From our ‘80% Percent is Psychology’ session, Wednesday, January 16th, 2019. Thanks all for the great discussions!
Force causes counter-force; and transactional leadership likely results in compliance only; It is transformational leadership based on inspiration and collaboration that increases most follower’s involvement and true commitment.
It is not the acquisition of power (whether it be positional or personal), but the mindset through which it is employed which determines the nature and effectiveness of leadership.
Agile leaders are able to cope with uncertainty and complex issues. Based on self-awareness, they are willing to ask for help and transfer experiences and values to different areas of the business, which is inspiring and developing others too.
Representativeness posits that leaders need to demonstrate how they are similar to their followers and then succeed by representing the values of the group. Leaders themselves may be required to adapt to followers to ensure continued representation.
Leadership and follower diversity is an important contributor to organization’s success (DuBrin, 2016). Unfortunately, gender stereotypes still cause a preference for men in ‘power’ roles. •Acceptance of inequality doesn’t stem from a passive stance, but rather an active endorsement that allows to justify and perpetuate the status quo.
System Justification Theory (SJT) states that an underlying ideology is motivating the justification of social order in a way that contributes to the often-unconscious belief of inferiority most strongly among individuals of underprivileged groups. Although it is a myth that Western Societies are characterized by equality of opportunity, studies found that a majority’s belief in equality helps to justify a meritocratic ideology, i.e., that it is, given we all start with the same possibilities, fair that individual differences are rewarded. The motive to legitimize economic inequality is further blocking critical thinking capacities with severe consequences for the economic and psychological well-being of marginalized persons (Godfrey & Wolf, 2015).
It’s a good description for Authentic Leadership too: “Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘nothing’ for you.” – Mother Teresa
The paradox of the disadvantaged justifying authoritarian systems
It can seem paradoxical that people often justify the existing social system even when this comes at personal and collective costs . System Justification Theory (SJT) provides a framework to understand what the motives and contexts behind this phenomenon are . SJT posits that an underlying ideology is motivating the justification of social order in a way that contributes to the often-unconscious belief of inferiority most strongly among individuals of underprivileged groups . It is not just passivity that gives way to the dominance of political elites . Psychological and ideological processes related to resistance to change imply that albeit possible, change is often difficult . Change is especially difficult if there is an ideological system in place that pronounces an authoritarian culture of inequality that, according to SJT, tends to reinforce itself as a ‘culture of justification’ . The association of a nation with God further strengthens people’s confidence to justify the system .
Exposure to threat causes conservative shift
The political notion of discussion is persuasion  and SJT can be used to influence voters’ viewpoints. Studies found that people who were exposed to thoughts related to death became more supportive of conservative perspectives . Exposure to threat, e.g. in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, indicated a possible shift towards increased approval rates for President George W. Bush . Protests, from a socio-psychological perspective, are triggered by perceived injustice and related anger, social identification, and the faith in collective action. However, existential and relational needs for security can undermine these change antecedents . Following this logic, employees, for example, show an enhanced tendency to deny flaws at their workplace especially in times of scarce labor markets .
System justification impedes critical consciousness
Although it is a myth that Western Societies are characterized by equality of opportunity, studies found that a majority’s belief in equality helps to justify a meritocratic ideology, i.e., that it is, given we all start with the same possibilities, fair that individual differences are rewarded. The motive to legitimize economic inequality is further blocking critical thinking capacities with severe consequences for the economic and psychological well-being of marginalized persons . System threat defense mechanisms related to SJT, such as victim blaming, stereotyping, and inequality legitimization, can help reduce emotional anguish. However, the victims of a justified crisis often have to pay a high price for it ; a price that may be higher in the long-term than the price of protest to achieve positive change.
The role of psychologists in policymaking
It is essential to understand individuals’ view of the salience and scope of systems as they might be system justifiers of varying degrees related to different systems . Also, one must be aware of how ideologies are advocated and reinforced, e.g., through political and societal structures. Psychologists should work in interdisciplinary teams together with policymakers to remove change-averse infrastructure and untrap citizens from the psychological barrier of system justification .
