University of New Hampshire
The Effect of Leadership Style on Performance Improvement on a Manufacturing Task
In spite of the considerable amount of empirical work that has been conducted on leadership, there has been no research published to date that has used an experimental methodology to investigate the effect of leadership style on followers’ performance improvement on a manufacturing task over time. In view of the recent attention given to continuous improvement as a means of achieving improved competitiveness, it would be useful to explore the effect of leadership style on the improvement of follower performance over time. This article reports the results of a study that investigates the effect of leadership style on the qualitative and quantitative performance of a manufacturing task over a series of four trials. Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory is used as a framework to develop a model that might explain the psychological mechanism whereby leadership produces its effect on followers. A growing amount of empirical evidence points to the power of Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory in explaining behavior in organizations (Frayne and Latham 1987; Gist 1987; Gist, Schwoerer, and Rosen 1989; Latham and Frayne 1989; Wood and Bandura 1989; Bandura and Jourden 1991; Saks 1995). According to Bandura (1986, p. 12), ‘‘People are neither autonomous agents nor mechanical conveyors of animating environmental factors.’’ Instead, human behavior is best understood when viewed as a reciprocal system of causality where personal characteristics, environmental factors, and be( Journal of Business, 1999, vol. 72, no. 3) © 1999 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0021-9398/99/7203-0005$02.50 407
A three-factor, repeated-measures experiment tested the effect of leadership style (charismatic, structuring, and considerate) on performance improvement on a manufacturing task over four trials. Findings from a repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance indicated that individuals exposed to considerate leadership had superior initial performance but that this difference faded over time. Further analysis indicated that self-efﬁcacy fully mediated the relationship between leadership style and performance.
Journal of Business
havior operate through cognitive self-regulatory mechanisms as interacting determinants of each other. The self-regulatory mechanism of self-efﬁcacy, or the individual’s belief that he or she can accomplish a task, has been found to be affected by external factors such as training and to be linked with work outcomes such as employee attendance (Frayne and Latham 1987; Latham and Frayne 1989) and management decision making (Bandura and Jourden 1991). Among other sources of self-efﬁcacy, Bandura (1986) advances the notion that employees can be persuaded that they possess the ability to accomplish tasks. According to Bandura, managers as well as supervisors differ in their ability to persuade followers that they possess the ability to accomplish tasks. This difference in the persuasive ability of managers is often referred to as leadership ability or style. Hence, the leadership style that a manager possesses is expected to affect the selfefﬁcacy of the manager’s followers and, therefore, the performance of those followers. In this study, charismatic leadership is compared with both structuring and considerate leadership styles. The structuring leadership style is one that focuses on the task at hand. It emphasizes such behaviors as maintaining standards and meeting deadlines. Considerate leadership involves exhibiting concern for the welfare of the other members of the group by expressing appreciation for good work, stressing the importance of job satisfaction, maintaining and strengthening the selfesteem of subordinates by treating them as equals, and making special efforts to help subordinates feel at ease (Bass 1990). Leaders who display...