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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 4, August 2011, Pages 666–679
Regardless of the quality of the decisions, teams that fail to effectively implement their decisions have accomplished nothing. Teams that derive decisions through a conflictual process may find that their members lack commitment to their decision due to the nature of the conflict the team experienced. This is where a team leader can play a critical role. The central aim of this laboratory study was to examine how leader behaviors can influence member commitment to team generated decisions via their impact on group conflict. Our study examined teams led by individuals who displayed charismatic-oriented behaviors, teams led by individuals who acted simply as pragmatic leaders, and teams whose members shared leadership. Consistent with our assertions, our findings indicate that pragmatic leaders were most effective at encouraging the highest levels of member commitment to team generated decisions through their restraint of dysfunctional forms of conflict during the decision-making process.
The proper use of the decision-making process requires dialectical interaction or conflict among the members of the group. The literature recognizes a conceptual distinction between two types of conflict. Task conflict arises through the discussion and debate of member preferences or opinions regarding the tasks at hand. If managed properly, this kind of conflict can be potentially productive in the sense that it can encourage exploration of many possible solutions before a final decision is reached (Amason, 1996). On the other hand, relationship conflict is most typically counterproductive given that its focus is on people rather than ideas (Jehn, 1995). That is, disagreements become personalized which damages trust and communication among team members (Janssen et al., 1999). The challenge then for decision-making teams is to manage productive levels of task conflict without triggering relationship conflict (Mooney et al., 2007). It is important to note that while the researched has delineated these two types of conflict and have generally concurred that emotional conflict is negative, less agreement has been reached on the nature of task conflict. For example, in their meta-analysis, De Dreu and Weingart (2003) found that both task conflict and relationship conflict were negatively associated with team performance. This is in line with scholars who have suggested that the initial benefits of conflict quickly diminish as it intensifies and reduces group cohesion (cf., Tekleab, Quigley, and Tesluk (2009). On the other hand, a second view espouses the positive side of task conflict. According to this view, task conflict has a positive association with group outcomes like cohesion via the exercise of voice in team decision making (cf., Tekleab et al., 2009). However, it is acknowledged that this relationship exists only when emotional conflict is constrained and does not spill over from task conflict (Amason, 1996). Several researchers have suggested that task conflict can trigger relationship conflict when task disagreements are perceived as personal criticism or disrespect (Amason, 1996 and Medina et al., 2005). Relationship conflict can also arise as a result of behavioral manifestations of negative emotions. In other words, this occurs when, in response to aroused anger, individual group members engage in aggressive behavior, ranging from slightly cynical comments to direct personal attacks (Wall & Callister, 1995). Of course relationship conflict can escalate when anger and aggressive behavior are reciprocated (Brett, Shapiro, & Lytle, 1998). The question of concern to this study is—how might different styles of leader behavior differ in their ability to manage conflict and ultimately maximize commitment to team generated decisions? 1.1. Leadership behaviors, conflict and decision commitment Charismatic leadership theories (Bass, 1985) propose that a leader can achieve superior performance by modifying followers' needs and values. One particular element associated with charismatic leader behavior relates to the role of emotion. The role of emotion is connected to the ability of charisma to make esteem needs salient among the group. Under a charismatic leader, the followers' self-concepts are linked to the leader, the group's task and the group. This has the effect of harnessing the motivational force of self-esteem, self-worth and self-enhancement which make followers' efforts and goals more meaningful (Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 2000). In addition to engaging followers' self-concepts (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993), charismatic leaders can also impact followers through the emotional attachment they build with followers (Gardner & Avolio, 1998). Consistent with Bass's (1985) observation, while pragmatic leaders focus on the rational or exchange basis of the leader–follower relationship, charismatic leaders emphasize the emotional basis of this relationship. In line with that aspect, behaviors are aimed at increasing the intrinsic value of follower effort and goal accomplishment. Specific behaviors include expressing high expectations for followers to raise their self-esteem as well as expressing positive emotions to motivate followers (cf., Johnson, 2008 and Connelly et al., 2002). Such positive affect can be communicated through the content of the leader's speech as well as through nonverbal leader behavior (Ashkanasy & Tse, 2000) and can facilitate the spread of affect to followers through emotional contagion (Johnson, 2008). Emotional contagion has been investigated as one method by which leader affect can impact follower affect (Johnson, 2008 and Sy et al., 2005). Emotional contagion has been defined as the automatic and unconscious transfer of emotion between individuals (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1992) that can occur as a result of the target individual mimicking