The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development (2013) reviews the research literature on leadership, change, and OD.
About the Author: there are different authors for each chapter, supposedly based on the expertise of the chapter’s main topic.
The leadership research followed five stages of “focus”:
- Trait theories: focusing on the “traits” of (the best) leaders as opposed to followers
Early leadership research focusing on those who were observed as emerging as leaders in unstructured/leaderless groups found that traits that typically emerged included: dominance, extraversion, sociability, ambition or achievement, and self-confidence (Mann, 1959; Stodgill, 1948). Subsequent research obtained similar findings (e.g. Gough, 1990; Kenny & Zaccaro, 1983; Lord et al., 1986; Rueb & Foti, 1990).
In their meta-analysis of trait studies, Lord et al. (1986) identified three traits which were significantly associated with followers’ perceptions of leadership: “intelligence,” “dominance,” and “masculinity,”
Later on it the research literature also realize that the same traits that make a leader “good” and effective can also be used for destructive purposes:
The same personality traits which make some leaders attractive, such as charisma, inspiration, vision, courage, and resilience, can become a destructive force (…) if they are exhibited in their extreme forms, and if there is a lack of concern for, or a lack of insight (Furnham, 2010; Hogan et al., 1994; Lipman-Blumen, 2004)
- Behavioral approach
Of the many models developed, most can be categorized within four styles:
- concern for task— AKA “production-orientated”
- concern for people— AKA “employee-centered”
- directive leadership— AKA “authoritarian” or “autocratic”
- participative—AKA “democratic.
In terms of effectiveness, there was no clear “winner” when exploring a range of variables including subordinate satisfaction and effectiveness measures such as productivity (House, 1971; Larson et al., 1974; Yukl, 2010).
- Situational and contingency approach
It includes a set of different variables ranging from subordinates’ competence, time constraints, informational availability to make decisions, etc.
The “leader-member exchange theory” (LMX) developed, which focuses on the relationship and social exchange between leaders and followers.
- “Charismatic–inspirational models”— AKA “heroic” leadership
The models emphasized different aspects of “neo-charismatic” leadership (House & Aditya, 1997), including “charisma” (Conger, 1988, 1999; Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House, 1977), “vision” (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Sashkin, 1988; Tichy & Devanna, 1986), “transformation” and “transaction” (Bass, 1985, 1998; Kouzes & Posner, 1997).
Bass’s model of transformational leadership (Bass, 1985, 1998) was the most widely adopted.
“Transformational” leaders motivate colleagues and followers to view their work from new perspectives, link their goals to the team’s and organization’s mission or vision, and look beyond their own interests towards those that will benefit the group (Bass, 1985).
It seems to work:
There is evidence from studies using the MLQ that transformational leadership is significantly associated with subordinate satisfaction, motivation, commitment, and performance (e.g. Bass, 1998; Lowe et al., 1996; Skakon et al., 2010; Tims et al., 2011; Yukl, 1999).
However, Judge and Piccolo found the same positive results analyzing “transactional leadership”.
In my opinion, this is simply a case of situation. Some environments, some tasks, and some people, respond better to one or another.
An important criticism of these models is that they gloss over the reciprocal influence between follower and leader (shared leadership).
- Post-heroic models of leadership
In academic terms, there is a rejection of the “romance of leadership” (Bligh et al., 2011; Meindl et al., 1985), which includes the attribution of organization success or failure to the presence of a “savior” figure.
New notions of leadership include “ethical leadership”, “servant leadership”, “authentic leadership”, “distributed leadership” and models that view leadership as a dynamic and fluid social process.
For ethical leadership:
Brown et al. (2005) define the concept of ethical leadership as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement, and decision-making” (p. 120).
Kalshoven and Den Hartog analysis of 244 direct reports a positive relationship between ethical leader behavior and followers’ perfection of leader’s effectiveness.
Dark Side of Charismatic Leadership
Discussing the potential dark side of “charismatic leadership”:
House & Howell (1992) distinguish between two kinds of charismatic leadership: personalized (self-aggrandizing, exploitative, authoritarian) and socialized (altruistic, collectively oriented, egalitarian) (House & Aditya, 1997).
