Leadership and Group Decision
My leadership research mainly focused on how leadership style, especially charismatic leadership, affects control mechanisms and organizational outcome. For my group decision-making research, I studied the moderating effect of mutual interest in the group decision-making process. My results showed that mutual interest among group members moderates the relation between negative behavior and decision quality as well as participation and decision quality.
In another study, I added a dynamic factor into the Social Judgment Scheme (SJS) to prove the importance of information lag between group members. SJS predicts a group’s decision in the case of a group without a leader based on members’ decision similarity. I applied agent based modeling (ABM) to show that if members do not share information instantly, the information lag may significantly affect their group’s decision.
Leadership might be the most attractive management topic, especially in MBA class. The early studies mainly focused on the correlation between an individual’s traits, or habit, and leadership. Trait studies tried to find a portfolio that can improve or predict good leadership. A numbers of bestsellers followed this stream, such as “On Becoming a Leader”. Those books use interviews and persuasive stories to show how a good trait or habit can benefit leadership, such as cleaning your desk every day. Unfortunately, statistical researches tend not to support this correlation. Sometimes the good trait works, sometimes not.
So, we noticed there are types of leadership. If you never heard about “six types of leadership”, please go and read Goleman’s paper on Harvard Business Review. Firstly, you may fit yourself, or leaders you know, into those types and find it as a perfect classification. But soon, you may argue to add one more types to catch some unconventional leaders. Then, identifying sub-type of leaders is necessary. The taxology work could be endless and hard to justify right or wrong.
Another issue is that “leader” has different definition in academic field. By definition, people with power, or in authority, is not necessary a leader. A leader should influence people and let them voluntarily follow him/her to achieve a common goal. This case happens more often in soccer teams rather than in companies. So, owners and CEOs usually are not “leaders”, but “bosses”. I am not sure MBA students want to learn leadership or boss-ship.
Contingency theories are good solution for the understanding of leadership. Generally, the contingency means “it all depends on situations”. Under this big framework, scholars can study the cause and effect of leadership in particular situations, and generate very solid results. But the shortcoming is that the results are hard to be generalized. If the situation has tiny little different, the empirical model lose its predicting power.
Charismatic-Transformational Leadership theory is another important stream. I used to wrote a review on this topic:
Charismatic leadership, or transformational leadership, is a kind of leadership that emphasizes symbolic leader behavior, visionary and inspirational ability, nonverbal communication, expectations for follower self-sacrifice, and for performance beyond expectations. It is first introduced by Burns (1978) in his treatment of political leadership by which leaders affect radical change in the vision and behavior of followers. This leadership works by infusing organizations with moral purpose and commitment rather than by offering material incentives and the threat of punishment. Some scholar argued that charismatic leadership represents the most effective form of leadership, a form in which leaders closely engage with followers, and motivate them to perform beyond their transactional agreements, which means inspiring followers to do more than originally expected goals. (Bass, 1985).
House, and Arthur (1993) suggested that charismatic (transformational) leaders transform the self-concepts of their followers. They establish personal/social identification for followers with the mission and goals of the organization. Charismatic leaders fundamentally change the values and goals of followers. Under a charismatic leadership, followers perform their work because it is consistent with their values. According to Beennis (2001), charismatic leaders work more effectively in rapidly changing environments by helping to make sense of the challenges confronted by both leaders and followers and then appropriately responding to those challenges.
House (1977) and Shamir, House, and Arthur (1992) summarized the effects result from charismatic behaviors: “(1) articulating an ideological vision-a vision that specifies a better future state in terms of such values as human rights, peace, freedom, order, equality, and attainment of status and privileges that are claimed to be the moral right of followers; (2) referring to distal rather than proximate goals; (3) communicating messages that contain frequent reference to values and moral justifications, to the collective and to collective identity, and to followers’ worth and efficacy as individuals and as a collective; (3) behaviorally role modeling the values implied in the vision by personal example; (4) expressing high performance expectations of followers; (5) communicating a high degree of confidence in followers’ ability to meet such expectations; and (6) demonstrating behaviors that selectively arouse unconscious achievement, power, and affiliative motives of followers when these motives are specifically relevant to the attainment of the vision.”
Generally, House’s Charismatic leadership theory provided a framework for many later scholars to build upon. In addition, his model was multi-dimensional incorporating leader behaviors and dispositional attributes, follower effects, and situational variables.
When discussing about leadership, authors rarely address their research assumptions. For charismatic leadership research, House and Howell assume that motivation to engage in personalized or socialized Charismatic leadership behavior is a positive linear function of motives, personality traits, and intentions plus an interactive function of (a) motives and intentions and (b) situational variables. According to House, the emergence and effectiveness of charismatic leaders will be associated with leaders' sense of social responsibility and collective interests rather than with self-interest. Conger pointed out three assumptions for charismatic leadership: 1) Charm and grace are all that is needed to create followers. 2) Self-belief is a fundamental need of leaders. 3) People follow others that they personally admire.
Limitations and Criticisms:
Meindl et al. provided a good critique that the significant change in outcome, whether they are positive or negative, are most likely to lead observers to make the inference that a leader was an important cause. Gemmil and Oakley argued that the mistake in theory building and research on charismatic leaders is the belief that charisma is a measurable attribute of the person who it is attributed to that is entirely independent from the perceptual distortions of those attributing the charisma. The label "charisma" is like the term leader itself. They used a very interesting comparison to explain charisma that "Charisma is a social phenomenon similar to the illusionary aspects of the reported U.F.O. phenomenon in the sense that is viewed as of divine origin beyond our material world.
Thomson criticized that House’s theory is the absence of discussion about how charismatic leaders achieve specific goals in their organizations. Since charisma belongs to the trait research, it faces some criticisms like whether trait matter in leadership. Stogdill argued that a person does not become a leader by possessing certain combination of trait. His research showed that no traits ware universally associated with effective leadership and that situational factors are influential.