Effects of job experience, career stage, and hierarchy on leadership style.Abstract
This present paper assesses the impact of age, career stage, and hierarchy of employees on their leadership styles. Data were collected from 324 employees of different business organisations in India. Organisations included were steel manufacturers industry, dredging corporations, airlines, real estate, banks, R&D, telecom, and the information technology firms. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire was used to measure the leadership styles. Results revealed that transformational and laissez-faire leadership styles of employees differ significantly on job experience, career stage, and hierarchy. It was observed that the less experienced employees have high mean scores on transformational leadership style, and highly experienced employees have high mean scores on laissez-faire leadership style.
Leadership is the quality to achieve desired results by giving a proper direction to the organisation. History has witnessed several theories for analysing leadership effectiveness. The first theory which evolved in the nineteenth century was called the Great Man's theory. According to this theory, great leaders are born, not made. Later, with the advent of modem social science, leadership researchers started searching for traits associated with leadership effectiveness. According to the trait theory, leaders were believed to possess traits such as self-confidence, intelligence, dependability, fairness, extroversion, enthusiasm, and good appearance. In this context, it can be mentioned that a leader learns with age and experience and the position he holds matters in influencing others.
Effective leaders build a working team with friendly and cooperative atmosphere through encouragement. They are normally found to spend most of their time in planning what is to be done, providing necessary materials, and initiating future action. A leader' s role in achieving organisational goal largely depends on his experiences and willingness to perform better. They are the potent sources of managerial rents and hence sustain competitive advantage (Avolio, 1999; Lado, Boyd & Wright, 1992; Rowe, 2001). The leadership style affects every aspect of organisation. There are several leadership styles that have been studied by the researchers in the context of organisational effectiveness. In this study, some of the popularly known leadership styles are discussed.
Transformational Leadership Style
Transformational leaders motivate followers to do more than what they are expected to do. They broaden and change the interest of their followers, and generate awareness and acceptance of the purpose and mission of the group. Transformational leadership consists of four factors: charisma or idealised influence, inspirational leadership or motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualised consideration. Transformational leaders strive to raise their awareness of what is good for the whole group by taking proactive measures. Followers are motivated to perform tasks beyond their own expectations. Idealised influence is directed when leaders are the role models for their followers. Inspirational motivation is displayed when transformational leaders behave in ways that motivate and inspire those around them by providing meaning and challenges to their followers' work. Intellectual stimulation is displayed when transformational leaders stimulate their followers' effort to be innovative and creative by questioning assumptions, reframing problems, and approaching old situations in new ways. Individualised consideration is practised when new learning opportunities are created with a supportive climate (Bass, 1998).
Transactional Leadership Style
Transactional leadership occurs when the leader rewards or disciplines the follower depending on the adequacy of the follower's performance and on contingent reinforcement, either positive Contingent Reward (CR) or the more negative, active management-by-exception, and passive management-by-exception (Bass, 1998). With CR, the leader assigns or gets agreement on what needs to be done and promises rewards or actually rewards in exchange for satisfactorily carrying out the assignment (Bass, 1998).
In active management-by-exception, the leader arranges to actively monitor deviances from standards, mistakes and errors in the follower's assignments and takes corrective action as necessary. In passive management-by-exception, the leader waits passively for deviances, mistakes and errors to occur and then takes corrective action (Bass, 1998). Transactional leaders seek compliance from the followers. The outcomes of the interactions are clearly stated. In fact, transactional leadership is the basis for developing transformational leadership.
Laissez-faire Leadership Style
Laissez-faire leadership is the avoidance or absence of leadership and is the most inactive as well as most ineffective among all other styles of leadership (Bass, 1998). This type of leader displays an absence of behaviour, where decisions are not made, actions are delayed, and authority is not utilised.
