In this paper, I am interested in assessing the following statement: “Eeffective Leadership depends on the ability to engage and interact with others at work to achieve a goal,”. and I am arguing that it is largely true that engagement and interaction with others, including both other leaders and employees at work, play a crucial role in achieving an effective leadership.
In doing so, I will first give a literature review of one of the most influential and prominent models on the leader-member exchange relationship. I will then examine severalsome empirical studies and theoretical arguments concerning for the relationship between effective leadership and engagement, or interaction with others. In examining the studies, I will also discuss how I interpret those studies, as well as how I think those studies can inform us about effective leadership’s reliance on engagement and interactions with others at work.
It should also be noted in that in this paper, I am not arguing that effective leadership solely depends on the ability to engage and interact with others at work to achieve a goal, which would be a somewhat absurd claim to make,; Rrather, all I attempt to argue that am trying to argue for in this paper is that the ability to engage and interact with others at works to achieve a goal is indeed a crucial element in effective leadership;, if such a leadership is to improve the overall work performance of both his or her followers and the company as a whole. I will begin my supportive argument for the statement in the prompt with a well-accepted model. The relationship between effective leadership and leader’s ability or even strategy to engage and interact with others at work has long been investigated by scholars in the area.
In this case, I am taking the term “others” here to mainly refer to employees who work either directly or indirectly under or with a certain leader. The terms “engage” and “interact” can also be vague and ambiguous terms. In this essay, what I am interested in is a broader understanding of engagement and interaction between leaders and members. I do not think the engagement and interaction that exists between leaders and members should only be understood traditionally in a verbal way, such as how the two sides communicate with each other. Rather, I believe several other behaviors should also be taken into account or given credit to if we want to take engaging and interactive leader-member relationships more seriously.
: Ffor instance, I think how a leader attends to her or his member personally and how a leader gives particular attention or consideration to a member based on his or her own characteristics or abilities should also be considered as part of the elements here. Moreover, tThe ability of attending to personal features, I believe, is also a crucial aspect in engaging with the employees. There are also other similar aspects of supportive and effective leadership that will be discussed in details in the latter sections of in the paper. For instance, one of the most influential and effective leadership models, the lLeader-mMember eExchange model, advocates for a special relationship to be developed between leaders and members in order to increase the overall job performance. To discuss the pros or probably potential cons of the importance of leader-member interaction and engagement, I will first give a brief overview of the development of the lLeader-mMember eExchange model. If one has to give a one sentence brief introduction of the lLeader-mMember eExchange model, one will probably say that it is a model that predicts and thus calls for a positive interactive and engaging subordinate-supervisor relationship. However, it should also be noted that the development of the so-called lLeader-mMember eExchange model has been through several stages and it is a model that was put forth quite broadly when it first circulatedcame out. For instance, Graen and Cashman (Graen and Cashman, 1975) discussed how an engaging and interactive interpersonal relationship between one and one’s supervisor can actually increase one’s degree of loyalty to the leader and to the larger organization in general.
But the initial stage of the development of the lLeader-mMember eExchange was indeed criticized by different scholars for being too ambiguous and impreciseunprecise in providing enough useful information. And HhHence, to further refine the theory and the model, the lLeader-mMember eExchange has been through several stages of development and evolution. As Schriesheim and his colleagues (Schriesheim, Castro and Cogliser, 1999) has noted in their marvelous overview of the development, in order to improve their model, more than 80 empirical and even theoretical studies and investigations werehave been conducted during the 1990s. Thus,And the general understanding that a high quality exchange between leaders and members will bring more positive outcomes and benefits was realized.