Should system justification be used by organizational leaders to evoke desirable behavior?
First, according to different missions of organizations (e.g., to generate profit, or to grow a movement, etc.), desirable behavior might differ too. Second, I think, even if the behavior of the employees is desirable, a responsible leader should be concerned about how this behavior is created. As system justification is a mostly unconscious and automatic psychological response to threat , it might not be the best basis to maintain desirable behavior sustainably. It may also be difficult to evaluate whether the lack of awareness is protective of the employees’ well-being or whether there are possible indirect taxes to consider. Rationalizing away inequalities to defense the status quo may seem to support fearful individuals . However, being in control in one area may hinder progress in other areas. For example, studies found that women retaining power in their traditional household role prevented them from claiming more equality at the workplace . Possibly not the best outcome for the women and the organization as workforce diversity may be useful for the innovation capacity of organizations in many cases . As system justification works based on personal fear and lack of self-esteem, it is, for example, causing narcissistic personalities to justify hierarchy in the case they believe to benefit from it personally, i.e., having the chance to rise to the top . I could often observe adverse outcomes related to selfish reasons and hidden agendas. Therefore, in summary, I would foster desirable behavior through increasing awareness and reward informed and transparent efforts towards desired outcomes.
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In an increasingly interdependent world, global leadership understanding for international collaboration  is vital for the development of cross-cultural leadership . This essay provides some hints on what might be determining leadership prototype’s effectiveness from different global perspectives .
Universal and culture-specific features of transformational leadership
Transformational leadership facilitates change through shared vision, intellectual stimulation, and support of individual’s aspirations  and is therefore essential for solving contemporary threats that require change . Social change movements need to be put into the context of globalization . The effectiveness of general transformational leadership was found a cross-culturally valid concept . For example, transformational leaders were able to motivate their followers independent of cultural context . In contrast, the desirability and effectiveness of transactional leadership turned out to be culture-dependent . On a more detailed level, also transformational leadership contains some culture-sensitive aspects . For example, enabling others to act and challenging the process appeared to be culture independent, while inspiration through shared vision and showing the way was negatively correlated to cultural values such as uncertainty avoidance .
Societal and cultural beliefs and values
Following the rationale and evidence that the concept of leadership has to be understood against the backdrop of social, historical, and cultural context , what are these factors then? Leadership literature has been criticized for being US-centric . Indeed, 98 percent of leadership concepts stem from Western values and don’t assume a cross-cultural view . As change involves setting goals , and as beliefs about goals represent values, it becomes clear that leadership is not decoupled from the social and cultural context . Consequently, subordinates may respond differently according to their cultural value orientation . For example, while, besides a charismatic leadership style, a participative leadership dimension is most important in the US, Latin America prioritizes team-orientation, and Eastern Europe scored highest in team-oriented and human-oriented aspects . According to the implicit theory of leadership, the bedrock of leadership is how a certain style like transformational leadership gets implicitly meaningful and fine-tuned by the cultural endorsement of values such as, for example, collectivism/individualism, power distance, and level of context .
Global leadership understanding for international collaboration
Despite significant differences measured on national mean levels, individual differences shouldn’t be forgotten when examining cross-cultural differences . Especially power distance orientation has proven to provide a better individual-level measure than individualism/collectivism as the central cultural value . Power distance orientation describes the degree of acceptance and expectation of unequally distributed power [19, 20]. For example, emotional commitment to a transformational leader was higher among followers low in power distance . Beyond national culture, there are even more relevant variables, such as politics, language, feminine and masculine tendencies, and organizational culture . Person-job fit was fund to mediate inclusive leadership and employee well-being . In an increasingly interdependent world, global leadership understanding for international collaboration  is vital for the development of cross-cultural leadership . This essay provided some hints on what might be determining leadership prototype’s effectiveness from different global perspectives .
photo credit: geralt (pixabay.com)
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Men have made millions of laws to punish crimes, and they have not established even one to reward virtue; Virtue being a product not of the command of law, but of our own free will, society has no right whatsoever over it. Virtue on no account enters into the social contract; and if it remains without reward, society commits an injustice similar to that of one who defrauds another of his labor.