Yukl (1999) warns that some charismatic leaders use manipulative behaviors such as “exaggerating positive achievements and taking unwarranted credit for achievements,” “covering up mistakes and failures,” and “blaming others for mistakes” (p. 296).
And that manipulative behavior can be put to use to, well… Line their own pockets:
In a cross-sectional study, Tosi et al. (2004) found no evidence of a relationship between the degree of perceived charisma of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and their companies’ performances, but interestingly, did find a significant positive relationship between their “charisma” rating and their remuneration package. They add a warning that boards of organizations “should be a bit more circumspect in advocating charisma as a criterion for the selection of CEOs” (p. 414).
I bet that if you gave the Mach-IV scale to these charismatic leaders, they’d all score as very high Machs.
Psychonadimics of Organizational Leadership
At its heart, leadership is about human behavior—understanding it and enhancing it.
A purely rational or structural model of leadership is not sufficient to understand leadership -or to be a good leader-.
Leaders are socially intelligent and skilled:
It is about the way people and organizations behave, about creating and strengthening relationships, handling conflict, building commitment, establishing a group identity, and adapting behavior to increase effectiveness (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Burns, 1978; Kets de Vries, 2001c; Pfeffer, 1998; Stogdill & Bass, 1990).
they are cognizant of the sensitive nature of the leader–follower relationship; they pay careful attention to group processes. Such leaders know how to calm anxieties and arouse hopes and aspirations; they know how to transform personal needs into societal demands.
- 13 steps to leadership (based on social psychology)
This chapter then becomes very Freudian.
Some parts re very interesting, for example with followers that idealize leaders and look at them as a father figure.
That made sense to me -also see the “judge role“-.
Some other parts left me dubious -Freud’s approach wasn’t very scientific-.
Narcissism and The Potential for Leadership
The strength (and even inflexibility) of a narcissistic leader’s worldview gives followers something to identify with and hold on to. Although it can be a key ingredient for success, narcissism can also become a toxic drug. Narcissism can be labeled as either constructive or reactive, with excess narcissism generally falling in the latter category and healthy narcissism generally falling in the former (Kets de Vries, 2004; Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985).
The authors say there is a “good” type of narcissistic leader. In leadership roles, constructive narcissists often seem larger than life, but they also have a capacity for introspection and empathy.
The “bad” type of narcissistic leaders fixate on power, status, prestige, and superiority.
Say the authors:
They are especially responsive to admiration and are not prepared to share power. Unwilling to tolerate disagreement, and dealing poorly with criticism, such leaders rarely consult with others, and when they do, such consultation is little more than ritualistic. The result is that disposition and position work together to wreak havoc on reality-testing, and the boundaries that define normal work processes disappear.
Later on, the authors say that the bad narcissistic leader sees the world in black and white, people being either for or against them.
And the followers, “to minimize conflict and disagreement, sacrifice truth on the altar of intimacy, maintaining a connection with the leader even though he or she has lost touch with reality”.
To me, it seems a description of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Folowers of Narcissists
The followers of narcissistic leaders idealize their leader.
In the authors’ opinion, they replicate a helpless child / protective adult relationship:
They perceive their leader as omnipotent, and as a result, they readily give up their autonomy. This contributes to goal-directedness and cohesiveness, but impairs followers’ critical judgment and leaves them unwilling to take initiative.
In psychoanalytic terms, this is the projective identification.
So the advantage of the narcissistic leader is that: the narcissistic leader will have a loyal and obedient followership, but the quality of that followership is lower than with a healthier leader.
The Key Issue of Trust
The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook discusses trust at length.
Trust appears to be a crucial aspect of good leadership:
Research evidence confirms that trust in leadership is related to positive organizational outcomes (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002) and positive follower performances and attitudes, such as high job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Butler et al., 1999; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002). Followers who believe in their leaders’ abilities, integrity, and benevolence are more willing to engage in risk-taking behaviors (Mayer et al., 1995).
Trust is most important when one party is at risk or vulnerable, and can be defined as “an expectation or belief that one can rely on another person’s actions and words, and that that person has good intentions”.
Trust also increases cooperation.
Ferrin et al.’s (2007) interpersonal study found that trust perceptions and cooperation both increase after each successive iteration.