Job Experience, Career Stage, Hierarchy, and Leadership Style
This is a general assumption that age and experience make certain differences in the working styles of individuals. So the leadership styles also get affected by age, experience, and position. A good leader must have good relationship with the employees. With job experience, a person learns many things that are reflected in his behaviour. One learns how to handle the difficult situations and develop relationships with others only through experiences. Securing commitment and retaining experienced employees are big challenges firms are facing today (Davenport, 1999). Young people in today's workforce are often portrayed as wanting very different things from work than their senior counterparts (Conger, 1998). Findings suggest that there are different employment preferences for different individuals (Sparrow, 1996). Those organisations are successful in retaining employees and increasing their commitment, meet the individuals' need preferences better (Guest, 1998). So, with the assumption that age and experience will affect the leadership styles, this research question was asked: Will leadership styles differ based on job experience, career stage, and hierarchy of the employees?
The sample consisted of 324 employees from various business organisations in India. Organisations included were manufacturers, dredging corporations, airlines, real estate, bankers, R&D, telecommunications, and the information technology firms. The participants were from top, middle, and junior level management. A total of 47.2 per cent employees belonged to the junior level, 50.3 per cent middle level, and 2.5 belonged to the top-level management. The average age of participants was 38 years.
A total of 21.6 per cent of participants were single while 78.4 per cent were married. The percentage of intermediates, graduates, postgraduates, and doctorates was 2.5, 55.2, 38.6 and 3.7 per cent respectively. The average duration of participants with their present employer was 8.3 years. On average respondents spent 12.7 years in their career at the time of the survey.
The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) (Bass & Avolio, 1995) was used to measure the leadership styles. MLQ is a multidimensional scale consisting of 37 items and measures a broad range of leadership styles such as transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership. The transformational leadership style consisted of 21 items. Some of the items included in transformational leadership style were, for example, "talks optimistically about the future" and "spends time in teaching and coaching". The respondents were asked to rate their general opinion about their immediate boss on a five-point scale ranging from "to a very great extent (5)" to "not at all (1)". The Cronbach's alpha of this scale was .96.
Transactional leadership style consisted of 12 items. Some of the items in this scale included, "expresses his/her satisfaction when I do a good job", and "keeps track of my mistakes". The Cronbach' s alpha of this scale was .72. The laissez-faire leadership style consisted of four items. Items in the scale included, for example, "avoids making decisions". The Cronbach's alpha of this revised scale was .93.
The categorisation of age of the employees into groups was based on career-stage theory as described by Gruneberg (1976), and Kacmar and Ferris (1989). According to this theory, the older the employee, the higher is the satisfaction towards the job. If a person is satisfied, then there is a possibility that his leadership style will be more impressive. The categorisation of job experience of employees into groups was based on Maslow' s hierarchy of needs theory (1943). It said that there are five levels of need in a person's career, namely, physiological, security, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualisation needs. With increasing age, the needs of a person might vary. All these needs contribute to the development of leadership qualities. Thus, based on the present data the following job experience and career stages groups were formed for further analyses.
The authors approached the human resource departments of relevant organisations and sought permission to collect data. A total of 475 questionnaires were distributed but only 352 were returned. Out of 352 questionnaires, 28 had to be rejected because of missing data. The overall appropriate sample size was 324.
To test whether leadership styles differ significantly based on job experience, analysis of variance (Anova) was performed. It was found that transformational and laissez-faire leadership styles differed significantly across the three groups (Table 1).
To test whether leadership styles differ significantly based on employees' career stage, Anova was performed. It was found that transformational and laissez-faire leadership styles differed significantly across the three age groups (Table 2).
To test further whether leadership styles differ significantly based on hierarchy, a 't' test was done. As the number at the top management level was small, the significance of difference was tested between the middle and junior levels. It was found that transformational and laissez-faire leadership styles differed significantly across the middle and junior levels of employees (Table 3).
Further descriptive analyses were done to compare the mean value. The descriptive analysis based on employees' experience indicates that the less experienced employees have high mean on transformational leadership and the high experienced employees have high mean score on laissez-faire leadership style (Table 4).
Further descriptive analysis based on employees' career stage showed that employees of middle and advanced career stage have higher mean value on all leadership styles than those of at an early career stage (Table 5).
The present findings are consistent with other studies. It has been found that job experience matters a lot in influencing leadership styles. Athanasaw (2003) found that the length of service and educational attainment were identified as being significant factors influencing the leadership styles of the executives.