Moments of instability bear the opportunity for change, and leadership determines whether it be a breakdown or breakthrough . Many institutional environments experience turning points through “critical actors” rather than through “critical masses” . To gain acceptance for change, leaders use different types of power, e.g., coercion, punishment, reward, legitimation, and expert information ; . In contrast, to incentivize change through fear, dissatisfaction, or guilt , reward power is to offer a positive motivation in case of compliance, e.g., an increase in salary, a career promotion, or other privileges . In the study of coach-athlete relationships, rewards and not punitive methods have shown positive effects on the athletes’ behaviors .
Dragonetti, an old Neapolitan economist, more than 250 years ago stated that “Men have made millions of laws to punish crimes, and they have not established even one to reward virtue ” . Indeed, a system more based on incentives, e.g., in the form of intrinsic societal awards, would foster more cooperation with economic and civic benefits . This may be required today more than ever. Longitudinal research found that as a result of modernization and westernization, mothers in San Vicente, Mexico, developed more self-promoting behavior at the cost of a more giving and rewarding (e.g., including encouraging failures) attitude only forty years ago .
Monetary compensation, social status, or ideological values all may provide for reward . Equating satisfaction with perception minus expectation, unexpected rewards can impact individuals’ satisfaction disproportionately and therefore, motivate change . Contingent rewards have proven to be an effective change leadership tool. However, it was also found that rewards need to be specified according to the situation respectively to the field of interest . Strategic alignment of changes and related rewards is essential to create clear psychological contracts that define well what contributions to company performance the employees owe their employer and what they can hope for in return . Of course, it is foolish to incentivize something and expect something else in return .
Because not all change is of equal ease to everybody, change efforts rather than change expertise/effectiveness should be rewarded . Not only reward size, but also the sequence and frequency of incentivizing are influencing the future expectancy of further rewards in social-change theories . Age may also be a factor for reward-sensitivity, as, for example, adolescents with typically lower inhibitory control capability attribute more value to reward . In conclusion, the focus on rewarding desired behavior rather than punishing unwanted conduct might have several advantages, such as creating positive feelings, increasing acceptance of positive change, and enabling higher likability of the influencing change agents .
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Choosing not to change risks failing if change is understood as improvement . In organizations, mainly the investors, but also drivers like competition, globalization, technology, and employees require change . Change always signifies loss that prompts threatening emotions, which cause resistance. Therefore, resistance to change needs to be understood from an individual’s emotional perspective . For example, people mostly don’t alter their change decisions related to moral dilemmas solely based on reason . Often, leaders and managers have a better understanding of the organizational situation than of individuals . Change antecedents, reactions to and consequences from changes like, for example, organizational commitment and job satisfaction, have to be carefully considered. Commitment can positively correlate with a favorable perception of proposed change, while commitment to the status quo can be negatively related .
Personality differences in predispositions to resist change
Helping conquering limitations in improving is a core function of leadership, and it is relieving for people to feel understood in their resistance to change . Indeed, supervisory support is a key factor in positively influencing people’s commitment to change . However, there might also be personality differences in predispositions, i.e., having negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards organizational change . It is more difficult to positively influence job satisfaction for people characterized by lower levels of openness to change . Increased mindfulness (i.e., engagement in new and healthy thoughts and habits) and tolerance of ambiguity (i.e., tolerance of lack of clarity and uncertainty) predict a more positive attitude toward change .