the expressions or behaviors of others and subsequently experiencing the emotion that is being mimicked (Chartrant & Bargh, 1999). A number of recent research studies have found evidence that emotional contagion is the conduit through which leader affect can impact follower affect. For example, in her recent field study, Johnson (2008) found that leader affect at work was associated with follower affect via the mechanism of emotional contagion. Similarly, Sy et al. (2005) found that team leaders' moods influenced team members' moods and impacted the affective tone of the group. The salience of the self-concept suggests that group members will not only fight harder for their positions, they are also more likely to interpret criticism of their positions as a form of a personal attack. Making the need for esteem salient will encourage participants to become more personally sensitive to criticism. A perceived threat to one's self-image is likely to trigger relationship conflict as the individual attempts to repair a wounded self-image (Lazarus, 1993). This is much less likely to happen under where leaders display more emotion-neutral behaviors. In a work team context, we suggest that a leader who largely acts as a pragmatic leader and does not engage esteem needs of his followers will consequently bring less risk of triggering relationship conflict (Kotlyar & Karakowsky, 2006). Pragmatic leader behaviors, as opposed to the charismatic-related behavior mentioned above, avoid making member ego or self-image salient. Such behaviors are simply focused on assisting the team through the decision-making process though focusing on adherence to the rules of the game rather than on stimulating ego or emotions. This can reduce instances of aggression and hostility by discouraging such behaviors, reprimanding inappropriate, emotionally-driven outbreaks and by clearly specifying the rules of conduct (Brett et al., 1998). In addition, this reduces reciprocation of aggression. For example, the pragmatic leader focuses on reminding members of their superordinate goal(s) (Eisenhardt, 1999), their common group membership, and their mutual dependence on each other (Pruitt & Rubin, 1986). Given the nature and role of the pragmatic leader behaviors, group members are likely to perceive little need to escalate conflict since the leader's explicit job is to enforce fair rules of conduct. Pragmatic leader behavior focuses on facilitating team discussions via the implementation of rules and guidance. Actions of a group leader that promote certain rules of conduct and manage expectations of group members regarding the process can serve to reduce the level of frustration in group interactions. For example, rules of conduct may include the following: listen to others' ideas respectfully, without interrupting or making cynical comments; if failed to see the essence of others' arguments, seek clarification but do not use judgmental or “set-up” questions; critique ideas, but do not criticize individuals; challenge others' assumptions, but do not challenge their integrity, intelligence, or motives (Tjosvold, 1993). In this situation, making group members aware of the source of their arousal (i.e., reducing the likelihood of misattribution) can reduce the intensity of the emotion they experience (Schwarz & Clore, 1983). A leader can do this by explaining to the group members that it is normal to experience a sense of frustration and physical arousal when engaged in a dialectical interaction. Our study also considers shared leadership situations—i.e., decision-making teams who operate without a leader and examine the impact of this on conflict and commitment in those teams. These are teams that simply report to an external facilitator or a consultant/advisor who is largely limited to inviting group members to take responsibility for their actions (Wageman, 1997) and encouraging them to lead themselves (Manz & Sims, 1987). Those facilitators often act as a non-invasive resource for the team instead of becoming directly involved in the team's task (Cohen et al., 1996 and Morgeson, 2005). In our view, one consequence of this approach is that the shared leadership teams do not afford the same level of defense from relationship conflict as do pragmatic leader behaviors. Rather the team is guided by shared leadership and this kind of leadership may lead to difference consequences with regard to team conflict generated. We predict that relationship conflict will likely rise to disproportionately high levels because of the lack of a formal leader's willingness to impose concrete procedures on the group. The lack of involvement on the part of an external facilitator can create uncertainty over procedural direction and, thus, can contribute an additional source of conflict over the appropriate procedure to be used (Jehn, Chadwick, & Thatscher, 1997). Conflict over procedures tends to be dysfunctional (Jehn et al., 1997), and it can be particularly unproductive when perceived uncertainty exists over procedures for using structured conflict techniques. Moreover, once relationship conflict is sparked, a self-managed group may not be well equipped for containing conflict (Langfred, 2007). There is no formally assigned leader to interfere in a conflict among group members, even in those situations where task conflict appears to degenerate into relationship conflict. Consistent with the arguments above, we assert that pragmatic leader behaviors will tend to be more effective at restraining relationship conflict and its damaging effects on commitment to the team decisions compared to teams who have shared leadership. Similarly, we assert that pragmatic leader behaviors are also more capable of restraining relationship conflict compared to charismatic leader behaviors—but for different reasons. One can argue that the central features of pragmatic leader behaviors, including the establishment and reinforcement of explicit conflict generation goals, strengthen its management of relationship conflict in the team. Pragmatic leader