Some leader/manager style study results

Research on drivers of working atmosphere/climate and then, in turn, on financial results [3], ‘indicated that no leadership style should be relied on exclusively, and all have at least short-term uses’. ‘Authoritative style had the most positive effect on climate, but three others—affiliative, democratic, and coaching—followed close behind. Findings include the positive effect of the authoritative style on colleagues’ flexibility (0.32), taking responsibility (0.21) and on responses to rewards (0.54). Coercive style, however, had a negative effect on these three aspects of working climate (-0.28, -0.37 and -0.18, respectively). Further, the coercive style produced a -0.13 negative correlation for commitment compared to 0.35 with authoritative style and 0.34, 0.26 and 0.27 for affiliative, democratic and coaching styles. The authoritative style does not have the characteristics that one might assume from the term. It is described as having a ‘modus operandi of mobilising people toward a vision, a ‘Come with me’ style, the underlying emotional competencies required being self-confidence, empathy and change catalyst, and the style working best when changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed’. Employing this and aspects of other management styles, a Social Sciences VC from a post 1992 university [4] presents a positive, confident and encouraging approach to their difficult role:

What I feel is that the process of managing as important as the outcome, that process and that process of inclusion and that process of openness, transparency, taking people along with you, trying to get people to share those corporate values. I think that’s what I want to see reflected in the way that Strategic Review then happens elsewhere in the university. But it’s that process of trust, respect, academic respect, one for the other. Respecting—.. .that means you have to be able to listen to disparate views, have to be prepared to be castigated in public meetings, all of those things, but you just say yes, you have the right to say that.


In comparison, for example, the coercive style [3] ‘demands immediate compliance, is characterised by a ‘Do what I tell you’ approach, needs drive to achieve, initiative, and self-control and is best when in a crisis, to kick start a turnaround, or with problem employees’. This style is probably seen tar, tar more than is necessary in universities. Their summary is that ‘economic conditions and competitive dynamics matter enormously, but ... analysis strongly suggests that organisational climate accounts for nearly a third of results. And that’s simply too much of an impact to ignore’ (p.81-2).

Whilst culture and climate will be given a short summary in the last chapter, allowing a neater review of collective approaches to staff management under

A brief look at manager styles and traits 81 these umbrella terms (which all staff understand and use, irrespective of whether their understanding fits exactly with the scholar’s definitions), terms which feature repeatedly in these pages, a brief explanation now is useful. Both beneficial and obstructive climates and cultures have been referred to periodically in the previous chapters, and are influenced by and have influence upon the senior management team in an organisation. According to Knights [5], then,

Culture can only be created and maintained if the leadership first creates the right climate. Climate is about setting the scene and the style and communicating and role-modelling the philosophy, attitude, spirit, beliefs and values of the organisation. Climate impacts culture, for good or bad, rather than the other way around. You can’t change the culture without changing the climate first—which firmly rests with the leaders of the organisation. Culture on the other hand is primarily about behaviours, that is, implementing the climate into ‘the way we do and improve things around here’. Emotional intelligence and values drive culture. Culture is changed by the influence of all the people in the organisation. Importantly, a leader can only create the right climate if they demonstrate appropriate behaviours and values, consistently.

[5] (P-9)

As highlighted in Chapter 1 [3], ‘emergent leadership (as opposed to ‘assigned’ leadership), which occurs when others perceive someone as most influential among the group’ may be important in universities [6]. Given that it is customary for academics to question, Heads of Units have to be prepared to back up their decisions and management approaches, as it is inevitable that individuals or groups of staff will wish to discuss/criticise, constructively or not, or challenge. Identifying the main influencers and the strength and spread of influence is important, as is being open to suggestions and new ideas, whilst maintaining momentum. In terms of questioning, as a manager, you don’t have any choice and if you are not reasonably open, choosing to repeatedly put up a brick wall, you will gain no respect. Respect may not be important to you personally, however, without it, you arc likely to significantly shorten your stay and/or provide yourself with a very difficult and unhappy working life.

