In this special episode of Science of Business Podcast, I will be sharing with you some of my picks from the recent research in the LEADERSHIP field. We will discuss scientific papers covering the topics of:
▶Shared leadership, ▶ Transformational leadership ▶ Servant leadership, ▶ Authentic leadership, ▶ Leadership development, ▶ Leadership potential, ▶ Leadership success.
The selected research pieces for this episode come from the following sources:
✔ Human Resource Development Quarterly,
✔ Leadership Quarterly,
✔ Frontiers in psychology,
✔ Journal of Applied Social Psychology,
✔ Harvard University.
Radek: Welcome to Science of Business podcast by Valueships. My name is Radek. And together with experts from various industries, we discuss new research pieces and their application in business life. If you're a manager or you want to be up to date with science that can be applied in your work, this podcast is made for you.
Hi, and welcome to this special episode of Science of Business podcast. Today, there won't be any guest with me. Only me, you and some recent research pieces that I have chosen for you. Today, we will be talking about leadership. And I have chosen some five recent research pieces that I find very relevant to all modern leaders. Without any further ado, let's dive deep into research.
The first one was conducted by Luria Gill and published in Small Group Research. The scientists were conducting a longitudinal study among military cadets and they were trying to see how leadership effectiveness of the trainers affects the trainees. What I found very interesting in this research is that in Israeli army, there is no recruitment of officers. Those are emerging from the cadets during their obligatory training. And how do they choose which of the cadets actually have some potential for being a leadership? It's super simple. Every cadet in the group is asked whom do they think have some leadership potential in their group.
So, everyone votes everyone in terms of how good of a leader they are, how big of a potential do they have to become a leader. And those who have high score, that many people choose as these emerging leaders, are the ones selected later on for the officers’ training. So, the first interesting outcome of this research is that there was a significant correlation between this emergence evaluation and later on, actual efficiency of the leader when they were officers in the army.
Such a simple measure, just asking people ‘do you think this person could be a good leader?’ is actually predicting very well if this person will be a good leader. And what is interesting is that the cadets weren't even offered an explanation what does it mean to be a good leader. It was just very natural to them to point a person that they would like to be working with.
The second interesting outcome was that the trainers who were evaluated high in their leadership effectiveness also had an influence on their cadets. So, the participants of officer school who had the luck to work with a trainer who was a good leader, learned to be leader better than those who didn't have this possibility. And it is very interesting because in adult education, there is a constant battle, how much do you actually need to be practitioner in the skill that you're teaching in order to be able to teach it. And this research gives some idea that maybe it is really important not only to get perfect at teaching but also practicing the skill over and over to make sure that you can give a good example to your trainees.
But what we definitely know is that good leaders train good leaders. I'm not sure if, for instance, if we would take motivation or teamwork or some other training fields. Maybe it's not that relevant over there to be a practitioner but in leadership, it's good that the people who are teaching leadership have some previous leadership experience that was efficient.
And now the third outcome of this research, which I don't agree with. So, the scientists also discovered that the scores the participants received in their officers training also were correlated to how good of a leaders they were afterwards. And the scientists suggest that maybe when you have an extended training for leaders, in this case, this leadership development program was three months long, day by day, every day, including weekends. That in such a situation, you can actually evaluate the potential of how good a leader would be and use it as a recruitment tool.
But actually from ACDC practice, from Assessment Development Center, we know that when people are put into situation where they should learn and develop, it should be okay for them to fail. We should create this environment where they actually can be safe, they can do whatever they think, so they learn better. And now when we put assessment to it, learning what happened to that impact, so, okay, we will know who works better but this competition actually will destroy the main purpose of this development program which is just to help people to become better leaders. That would be it for this one. If you would like to search for more, just Google ‘Leadership development, leadership emergence to leadership effectiveness’ published in Small Group Research.
Now, let's move to the second one. This paper published by Ella Malloy and Maria Kavussanu in Journal of Applied Social Psychology, I find especially interesting. It tackles leadership in sports. So, something not that much related to business and we always wonder how much can we extrapolate from one field to the other but still, it is really an extremely valuable piece. To give you a bit of context of this research, the scientists tried to discover if authentic leadership is just as important in sports as transformational leadership is. Because, in the past decades, the majority of research in leadership in training in sports focused mostly on transformational leadership as one of the tools.
And why it is really valuable to read this paper is exactly for this, to get to know what is transformational leadership, what is authentic leadership and how one differs from the other. So, you get to know very quickly the essence of those two approaches to leadership. See the differences and know which one might be working for you better. In transformational leadership, you try to transform the values of your followers and motivate them to achieve performance that is beyond their normal expectations or limits. The model consists of four elements which are called four eyes.
First one, idealized influence. So, you are the role model to your mentees. Second, inspirational motivation. You provide meaning, you clear the expectations, you demonstrate confidence that you know that the goals that you set to your team members are actually achievable. The third one is intellectual stimulation. You're listening, you're inviting to question assumptions and also find ways to solve the problems. And last one, individualized consideration, is creating supportive climate, providing learning opportunities and serving as a mentor to your team members.