In addition to the mere interaction between leaders and members, probably a relationship that is still seen as a vague and ambiguous one by some other scholars, more elements have been added into the supervisor-member relationship to accommodate more aspects in this type of exchangerelationship. For instance, as Schriesheim and his colleagues (Schriesheim, Castro and Cogliser, 1999) has noted, latitude or supervisor attention (Yammarino & Dubinsky, 1990) is also crucial in developing a high-quality supervisor-member relationship that brings positive outcomes; moreover, other elements that are crucial for a positive and effective interaction and engagement have also been studied and added by other scholars, such as negotiating latitude (McClane, 1991) and individualized leadership (Dansereau, 1995).What is more interesting, important and useful about Schriesheim and his colleague’s genealogical study of the development and evolution of the theoretical background of the leader-member exchange is that, they found that the majority of the studies that tend to unpack the interactive relationship and its benefits tend to focus on the following 6 aspects: mutual support, trust, liking, latitude, attention, and loyalty. Personally, I think the 6 aspects are interesting and crucial in the sense that they do seem to have captured some key aspects in which a healthy supervisor- member relationship relies on. Moreover, if the 6 aspects can be studieds more thoroughly in different industries, or even different cultural contexts, they might be able to provide us with more insights as to which aspect a company or a leader should try to focus on more more on in order to achieve a certain positive outcome.
Gerstner and Day (Gerstner and Day, 1997) also point out in their paper that an effective exchange between leaders and members will also result in a long-term and mature relationship that is based on mutual trust and respect. Such mutual trust and respect, will then in turn help solve difficult role conflict. Having given a brief overview of one of the most effective and influential models on the leader-member relationship, I will now look at more empirical studies that might either directly support the model or the statement, or provide more interesting indirect support for the model or the statement. For instance, back in the 1970s, when the lLeader-member exchange model was first put forwardforth, David Herold (Herold, 1977) already conducted a pioneering study on the interactive relationship between the two sides. In his 1977 study, Herold conducted a laboratory experiment among university male students to investigate how a leader’s behaviors and attitudes can change and influence the performance of subordinates, and how a subordinate’s behaviors and attitudes, on the other hand, can also have an impact on the leader’s performance.
His study (Herold, 1977) was framed under a theory that is potentially similar to the lLeader-member exchange model but dated even before the model, a theory that was put forth by Hollander and Julian (Hollander and Julian, 1969). In their theory (Hollander and Julian, 1969), they argue that the interaction between leaders and members is just like a social influence process in which several factors might each play a role and both sides might be influenced by each other’s contribution. In Herold’s study (Herold, 1977), 96 male undergraduate students from Yale University were recruited for the study: they were divided into 32 small groups with 3 in a group; within a group, it consistedthere consists of both leaders and members.
The leader was designed to have the control of the member’s payment, while the member’s performance might also influence the leader’s bonus payment. As a result of the interactive performance between the leaders and members, Herold found that an effective and powerful leader will encourage, either implicitly or explicitly, therefore, the member to continue to strive for the better results in the way which will bring him an approval. In this case, in regard to thethe case of the experimental setting, such approval will also both increase the bonus payment of the leaders and members, which in turn results in a win-win situation. A powerful and effective leader, in this sense, is demonstrated by the leader’s ability to send out powerful or supportive messages to the members, as well as the leader’s ability to adjust to different situations where member’s abilities and attitudes vary. Hence, Herold’s old study supports the general consensus among the proponents of the lLeader-mMember eExchange model that a supportive and interactive relationship between leaders and members will yield more positive outcomes for both sides. Though one might say that the experimental design and the findings of Herold’s old study can support the statement, there is one minor issue with his study: the gender issue. In his study, only male students have been recruited to participate.
However, I am not here to question exactly why it is the case or whether the study or experimenter himself may posemight some form of gender discrimination: all of these will be put aside in my discussion. In fact, I am more concerned with the implications of such a sample where there are only male participants. A real-world working environment consists of members and leaders from both sexes, and it is possible that there might be a female leader in charge of a whole group of male members, or there is a male leader who is in charge of a whole group of female members. Hence, the gender difference between different combinations might also bring out different nuances and dynamics in the working environment, which by no means can be reduced to the male-male leader-member relationship. Furthermore, hHow one deals with male or female leaders might vary; similarly, how one deals with male or female members might also vary. Hence, the only issue I have with the study is that, though it supports the statement through a very interesting empirical study, its limitation in selecting its participant actually harms its credibility.The above study that is discussed was conducted in a laboratory setting by observing participants’ behaviors, resultingwhich results in severalsome inherent limitations it has.