Trust and authenticity in transformational leadership
Change follows a process , most simply described as ‘unfreeze,’ ‘mobilize,’ and ‘re-freeze’ . To help people through these phases, understanding their emotional and intellectual needs seems to be essential. Transformational leadership ought to consist of these qualities, but some researchers suggest a broader integration of leadership dimensions, including spiritual elements to bridge the gap between profit strategies and quality of life . Studies found that transformational leadership, regardless of the leaders’ behavior, was positively associated with promoting acceptance of change. Even change-specific leadership behavior could not compensate for transformational leadership, especially when there was a lot at stake personally for the change receivers. A history of long-term trustful relationships with their followers may be the reason for this as consistent research of authenticity in leadership evidenced too. In cases where the job impact of the change was low, rather than transformational leadership, proper change management practices were sufficient for effective change. This finding speaks for a close integration of the change leadership and change management disciplines 
We change for what we have chosen for ourselves
Resistance can be a capacity for change itself , sometimes coming from positive intentions too , and providing feedback from people who may know best about the day-to-day operational details . To support effective change, leadership should involve change-related training , possibly also in early developmentally sensitive school years . It is crucial to help individuals experiencing close and successful participation in the change process  because people are more likely to adapt what they have chosen for themselves .
Photo credit: Geralt (pixabay.com)
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Transformational leaders who are utilizing humor are more effective in winning trust and affective commitment from their followers. However, not every leadership style is similarly suited to employ humor as a co-existing leadership characteristic. Several types of humor have to be differentiated, such as, for example, constructive and aggressive humor. Shared laughter avoids conflict, creates teams and sparks innovation. Despite cultural specifics in how followers appreciate leaders’ humor, effective leaders globally may employ humor as a powerful means to harness emotional and diplomatic effects that enable the formation of positive leader-follower exchanges and the leadership of change.
Humor and Leadership: A Bi-directional Relationship
Research has not yet managed to compile a holistic theory of humor and is continuing to study the influences of humor in leader-follower relationships . The expression of positive, such as affiliative , constructive , and self-deprecating humor as a leader’s offer to bridge authority gaps between him and his followers  might increase acceptance of leadership. The effect is two-sided, i.e., a leader’s humor can improve the leader-follower relationship and consequently also creates the atmosphere supportive for further use of humor by the subordinate too that, which on its part reinforces the positive emotions involved on both sides . Transformational leaders who are utilizing humor are more effective in winning trust and affective commitment from their followers .
Matching Types of Humor and Leadership
For leaders who set clear expectations related to goals and rewards, humor increases their effectiveness. Interestingly, these leaders are perceived even more persuasive when they use aggressive humor that is pointing to a common threat . However, aggressive humor causes defamation, decry, disrespect, embarrassment, and ridicule of groups and individuals . An aggressive and offensive humor style potentially creates the feeling of exclusion , but only among those followers who are not in favor with the leader . For the targets of aggressive humor, the results are often negative impacts on private and professional life, such as related to performance, attendance, safety, and health . Leaders with a rather laissez-fair style can’t afford humor style as it may be seen as a tactic of self-enhancement and a proof for taking the situation not seriously enough . Such dependencies also depend on followers’ need for certainty and guidance; light-heartedness in the form of humor may better resonate with followers who need less structure .
The Usefulness of an Organizational “Jester”
The use of humor as a specific aspect of leadership processes can be used to produce shared laughter that is allowing to raise critical topics in a group in a conflict-alleviating way ; ; . Scientific experiments showed that the stimulation of laughter increased the subsequent creativity of study participants thanks to better mood and a sense of safe environment . The Hallmark Card Company in Kansas City introduced an organizational role with the unofficial description of “jester” that used humorous storytelling in leadership workshops, e.g., in the form of caricatures, to disarray gridlocked hierarchical structures in the firm and foster innovation . While storytelling is helpful to soften unnecessary direct critique, it can also be misused to disinform followers .
Humor appreciation depends on cultural context
The extent to which different cultures value humor as a related leadership characteristic may vary significantly. For example, Chinese employees, compared to US workers, emphasize more seriousness than humor in a “serious” work environment to build leader-follower relationships . In conclusion, though, effective leaders globally may employ humor to create emotional and diplomatic effects enabling the lead of change .
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What are your beliefs and perspectives regarding leadership? What do you think makes an effective leader? Illustrated by the example of Robert Owen, the acknowledged pioneer of the cooperative movement, a leader’s goal, effectiveness, and fellowship is assessed. The brief analysis bases on evidence from research in relevant leadership theories.