Now, when it comes to authentic leadership, as the name suggests, it's all about authenticity. So, you as the leader need to have very clear values. You need to follow them, you need to be very self-aware and these values should also motivate your team members but it's all about the authenticity you create. And what is really important in this model is this individual relation you have with each of your team members. And that's the major difference. Even though it's important in both models, authentic leadership is actually based on this trust, on this relationship you're building with your team members.
And so, you're working with your values, you are perceived as credible because those values are well represented in your behaviors. You focus on leader-follower relations, whenever you make decisions, you include your followers. And this self-awareness is really important. So, as I told you, in the past research in training in sports, transformational leadership was chosen as the default option for coach to be a leader to be effective and the researchers in here wanted to check that, so they conducted a research where they evaluated both of those positions in the coaches and checked how much do they influence commitment and enjoyment of their team members.
And what is also interesting in here is that commitment and enjoyment are one of the best predictors of training success, of how good of a sportsman you will become. If you have commitment, if you have enjoyment, these were, in the past research, well proven to be related to overall sports success. So, what was interesting in this research was that actually authentic leadership proved to be more related to both enjoyment and especially commitment than transformational leadership. So, it appeared that being an authentic leader is more important than being a transformative leader in sports. But what really got me thinking in this research was that both authentic leadership and transformational leadership were explaining different parts of the variation in enjoyment and commitment.
This means that actually, the best result was not either this or that approach but combining both of them, and this blew my mind. Because, as much as I work with organizations on leadership training, we usually tend to lean towards one or other model. Servant leadership, authentic leadership, transformational leadership or whatever works well within the organizational culture. But this research got me thinking that actually, maybe in many situations, it's not just choosing one approach but trying to figure out how can you combine different elements from different leadership styles to actually create the best environment for your team members to grow.
And this is really a breakthrough in how do I think about leadership. So, if you would like to learn more about authentic and transformational leadership and maybe also you would like to know how to be a better leader in sports, just search for the paper ‘A comparison of authentic and transformational leadership in sport’ published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Now, let's get to the third paper. This one was published in Frontiers in Psychology by Abigail Player. And I'd started with the quote that the paper actually starts with. ‘Women hold up more than half the sky and represent much of the world's unrealized potential, Kim Moon, 2011’. The paper is about overlooked potential, about the bias and how we evaluate performance and potential depending on the gender of the candidates. In two experiments, scientists asked first 98 people, then 199 people to evaluate four different candidates how likely would they hire them for a specific job position in leadership that they created for this particular study.
The differences between the candidates were twofold. Two of them were male and two of them were female, and also, in each of the genders, one had higher score on leadership performance and the other had higher score on leadership potential. The participants of the study were evaluating how likely they would be to hire a person, how likely they think a person will succeed in their work. They were evaluating the resumes and they were evaluating future performance. In both experiments, the participants have valued more the potential of male candidate than the potential of female candidate. The elders called this effect ‘Overlooked potential effect’.
In situations where leadership potential is important, male candidates were more likely to be chosen for such a position. And I can't tell you, this is real for you, I can only tell it was real for those around 300 participants of the study. And probably, they're different. Probably, they're from different culture. But the point is, there is still plenty of different situations where we unconsciously bias. So, this reminded me of Moneyball movie, and generally, data backed approach, just to check for yourself if you're not biased, if you're not choosing too often in one way or the other and thinking why does it happen? If it's really about the difference between the candidates or just about some gut feeling you had, because we all are influenced by biases, so we need to be consciously challenging our decisions.
I recommend reading this paper and discussing it with your colleagues. You can find it by the name ‘Overlooked leadership potential, the preference for leadership potential in job candidates who are men versus women’, Frontiers in Psychology.
Now, let's move to the fourth paper. This one is somewhat related, but it got the results that surprised me and I was actually really happy to read them. The research was conducted by Cynthia Sims and she was trying to evaluate if gender affects leadership style or mentoring style of leadership development program participants.
What I love about it is just like in the case of the paper from Ella Malloy, in here, you also have a brief description of many leadership styles, but there is more of them. You have servant leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership and passive avoidant leadership style. Just by reading the paper you really can get the essence of how those leadership style works. You also get references on where to read more and references to some questionnaires that could help you evaluate the leadership style that you or your team members have.
And there is a beautiful table that summarizes all those leadership styles and presents all the factors that the styles are made of. And to give you an example of servant leadership, it consists of five elements. Altruistic calling, so you need to have this feeling towards other and will to help them. Emotional healing, you need to be able to manage your emotions and the emotions of your peers. Wisdom, which is the general experience you have in terms of how to run with different situations. Persuasive mapping, which is a skill of defining issues. Finding possibilities and presenting smoothly your train of thought. And finally, organizational stewardship, which is this holistic approach to support.
And in the very same table, you also have some sample items that could give you a reflection of particular leadership style. For instance, I put others’ best interest ahead of my own. I am one whom others would turn to if they have personal trauma. I am alert to what's happening. I offer compelling reasons to get others to do things. I believe that the organization needs to play a moral role in a society. This all also come from servant leadership. So, it's already a lot of learning in the paper and the research didn't even start. The scientists were comparing different leadership styles of different genders and seeing how those are related to mentoring competencies. There are also several of them listed in the paper. I won't list them in here, really encouraging you to read that.
