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No leader is an island: contextual antecedents to line managers' constructive and destructive leadership during an organizational intervention

Robert Lundmark (Department of Psychology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden) (LIME, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden)
Karina Nielsen (Institute of Work Psychology, The University of Sheffield Management School, Sheffield, UK)
Henna Hasson (LIME, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden)
Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz (School of Health, Care and Social welfare, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden) (LIME, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden)
Susanne Tafvelin (Department of Psychology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 7 April 2020

Issue publication date: 16 April 2020

806

Abstract

Purpose

Line managers can make or break organizational interventions, yet little is known about what makes them turn in either direction. As leadership does not occur in a vacuum, it has been suggested that the organizational context plays an important role. Building on the intervention and leadership literature, we examine if span of control and employee readiness for change are related to line managers' leadership during an organizational intervention.

Design/methodology/approach

Leadership is studied in terms of intervention-specific constructive, as well as passive and active forms of destructive, leadership behaviors. As a sample, we use employees (N = 172) from 37 groups working at a process industry plant. Multilevel analyses over two time points, with both survey and organizational register data were used to analyze the data.

Findings

The results revealed that span of control was negatively related to constructive leadership and positively related to passive destructive leadership during the intervention. Employee readiness for change was positively related to constructive leadership, and negatively related to both passive and active destructive leadership.

Practical implications

Our findings suggest that contextual factors need to be assessed and considered if we want line managers to engage in constructive rather than destructive leadership during interventions.

Originality/value

The present study is the first to address line managers' making or breaking of organizational interventions by examining the influence of context on both their destructive and constructive leadership.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the organization and the employees who participated in the study. We are also grateful to the consutants Mikal Björkstöm and Maria Eliasson for helping us with the data collection. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) [grant 2012-0215] and the Karolinska Institutet Board of Doctoral Education [KID funding 3-1818/2013].

Citation

Lundmark, R., Nielsen, K., Hasson, H., von Thiele Schwarz, U. and Tafvelin, S. (2020), "No leader is an island: contextual antecedents to line managers' constructive and destructive leadership during an organizational intervention", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 173-188. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJWHM-05-2019-0065

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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