Early research on trust developed two core foundations of trust:
- Competence or ability: knowledge, skills, interpersonal skills and “general wisdom”
- Character: later split into two components of:
- Benevolence: want to do good for the followers
- Integrity: adherence to sound moral and ethical principles
Avolio says that you establish trust by displaying your own capacities, values, hopes, and weaknesses, and allowing or even encouraging the followers to express themselves equally.
Other elements that improve trust:
- Transformational and consultative leadership (Gillespie & Mann, 2004)
- Servant leadership (Joseph & Winston 2005)
- Avoiding contingency-based rewards and punishments (Rubin et al., 2010)
- Developing job-related skills
- Developing integrity
- Developing social skills / power intelligence
- Environment that is just and low in politics (Poon, 2006)
- Monitor while supporting: monitoring can erode trust, but monitoring combined with fair assessment of performance, leader support, openness, and collaborative problem-solving, is highly related to trust in managers (Bijlsma & Van de Bunt, 2003)
For the full list, see “Business University”.
Interestingly, Dirks & Ferrin meta-analysis found no relationship between trust and relationship length and only a weak relationship between trust in leaders and followers’ propensity to trust.
This means that you can develop trust in most people, independently of how long you know them.
The authors say that the trust in the direct leader has an equal or greater effect on performance, altruism, intent to quit, and job satisfaction, than trust in organizational leadership. And trust in organizational leadership has a greater impact on organizational-level outcomes such as organizational commitment.
And Huang et al. (2009) note that lower-level and frontline employees tend to care more about their personal relationship with colleagues and their direct managers.
Trust Going Both Ways
There is much less research on leaders trusting their followers.
But Hakimi et al.’s (2010) show that leader-empowering behavior also depends on the trust they have in follower’s performance and integrity.
And Brower et al. (2009) demonstrate that trusting one’s followers is crucial to effective leadership.
Trusting leaders develop more productive employees, employees who offer and provide help beyond the requirements of their jobs, and who stay in the organization for longer periods of time.
Whitener and colleagues (1998) argue that to gain the subordinates trust a good step is to first be a trusting manager.
Finally, personality also does matter.
Bernereth & Walker’s (2007) and Levin et al.’s (2006) seem to support the notion that that the most positive exchange relationships exist when both managers and employees are high in propensity to trust.
Win-Win Without Trust
The book rightesouly reminds us that a productive arrangement as well as win-win relationships can also exist without trust.
Alternative mechanisms include:
Reputation, enforcement of contracts, compensation schemes, social capital networks, and regulation of behavior through professional societies (Cook et al., 2005).
There is little empirical evidence on the effectiveness of leaders when measured along the alignment of organizational cultural fit.
But some interesting notes:
- Nationality / culture matters
Subordinates working with leaders from their own country of origin are more efficient and satisfied than subordinates working under a supervisor from another country (Testa, 2002).
I wonder though if this is a case of someone not fitting the culture well, not speaking the local language well, or not bonding with the team well.
Indeed, I remember many years ago working for a company providing support in different languages. And one Brazilian said to me about our boss “a Swiss manager is not a good fit for Latin teams”.
So it was more of a general culture, than a specific nationality.
- National culture alignment matters
Leaders acting in alignment with the national culture will be more effective than those whose behaviors are out of alignment (Euwema et al., 2007; Yukl et al., 2003).
There are three ways in which leaders can encourage evidence-based management:
- Advocating for evidence
- Collecting and providing evidence
- Providing the time and resources for the effective use of evidence
When it comes to power dynamics, there are some disadvantages for the leader in an evidence-based culture, including:
- Leaders must accept a greater degree of transparency in their decision-making
- Leaders might lose some “mystique”, looking as if they’re governed by data rather than intuition and innate abilities
When Leaders Are Bullies
Bullying or overly aggressive leaders is a relatively common phenomenon.
And it’s a phenomenon that deserves attention, since ongoing workplace bullying are serious healthy consequences, including PTSD.
Traits of Bullying Leaders
House & Howell (1992) say that the traits of bullying supervisors include excessive need for power, high levels of Machiavellianism, authoritarianism, external locus of control combined with low self-esteem.
Judge et al. (2009) also add narcissism, hubris, and social dominance.
Hershcovis et al. (2007) found out that anger highly correlated with aggression and Aquino & Thau (2009) found that emotional instability leads to aggression and bullying.