behaviors, compared to charismatic-oriented and shared-leader behaviors, will likely be more effective at disconnecting the junctures at which task conflict can be transmitted into relationship conflict. The ego-engaging features of charismatic leader behaviors, and the “hands-off” aspect of shared leader behaviors, suggest that both these styles are likely to achieve less success in avoiding the triggers for relationship conflict. This in turn suggests that behaviors reflective of the pragmatic leader style will be more successful at attaining higher levels of member commitment to team generated decisions. Since these teams have not suffered from the dysfunctional effects of relationship conflict, they are much more likely to support the decision that has been reached by group efforts. The above arguments can be summarized in the following two hypotheses: Hypothesis 1. Pragmatic leader behavior will generate lower levels of relationship conflict compared to behaviors reflective of charismatic-oriented and shared leadership. Hypothesis 2. Pragmatic leader behavior will generate higher levels of member commitment to a team generated decision compared to behaviors reflective of charismatic-oriented and shared leadership.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
It is important to point out several critical limitations of our study. First, as we acknowledged above, our findings are weak—and only partly supported. We endeavored to explore an area of leadership research that has largely been ignored. Our study serves largely as an initial attempt to discern possible differences in leadership behaviors on team conflict. Trying to simulate leadership behaviors, particularly those reflective of the charismatic style, is fraught with challenges. Our study attempted to capture several leader behaviors that are fundamentally characteristic of three styles of leadership. However, our manipulation check failed to reveal significant differences among members in their reported perception of these behaviors. Consequently, our manipulation check was limited to a confirmation of the face validity of our manipulations. In the future, a different form of manipulation check should be used, and one that allows for an accurate comparison among the leadership conditions (e.g., video- tape groups' deliberations). In addition, even within the confines of our laboratory study it is difficult to isolate those behaviors that are solely the domain of each leadership style. For example, pragmatic leader leaders engage in forms of goal setting and the facilitation of self-efficacy, both of which are also reflected in the behaviors modeled by charismatic-oriented leaders. This is an area that future researchers must grapple with in efforts to move such research forward. A number of other limitations of this study restrict the generalizability of our results. First, groups worked within a short-term, limited duration and were composed of undergraduate students as subjects who, compared to real-life decision makers, tend to have less experience in making complicated organizational decisions. However, it is difficult to predict how this limitation impacts the pattern of results. With respect to the role of conflict in decision making, students are commonly used for studying decision-making groups (Jehn & Mannix, 2001), and the results obtained in the laboratory tend to be similar to those obtained in the field (e.g., Amason, 1996). In addition to these groups being temporary in nature, the members also may have been influence by the fact that they likely would not work together in the future. Consequently, conflict could have also been mitigated by factors such as the expectation of working together in the future. It is also difficult to speculate as to how this may influence groups in our study. Knowing that they would not be working together in the future may have made individuals feel less inhibited from exhibiting aggressive behaviors. A second factor limiting the generalizability of our study is the use of only male leaders. Given the potentially important role of gender in group dynamics and leadership, it would be useful to replicate this research using female group leaders. Our results indicated that not all groups equally adopted the structured conflict process. Specifically, as mentioned above, the teams operating under shared leadership apparently followed instructions to a lesser degree than the teams led by pragmatic leader and charismatic-oriented leaders. Future research needs to examine this discrepancy. While this raises some question regarding the interpretability of our results, it may be unavoidable. For example, the nature of the shared leadership groups could be such that these groups felt less guided compared to groups with a formally assigned leader (be it charismatic-oriented or pragmatic leader). The very nature of these roles could account for the differences in the degree of adoption of the conflict methodology. Consequently, some differences in conflict exhibited may be due to the failure to completely apply the conflict methodology, which is a secondary consequence of being in a group operating under shared leadership. The central aim of the present study was to examine how leadership behaviors can influence the nature and level of conflict and commitment generated in the team context. Future studies should attempt to further discern the characteristics of the different leadership styles with regard to their differential impact on conflict. Future research is also needed to test the underlying mechanism or link between leader behavior and conflict. We did not directly test the potential drivers of this link—esteem needs, ego or identity. Consistent with Burke et al.'s (2006) observation, there is a need to develop a greater understanding of the link between leader behaviors and team performance outcomes, including behavioral or cognitive outcomes. It is our hope that this study will spark future research efforts aimed at more fully exploring these relationships.