The oft cited Transactional, Transformational and Laissez-faire manage-ment/leadcrship styles, reviewed as part of a thorough academic leadership and management essay [7], arc referred to in light of various study results:

  • • transactional positive (and negative) reinforcement management which ‘though contributing to a more pleasant work environment, produced only marginal increases in performance (Bass, 1985) [7] (p.32).
  • • The Bass study described ‘transformational’ leadership as ‘significantly raising performance levels and advancing job satisfaction’ (p.32).
  • • Transformational leadership is referred to as ‘the process that raises the level of motivation and ethics in both the leader and the follower; triesto help the follower reach their fullest potential, raises their hopes and in the process, changes himself/herself’. [7] (p.56)
  • • However it is also noted (Vera and Crossan, 2004) that, ‘at certain times, organisations thrive and prosper under transactional leadership, and at other times they need transformational leadership, particularly in times of rapid change’. Thus ‘an ideal strategic leader would be able to identify and exercise the leadership behaviours appropriate for the circumstances” [7] (p.32).
  • • The concept of a ‘master manager’ (Quinn 1988)—that is, someone who ‘excels at transformational behaviours but may choose transactional behaviours when needed. In addition, by consistently honouring transactional agreements’, leaders/senior managers ‘build trust, dependability, and an image of consistency among organisational members. This contributes to the high levels of trust and respect associated with transformational leaders’. (Shamir and Shamir 1995) [7] (p.32-33)

Three senior faculty staff in each of fifty leading universities in the States were asked to categorise their president’s (CEO/VC equivalent) use of these three styles, as discussed above, by utilising a multi factor leadership questionnaire [8]. From an, albeit perhaps, relatively small number of respondents (63 out of 150), Levine found that transformational management behaviour was practiced by between 56 and 74% of the CEO equivalent senior staff, using two accepted methods of analysis, and, that the transformational style correlated with reported ‘outcome variables’ indicating they were ‘the most effective, showed the strongest indication of extra effort and induced the greatest satisfaction with their presidential leadership’. Liaisez-fairc leadership which was noted in 8% of presidents was significantly more frequent in the lowest 20% ranked universities’. Transactional leadership was identified in 24% of the leaders. Agreement was found with this analysis elsewhere—‘heads of departments can be more effective in satisfying lecturers when they demonstrate transformational leadership behaviours’ [1]; 79% of the 104 respondents in a further study [9] classed their leadership as having a transformational style, and of these respondents, approximately 85% were satisfied with the leadership. The eight leaders classed as showing a predominantly transactional style, only attracted a 25% satisfaction rating. None of the leaders identified as having a passive/avoidance style (thirteen of them) ‘fell into the satisfied category’.

Consultants and ‘management thinkers’ provide useful lists, taken from their own personal surveys, studies and experience, of leadcrship/manage-ment qualities which, one could argue, provide a template for the ideal style. For example, a study of police officers [10] listed the ‘Top Positive Leadership Traits’ with typical reasons cited as:

  • • Fair—‘no favouritism in evaluations’ (appraisals and reviews)
  • • Knowledge—‘of job, are smart on policy and procedure and what’s expected of them’
  • • Honesty
  • • Communication—‘open, effective, know when to speak, good interpersonal skills’
  • • Decisions—‘they make one, are quick, good, tough, does right thing’
  • • Involve others—‘stands behind decisions, shares it’
  • • Consistency
  • • Experience—‘minimum 5-10 years, earned their way’
  • • Support—‘growth, officers, personal & professional development’
  • • Trust—‘belief in officers, is trustworthy themselves’
  • • Integrity
  • • Common Sense
  • • Flexibility
  • • Respect—‘treats officers (teams/ people) with respect, earns it themselves’
  • • Approachability

[10] (para.3).

All these qualities appear in these pages and some are highlighted many times. Another study [11] confirming fairness, knowledge, honesty and respect from those above, as the ‘most mentioned’ qualities/dispositions but also adds to these, ability, intelligence, good listener, a doer, is strong, has vision, willingness and compassion, takes advice and criticism; is people oriented. Again, it is argued, that ‘different situations require the leader to exhibit different qualities’, so context is important. However, some leader/ manager traits ‘need to be exhibited in most situations’. This same latter study identified—Arrogance (mentioned by 22%), Dishonesty (13%)/Lying (5%) and Selfishness (11%) as the ‘three clear themes that stood head and shoulders above the rest’ as ‘leadership qualities likely to make you disinclined to follow someone’.

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