Thought Patterns of Bullies
In terms of thought patterns, a hostile attribution style, such as attributing failures to external stable and intentional causes, leads to aggression.
The worst cases appear to be when a leader attributes poor work performance to a willingness to undermine him as a leader.
Finally, bosses who think they themselves are being treated unfairly and are stressed out are more likely to act aggressively towards their own reports (Aryee et al., 2007; Hoobler & Brass, 2006, Tepper et al., 2006).
This is also called “misplaced aggression“.
How I Met Your Mother also had a clip about it:
Bowling & Beehr’s (2006) metastudy shows that role conflict (ρ = .44) and role ambiguity (ρ = .30), together with work constraints (ρ = .54), are the strongest predictors of workplace harassment.
And as we might expect, misbehavior is more common where upper management is tolerant of it and where there is a lack of clear organizational norms and policies, including safe complaints procedures (see Pryor & Fitzgerald, 2003).
Van de Vliert & Einarsen (2008) and Van de Vliert et al. (2010) have also shown that countries with harsher climates and poorer income have more instances of abusive behavior.
Dealing With Workplace Bullying
However, the answer to workplace bullying is not endless dominance from the employees’ part.
Aquino & Byron (2002) found support for the hypothesis that dominant behavior shows a curvilinear relationship with victimization from leader abuse.
Such as submissive employees are experienced as weak and exploitable and employees high on dominance break social norms and therefore are more easily exposed to retaliation and abuse.
The authors don’t go into solutions, however mixing warmth with power and assertiveness usually work great in every situation.
Resistance to disruptive transformational change is strongest in the middle-management and individual-contributor levels.
It makes sense, since these people are the ones who often know the least about the change, and who risk the most about change.
Employees can also be stressed by the change due to increased work, threats of job losses, changes in responsibilities/scope, and shifts in the balance of power (McHugh & Brennan, 1994).
This is how management can increase acceptance to change:
- Increase trust in the organization: that leadership behaviors and trust in leadership seem to be important determinants of OCB (Podsakoff et al., 2000)
- Demonstrate commitment: and doing so beyond words, such as attending meetings or ceremonies relevant to the change effort. This indicates that the change must be important (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006; Podsakoff et al., 2000; Yukl, 2006)
- Provide clear guidance on what’s going to happen: it helps avoid rumors and “fear of the unknown”
- Use “Schein’s 3 steps”: Building on Lewin’s idea of unfreezing, Schein (1999a) identified 3 conditions to successful unfreezing: disconfirm the validity of the status quo, induce survival anxiety to motivate change, and create enough psychological safety that yes, you can make the change and survive and thrive
How to Foster Creativity
To develop and sustain creativity, an organization generally needs:
- Relatively open culture
- Empowered staff: push responsibilities down
- Responsive and flexible structure
- Integrated procedures
- Idea-development systems
- Good external partnerships
- Emotional attachment can be good leadership
It has been well established that emotional attachment can be a key factor in successful leadership (Bass, 1985; Gardner & Avolio, 1998).
- Yes, top leadership does matter
There was a popular academic perspective that leadership did not really matter in achieving results.
That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.
Day & Lord (1988) showed that when proper methodological concerns were addressed the impact of top-level leadership was considerable -as much as 45% of organizational performance-.
- An “exec summary” would have been useful
Since the book is very dense, I would have appreciated a section that summarized the research literature.
There was indeed an end-of-chapter session for an overview, but it rarely was an actual overview.
- Sometimes different authors repeat same intros
Since there are different authors for each chapter, sometimes the intros repeat the same information.
- A coherent, larger, dot-connecting theoretical infrustrcture would have been nice
Some chapters were great.
In some others, I felt that the authors weren’t always “connecting the dots”. So some chapters did not provide a larger framework with which to better understand the world.
The Wiley-Blackwell Handbooks are not for the laymen to read.
They have no stories, no examples, and be very dense to read.
After all, they are written by academics, for academics.
And for a guy like me, who seeks to combine data and research with first-hand experience, observation, and logic… They are a Godsent.
They allow me to review whole swaths of the best research literature, in a time-effective fashion.
So I’m very grateful to the authors, and thumb up from me.
But if you’re not an academic and are looking for actionable advice, then this website’s products might provide you with better tools to succeed.