For instanceHowever, there are numerous other studies that are either conducted in a real-world working environment, or conducted by data collection and analysis. For instance, Melissa Harrell (Harrell, 2008) from the University of Central Florida did her PhD dissertation on the relationship between leader’s behavior and the follower’s motivation and thus performance. In conducting a vast amount of general survey, she found that the results of her surveys indicate a robust positive relationship between a leader’s attention and consideration for the followers and thus the follower’s motivation and performance. This study wasin important in the sense that Harrell wasis able to pin down one of the potential mediations between a leader’s consideration or other supportive behaviors and a follower’s performance. And in this sense, the particular mediation being identified wasis the follower’s motivation. It’s implication on future studies in the similar areas or with similar interests is that, for those leaders who are interested in motivating their members, and thus interested in improvinge their subsequence performance, they mustcan try to focus on supportive behaviors such as the attention and consideration they provide tofor their followers.
Above, Melissa has pointed out how a supportive leader behavior in the interactive leader-member relationship can help boost the motivation of the members. If we are now to examine the statement from a broader organizational level, there are also other studies that can support the statement indirectly. The ultimate reason as to why an effective leader who can effectively and powerfully engage and interact with his or her members is needed, is that it would eventually bring a better outcome for the company or corporate in general. And hHence, I believe one way to assess whether such a leadership that does a better job in communicating and engaging with employees is indeed an effective leadership, is to assess such a leadership in relation to both,with the employee’s performance and the companyies’ performance.
As Yukl has pointed out in his book, effective leadership plays a crucial role in contributing to the performance of the followers as well as the whole organization (Yukl, 2002). For instance, in Raymond Loi and his colleagues’ collegues’s study (Loi et al, 2011), they study the influence on the leader-member exchange on the members’ perceived job security and thus their altruism and work performance. In conducting their study, they collected data from 184 different employees in a state-owned enterprise in China. What they found is that the stronger the leader-member exchange is, the higher the employee’s altruism and the better their work performance is.
Before discussing as to why I think Raymond Loi and his colleagues’collegues’s study (Loi et al, 2011) is intriguing and important, probably particularly for employees and leaders in China, I will first discuss another related but different study that wasis also conducted in China. Wing Chow and his colleaguescollegues (Chow, Fung and Yue,1999) conducted a study to investigate the reasons for job turnover in Shanghai, China. What they found, interestinglywhich seems rather interesting to me, is that employees in Shanghai would rather turn over job offers from state-owned or Chinese-owned companies and choose more international joint ventures or small firms. The biggest reason as to why this phenomenon occurshappens is that employees believe they can enjoy that there is much more flexibility and personal interaction they can enjoy in those international joint ventures or small firms. They also think that international joint ventures or small firms will free them from rigid administrative control and impersonal interference.
; Mmoreover, employeesthey also believe that international joint ventures or small firms will be more attentive and engaging to their employees’ needs and thus provide better administration in terms of policies to provide a better work environment that will eventually result in a better work performance (Warner, 1995).Having discussed the relationship between perceived leader-member exchange in a work environment and the job turnover case in China, I will now go back to the previous study that wasis conducted on a in state-owned enterprise in China. In most cases, at least several years ago, a state-owned enterprise in China wasis considered as anthe “iron bowl” which evokesindicates the notion of job security, despite its impersonal treatment of employees and rigid policies. But what is suggested by Raymond Loi and his colleague’s study (Loi et al, 2011) is that more and more employees in China, who have a history of caring more about job security than any other factors, have now also realized the positive side of leader-member exchange in relation to their overall work performance and mental health. This will in turn shed some light on how some state-owned enterprises might want to reform their policies to make their leader-member relationship more personal and interactive, and less rigid.
In conclusion, I have argued and demonstrated in this paper that an effective leadership depends on the ability to engage and interact with others at work to achieve a goal, by discussing both theoretical and empirical studies and their findings. I have also paid special attention to the those indirect empirical studies that can support the importance of effective leadership in work performance.