Empowering Leadership

The process of organizational restructuring recurs every other decade and as firms again move to decentralized formations and reduce hierarchy levels, they often encourage employees to take on a higher degree of responsibility for their work and outcomes (Houghton & Yoho, 2005). Empowering leadership is therefore closely linked to self-leadership. Researchers justify that association as they explain that self-leadership is “a process of utilizing a set of complimentary behavioral and cognitive strategies while empowerment is a cognitive state created by a constellation of malleable cognitions” (Houghton & Yoho, 2005, p. 68). Empowering lead?ership further encourages team members to make use of self-influence and selfleadership strategies (Pearce & Sims, 2002). Often, managers interfere intensively to provide support; however, this prevents team self-leadership energy from developing and reinforces dependence on leaders (Davis, 2004).

Pearce and Sims (2002, p. 175) identify six attributes of empowering leaders: (1) encouraging independent action, (2) encouraging opportunity thinking, (3) encouraging teamwork, (4) encouraging self-development, (5) using participative goalsetting, and (6) encouraging self-reward. The researchers show that shared empowering leadership is positively linked to self-rated team effectiveness. Comparable outcomes are revealed in a study employed in a public high school as empowering leaders drove subordinates to higher performance (Vecchio, Justin & Pearce, 2010). Vecchio et al. (2010) refer to empowering leadership as “behaviors that share powers with subordinates” (p. 531). The researchers claim that sharing of power might result in a better performance of followers. Manz and Sims (2001) similarly hypothesize empowering leadership to reveal the best in people in order to reach higher performance initially. It is assumed that, for example, transactional leadership predicts only low degrees of creativity and innovation, whereas empowering leadership behavior is believed to lead to a high level of creativity and innovation in organizations. Particularly, employees in environments that are rather unstructured might benefit from empowering leadership which might consequently lead to employee empowerment. Yet, there are situations in which different leadership behaviors might be more appropriate (Houghton & Yoho, 2005). In case of routine tasks with simple structure, transactional leadership can be more effective. Also critical or crisis situations might stipulate transactional or transformational leadership behavior.

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