The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between the leadership style of a chief audit executive (CAE) and the perceived effectiveness of the internal…
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between the leadership style of a chief audit executive (CAE) and the perceived effectiveness of the internal auditing (IA) function that he/she leads. Perceived IA effectiveness is based on identified attributes in the literature influencing IA effectiveness. The aim of this paper is thus to expand the IA effectiveness debate by adding individual differences in CAEs’ leadership styles as a research focus.
A quantitative approach is followed. A survey was conducted on a sample of 58 IA students enrolled in a master’s degree programme at a South African university; all students hold senior positions in IA.
The study confirms that the CAE leadership style significantly influences the identified attributes of perceived IA effectiveness. It further shows that the traditional conceptualisation of leadership (as transformational, transactional and/or laissez-faire) might not be appropriate for or compatible with leaders of professional teams in a regulated environment.
Practically, the study identifies and explores attributes influencing IA effectiveness that are within the purview of the CAE’s leadership style and within his/her ability to influence. This information could (re)direct leadership development training programmes presented in industry and by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and at organisational level, it could inform appointment and retention and succession practices for heads of and senior management in IA.
CAEs are cautioned about the limitations imposed by laissez-faire leadership on IA effectiveness. They should strive to become both transformative and transactional leaders as it has a significant influence on the effectiveness of their IA functions, and by being more effective, they can demonstrate the value proposition of IA. Organisations need to create the environment in which CAEs can act as transformational and transactional leaders. The IIA, as the pre-eminent professional body, could become involved in developing leadership skills of its members. The IIA could provide guidance on leadership styles for CAEs and could also offer formal training initiatives to internal auditors on skills needed to lead IA teams.
This paper may open a new research area in IA effectiveness by focussing on the role and leadership qualities of the CAE.