self-Concept, Categorical Gender, and Transactional-Transformational Leadership: Implications for Perceived Workgroup Performance,” by Hans-Joachim Wolfram of Kingston University and Lynda Gratton of London Business School, in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Challenges in Leadership: Part 2 of 3

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” —John C. Maxwell (author, speaker, and pastor)

In 1978, James MacGregor Burns defined transformational leaders as those “who engaged with their followers in such a way that each was raised to a higher level of morality and motivation.” How are employee engagement and leadership related? Does innovation and creativity increase when employees feel they can personally identify with their leader? How can leaders meet the challenge of enhancing their employees’ well-being as well as their performance on the job?

GOM_72ppiRGB_150pixwIn their article “Examining the Role of Personal Identification With the Leader in Leadership Effectiveness: A Partial Nomological Network” (Group & Organization Management, February 2013, Weichun Zhu, Gang Wang, Xiaoming Zheng, Taoxiong Liu, and Qing Miao found that:

…transformational leadership was positively related to personal identification with the leader, which was significantly associated with followers’ innovativeness, affective organizational commitment, and turnover intention. [Read more]

HRDR_72ppiRGB_150pixWIn “Employee Engagement and Leadership: Exploring the Convergence of Two Frameworks and Implications for Leadership Development in HRD” (Human Resource Development Review, June 2012), Brad Shuck and Ann Mogan Herd write:

…leadership starts with the self. Leaders who are looking to build engaging climates should be encouraged to develop in the four domains of emotional intelligence, especially the domain of self-awareness. As the foundational domain for which the other three are developed, self-awareness is the conceptual cornerstone of emotional intelligence and in many ways of leadership that promotes the development of engagement. [Read more]

JLOS_72ppiRGB_150pixWAnd Fred Luthans, Carolyn M. Youssef, David S. Sweetman, and Peter D. Harms, in their paper “Meeting the Leadership Challenge of Employee Well-Being Through Relationship PsyCap and Health PsyCap” (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies February 2013), write:

Increasing recognition is being given to the role that employee overall well-being plays in desired outcomes of today’s organizations. To help organizational leaders searching for understanding and answers, we propose that the positive core construct of psychological capital (or simply PsyCap), consisting of the positive psychological resources of hope, efficacy, resiliency, and optimism can be extended into the well-being domain. [Read more]

Challenges in Leadership: Part 1 of 3


Is a narcissistic boss good or bad for the company? (Narcissus, via Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This week, we are pleased to present a three-part series highlighting current research on key challenges facing leaders in the workplace.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn (American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker)

Leaders are only human–and some of the most successful bosses out there can be arrogant, egotistical, and manipulative. Just how does this self-serving behavior positively or negatively affect employees, managers, and organizations?

asqIn their award-winning article “Executive Personality, Capability Cues, and Risk Taking: How Narcissistic CEOs React to Their Successes and Stumbles”  (Administrative Science Quarterly, June 2011), Arijit Chatterjee and Donald C. Hambrick find that narcissistic bosses may be more effective risk-takers:

At the core of an executive’s subjective assessment of risk is his or her sense of confidence. Compared with gamblers, who cannot influence whether their bets will work out, business executives may believe that their personal talents, as well as the capabilities of their organizations, can greatly affect whether their risky initiatives will bear fruit. [Read more]

Update: Wolf-Christian Gerstner, Andreas König, Albrecht Enders, and Donald C. Hambrick have a brand-new article in ASQ, “CEO Narcissism, Audience Engagement, and Organizational Adoption of Technological Discontinuities,” which highlights “the role of narcissism in the context of radical organizational change, the influence of audience engagement on executive behavior, and the effect of executive personality on managerial attention.” Click here to read the article in ASQ’s OnlineFirst section.

humOn the other hand, Wayne A. Hochwarter and Katina W. Thompson in their article  “Mirror, mirror on my boss’s wall: Engaged enactment’s moderating role on the relationship between perceived narcissistic supervision and work outcomes” (Human Relations, March 2012) document the threats that selfish bosses pose to employee well-being:

Defined as an ego-defensive response to interruptions in goal attainment (Rosenzweig, 1944), frustration has been identified as an outcome of threatening social cues including perceived politics (Rosen et al., 2009), injustice (Lillis et al., 2007), and coworker counterproductive work behaviors (Fox and Spector, 1999). Supervisor ego-nurturing behavior, when persistent and focused, provokes frustration because it introduces bias that affects subsequent interactions and reward decisions (Emmons, 1984). [Read more]

jomAnd an article published this month in the Journal of Management’s OnlineFirst section by Frank D. Belschak, Deanne N. Den Hartog, and Karianne Kalshoven, “Leading Machiavellians: How to Translate Machiavellians’ Selfishness Into Pro-Organizational Behavior,” finds manipulative leaders may offer desirable results for organizations:

Machiavellians are said to be manipulative people who reduce the social capital of the organization. Yet some authors note that Machiavellians are also highly adaptive individuals who are able to contribute, cooperate, and use pro-social strategies when it is advantageous to them. Here we study whether transformational leader behavior can stimulate Machiavellian followers to engage in organizationally desirable behaviors such as challenging organizational citizenship behavior. [Read more]

Do you know a leader who is particularly self-interested or overly demanding? Does this serve to increase their leadership effectiveness, or does it do more harm than good?