General Definition of Leadership
Many of the greatest villains in history were, in some way, successful leaders when the definition of leadership is considered independent of good or evil intentions . In that sense, leadership is generally defined as the “ability to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve organizational goals” (, p.2). In a capitalist economy, the most basic organizational goal is to compete for profits. Socially responsible and socially irresponsible behavior both are equally present in corporate environments as either of them is exerted only as long as they are underrepresented and therefore providing for a competitive advantage .
Robert Owen: Father of the Cooperative Movement & Transformational Leadership
I have chosen British man Robert Owen, who acknowledgedly spurred the cooperative movement as a visionary of cooperative values to address societal issues , such as improving labor conditions, reforming education, and banning child labor in factories . Rather than relying on authoritarian power to keep people complying with leadership , Owen emphasized benevolence and the desire to promote the welfare of others . Owen’s leadership style was, rather than transactional, much more transformational, i.e., visionary and appealing to people’s good nature . Owen may be even an example of an authentic leader. Authentic leadership is one of the latest theories in the field and focuses leaders authenticity of values, trustfulness, and open communication .
Leadership as a Context-sensitive Process
While earlier leadership theories studied individual traits and behavior of leaders without appropriate attention to context , modern leadership research integrates bidirectional processes between leaders and followers that are context and time sensitive. . As a reformer and pioneer of socialism in Britain, Robert Owen non-violently led change  that may have informed later human resource development (HRD) approaches towards fair and nurturing workplaces . Owen’s communitarian society experiments like ‘New Harmony’ in the US became, albeit not directly achieving its aspirations, valuable for progress in scientific research and the co-operative movement. Owens inconsistency between his optimism to radically change society on the one hand, and his sense for the need of gradual change on the other hand, helped him to inspire a broad variety of different people over time . Because of his persisting beliefs despite failure , his courage to lead, his rhetorical skills, and his progressive view on the determining impact of the environment on character contributed positively to Owen’s persuasiveness .
Leadership Grandiosity and Followers’ Motives
Some researchers put leadership facets like grandiosity into the context of a narcissistic personality type that is characterized by the belief of superiority in achieving social needs through the self-motive of helping others . The propagation of the advent of a new moral world by the second coming of Christ as a common transatlantic aspect of Owenism  may have resonated with followers desire for psychological safety . Other motives to follow the Owenite movement were community creation, self-employment, and exclusive and profitable business opportunities . Figures like Ernestine Rose, an American representative of the women’s rights movement of the 19th century, became followers of Robert Owen because he helped them to reinforce their belief in the possible change towards a more just society .
Photo credit: Eliens (pixabay.com)
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There are general psychological mechanisms to be considered for political persuasion on the one hand side, and on the other hand, there are important specifics related to social context and means in approaching political debates. Still though, the development of convincing policies may involve a significant degree of experimentation too and continue to use the strategy of proving the value of ideas through trial and error.
Does the culture we are living in shape the way we get persuaded? I think the mindset may be determining proneness to messages. Indeed, for example Paek, Lee, and Hove (n.d.) found the possibility that East Asians are more receptive to norm messages for reasons of their habit to seek social conformity.
Of course, it is impossible and unwise to withdraw from environmental influences, because a lot of information and persuasion is necessary and useful. However, I am continuously interested in learning what influences are, for example, one-sidedly commercially motivated rather than seeking the well-being of all.
I listed some main mindfulness points that I apply to avoid getting involuntarily respectively unconsciously persuaded. For these points, related concepts from social psychology was researched to get more insight into such persuasion resistance strategies that are worth to develop further in the future to avoid unhealthy and harmful behavior.
Unhealthy diet due to excessive consumption of fat and sugar can lead to increased risks such as obesity (Kakoschke, Kemps, & Tiggemann, 2014). According to Pettigrew (2015), food marketers contribute significantly to pushing unhealthy products that meets the consumers’ desire for flavorful, easily available, and cheap food.