But what was interesting was that there was no correlation between gender and chosen leadership style, which gives me a hinge that we can choose, define our own leadership style. We are not given, we can influence that, we can change our behaviors. This is something that is not… we are not stuck with. And the second one was that also gender didn't influence mentoring competencies, which also means everyone can be a great mentor. And lastly, there was one relation that the research discovered, which was between servant leadership that I referred to you and mentoring competencies. So, those leaders who were working well with servant leadership were also better mentors. And now this doesn't mean that everyone should become a servant leader but what does it mean is that when you choose mentors, you should also consider if this person is actually a well-suited person to be in the mentoring position.
And the scientists also suggest that people who were in the protégé position, who were mentees in the past will be better mentors. So, if you want to choose someone to take position of the mentor, make sure that they have this experience firsthand, that they know how the mentees feel, what they could need. And also, you can test them for leadership style and see if they are well suited to take this role, which is really important and impactful for the individual development of your team members. Something worth considering. If you would like to read more, search ‘Do servant transformational, transactional and passive avoidance leadership styles influence mentoring competencies for faculty, a study of a gender equity leadership development program’, published in Human Resource Development, quarterly.
Now, let's go to the final paper for today. This one got me over excited. It just blew my mind to some extent. The paper is currently in press for Leadership, quarterly, and was designed by Swedish and American scientists together. Scientists were exploring shared leadership. A situation where multiple team members take part of the leadership role in their project development. From the background of this research, we already got to know that shared leadership provides very beneficial outcomes for the project's success, for each individual contribution and well-being of the team members. That's promising to start with.
Then, we got to know that if we want to embrace this leadership, we need to make sure that the risk of rejection is low, which means that when someone takes leadership role, when they say, ‘okay, I will do it, I will lead it’, that no one will say, ‘no, you're not’. This safety is one of the factors that influence this potential for shared leadership. What is more? It's even better when this leadership claim is granted by other team members, especially if they're more competent. When someone says, ‘Hey, Mike, could you do that? I think you could do that, maybe you can take charge of this part’, this also reduces the risk of rejection and the demand that is given by the external factor. And lastly, there is something with a very difficult name but it's very simple in practice. This is called ‘Transactive Memory System’.
When transactive memory system appears in the team, this means we create a specific organism that has one mutual brain. No matter how weird it sounds, in a way, we create an environment where we use each other's knowledge. Everyone has a specific domain of expertise, they only deepen it while they know that for the other parts, there is someone else who is an expert in this particular field. Two simple ways to establish transactive memory system is; First, make sure that the work division is very clear, that every team member has their own specific expertise and that everyone else is aware of that and respects that. And the second approach is even before the first one. So, we make sure that in our team, we do have different expertise. We compose the team from people that complement each other, that have knowledge, that accesses the knowledge of the other participants, the other team members.
Again, a lot of useful information just from the background of the research. But the research itself also provided some nice insights. What the scientists realize is that up to now, when discussing shared leadership, previous research was either using a one or the other metric of this shared leadership. One is leadership density, which is a measure of how many links of a leader-follower nature are there in the team. An example, if you have a team of five people and you're the sole leader to everyone else, this would be five, that you are the leader for five people. In contrast, if everyone in the team is a leader for everyone else, for one other person, this would also be five. Because, there are only five links in this network.
The other measure is leadership decentralization. This tells how many people are involved in leadership in the team. So, how many people do take this leadership position from time to time. And maybe it already clicks to you like, ‘Hey, those are not two same measures’, but for some reason, up until now, scientists only use one or the other to evaluate shared leadership in the team. But in this research, the scientists discovered that leadership decentralization, so involving as many people as possible in leadership precedes leadership density, and is actually the first step in shaping shared leadership. So, for the first time, the scientists have found out how step by step, one and the other intervention supports leadership immersions, this shared leadership creation and that it also is related to overall team performance.
So, we start with this transactive memory system. We make sure that we create this connection of knowledge in our team. Then, we decentralize leadership. We make sure everyone is involved. What team leaders tend to do is that they choose more extroverted team members and give them some responsibility while they leave introverts alone. That's not a good practice according to the scientists. They suggest that even a small leadership activity that might not be that much demanding for an introvert is a good start to share, to create this common responsibility and shared leadership in the team. And this will lead to leadership density. Because, if we fail to invite many people to become leaders, then only few will have some links and that will never be that strong network like if everyone is involved in some leader-follower situations, and those impact overall team performance.
Something really worth experimenting with, given that we tend to be more and more democratic in leadership in our projects, we have more and more competent team members, so it's about the time to use their potential, use their creativity to actually over perform. If you would like to read this paper, you can search for ‘Emergence of shared leadership networks in teams, an adaptive process perspective’, published in Leadership, quarterly. That would be it. Thank you very much. It was the first episode of this kind where it's only me, you and research, so I’m really looking forward to your feedback. How did you like it, how would you like to maybe change such episodes for the future? Let me know in the comments or in some social media messages through LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever works for you. And hear you next time.
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