Who’s the boss? Evaluating charismatic, considerate and autocratic styles of leadership

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 26 February 2020

Issue publication date: 14 January 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to review the latest management developments across the globe and pinpoint practical implications from cutting-edge research and case studies.

Design/methodology/approach

This briefing is prepared by an independent writer who adds his/her own impartial comments and places the articles in context.

Findings

When it comes to leadership styles, people invariably think of “who” rather than “how.” If, for example, a leader adopts a charismatic style, they then become synonymous with that style, or are compared with someone famous with a similar way of leading, such as Sir Richard Branson. This can be problematic, however, for a number of reasons. Firstly, while Branson has a high media profile and comes across on TV as charismatic, few people know if this is actually his leadership style in the Virgin group of companies he owns. And secondly, what is actually meant by charismatic leadership and what its strengths and weaknesses are get lost in the focus on personality.

Practical implications

This paper provides strategic insights and practical thinking that have influenced some of the world’s leading organizations.

Originality/value

The briefing saves busy executives and researchers hours of reading time by selecting only the very best, most pertinent information and presenting it in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.

Keywords

Citation

(2021), "Who’s the boss? Evaluating charismatic, considerate and autocratic styles of leadership", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 26-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLO-11-2019-0270

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited


Review

When it comes to leadership styles, people invariably think of “who” rather than “how.” If, for example, a leader adopts a charismatic style, they then become synonymous with that style, or are compared with someone famous with a similar way of leading, such as Sir Richard Branson. This can be problematic, however, for a number of reasons. Firstly, while Branson has a high media profile and comes across on TV as charismatic, few people know if this is actually his leadership style in the Virgin group of companies he owns. And secondly, what is actually meant by charismatic leadership and what its strengths and weaknesses are get lost in the focus on personality.

When it comes to understanding leadership, the focus should really be purely on efficacy. The whole point of a leader in the first place is that they are able to give an organization some direction, be the person with ultimate responsibility for corporate activities and develop team performance. The latter point in particular all too often gets lost as too much responsibility gets heaped on a leader by the team whose performance they are supposed to be improving. Whether a leader is a charismatic Sir Richard Branson, a considerate Barack Obama or a dictatorial Steve Jobs, they should ultimately be judged on how effective their personality traits enable them to be in leading an organization, and not on their personalities alone.

Split personalities

Assessing this effectiveness is the clear aim stated by the research team of Chieh-Peng Lin, Chu-Chun Wang, Shih-Chih Chen and Jui-Yu Chen in their article “Modeling leadership and team performance: The mediation of collective efficacy and the moderation of team justice” (2019). In their investigation the authors look specifically at considerate, dictatorial and charismatic types of leadership to understand their actual impact on team performance, rather than relying on psychological theory.

In doing so, the first decision they make is to disregard perhaps the two most popular styles of leadership, which are transformational and transactional. They do this as the former has been well studied and tends to encompass too many other traits, including the three that are the focus of their research. In addition, the latter is seen as inappropriate for a discussion about modern management techniques, and not suitable for the context of the study which is sales teams based in a large bank holding company in Taiwan.

Theories of leadership

The next step for the research team was to define the three leadership styles they studied, but also to look at the wider contexts of these styles and what factors control them. This involves defining some specific concepts, and they start with social cognitive theory, which says that some of people’s learning comes directly from observing others in the context of social interactions and experiences, including those gained through the media and other outside influences. Secondly, the concept of social exchange theory is also utilized, and this states that there is a cost-benefit analysis that goes on between any two parties regarding their relationship. When it comes to teams, this involves the notion of team justice which can moderate the relationship in positive or negative ways.

Finally, the authors use the concept of collective efficacy, which is the idea that a team’s members will have shared beliefs in their ability to affect the motivations and actions required to maintain team performance. Putting all this together, the research team want to how charismatic, autocratic and considerate leadership styles impact on collective efficacy in terms of team performance, and what moderating influence team justice has on all of these relationships.

Testing times

These theories were tested on insurance sales teams from a Taiwanese bank holding company, where over 50 team leaders and 300 team members answered questionnaires designed to measure the theories and their applications detailed above. In summary, the results were very mixed. The results showed that, while most of the relationships were proven to have a positive effect, three did not. These were that collective efficacy does not influence the role autocratic leadership styles have on team performance, and that team justice does not influence the role either autocratic or considerate leadership styles have on collective efficacy.

So, what does this mean for existing and would-be leaders in terms of the style they should adopt to get the most out of their teams? Firstly, the study showed that a charismatic leadership style had a positive impact on collective efficacy compared to the negative impact considerate leadership had. In other words, when it comes to the notion of teams working together to maintain and improve performance, a charismatic leader is more effective at driving this forward. This is perhaps bad news for some leaders, as adopting a charismatic style is probably harder than any other style if an individual is not naturally charismatic, although some studies do suggest it is possible.

Leading with style

A second key implication from the research is that, while a leader could and should focus on a more charismatic style of leadership, they should not overlook the important influences within teams, such as the notion of collective efficacy. By focusing on team members and their individual needs as part of a wider team ethic, and pointing it towards shared goals and purpose, they can help improve the collective efficacy of a team in performing at a higher level.

Finally, the study also shows that team justice is important in acknowledging the idea of fairness throughout the team, as well as reducing the dependence on a leader of there is a very strong sense of team justice. In such a scenario, team members will be more pro-active and feel safer in their environment, and as such will perform better. In other words, the wasted effort that goes into office politics and team disharmony can go into more positive activities instead.

Comment

The article “Modeling leadership and team performance: The mediation of collective efficacy and the moderation of team justice” (2019) by Lin et al is a genuine attempt to test which leadership style is the best one. While this is only in the context of sales teams in a Taiwanese bank, and as such cultural factors will be at play, it does show that a charismatic style of leadership is the optimum one, while an autocratic style is perhaps least effective. Such findings should be of interest to all leaders and at least give them pause for thought about their own style and how it could be improved for the benefit of overall team performance.

Reference

Lin, C.-P., Wang, C.-C., Chen, S.-C. and Chen, J.-Y. (2019), “Modeling leadership and team performance: the mediation of collective efficacy and the moderation of team justice,” Personnel Review, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 471-491.