The impact of age and experience of employees on leadership styles have been found to be positive and significant. This indicates that the mindset of the older employees is different from that of the younger employees. Further, the workload differs at different career stages. So this might lead to different styles of leadership. The expectations of employees change with experience and this might be the reason that makes them perceive leadership differently.
It was also found that the less experienced employees have higher mean scores on transformational leadership. This finding indicates that employees at the junior level are more eager to adapt the characteristics of transformational leadership. Transformational leaders motivate followers to do more than what they are expected to do. They broaden and change the interest of their followers, and generate awareness and acceptance of the purpose and mission of the group.
They always think what is good for the whole group by taking proactive measures. It was observed that the highly experienced employees have high mean scores on laissez-faire leadership. Laissez-faire leadership displays an absence of behaviour, where decisions are not made, actions are delayed, and authority is not utilised. Here, it implies that in Indian organisations with the increasing age and experience some people avoid taking up challenging tasks and as a result they might develop certain characteristics of the laissez-faire leadership.
Further, it has been observed that generally those at the middle career stage are more productive. They have gained various experiences by this stage but have yet to attain certain goals. The present findings indicate that the mean score of employees at the advanced and middle career stage are high on all the leadership styles. These findings imply that with the advancement of career, the leadership styles change. Thus, these findings support the objective of the present study.
It is also to be noted that transactional leadership style did not differ significantly based on job experience, career stage, and hierarchy. Transactional leadership occurs when the leader rewards or disciplines the follower depending on the adequacy of the follower' s performance. Transactional leaders monitor deviances, mistakes, and errors in the follower's assignments and take corrective action as necessary. They seek compliance from the followers. It is basically based on give-and-take understandings. It seems that in Indian organisations this style has not much to do with the age, experience, and hierarchy.
Thus, it can be concluded that job experience, career stage, and the hierarchy level form the leadership styles of employees. It is interesting to note that depending on the needs and situations, leaders keep on changing their styles. A person learns many things in life and based on his experiences makes decisions. There is always scope for further learning for everybody at any stage.
This study has a limitation related to the population that was sampled. The population consisted of employees from various organisations, making claims of the homogeneity of the employees. So, the generalisation of the findings should be done with caution.
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Vijai N Giri
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India
Categorisation of Job Experience Time Spent in Group Career (in years) 10 or less Less Experienced 11-20 More Experienced 21-36 High Experienced Categorisation of Career Stage Age (in years) Group 30 and below Early Career Stage 31-45 Middle Career Stage 46-60 Advanced Career Stage Table 1: Significance of Difference Based on Employees' Job Experience Leadership Styles SS MS F p Transformational 3645.68 1822.84 7.21 .001 Transactional 66.97 33.48 0.78 .456 Laissez-faire 249.74 124.87 8.15 .001 Table 2: Significance of Difference Based on Employees' Career Stage Leadership Styles SS MS F p Transformational 1813.19 906.59 3.50 0.03 Transactional 123.39 61.69 1.45 0.23 Laissez-faire 209.04 104.52 6.76 0.01 Table 3: Significance of Difference across Hierarchy Leadership Position Mean SD n t df p Styles Transformational Middle level 77.16 15.66 163 -2.60 314 .01 Junior level 81.83 16.51 153 Transactional Middle level 36.93 5.99 163 -1.16 314 .24 Junior level 37.78 7.03 153 Laissez-faire Middle level 6.83 4.39 163 2.56 314 .01 Junior level 5.69 3.43 153 Table 4: Descriptive Analysis Based on Employees' Experience Leadership Job Experience n Mean SD Styles Transformational Less Experienced 89 83.98 1.23 More Experienced 128 79.59 1.54 High Experienced 107 75.33 1.63 Transactional Less Experienced 89 37.94 0.62 More Experienced 128 37.46 0.56 High Experienced 107 36.78 0.68 Laissez-faire Less Experienced 89 4.93 0.24 More Experienced 128 6.54 0.39 High Experienced 107 7.14 0.41 Table 5: Descriptive Analysis Based on Employees' Career Stage Leadership Age Group n Mean SD Styles (in years) Transformational Early Career Stage 83 12.30 1.35 Middle Career Stage 174 17.58 1.33 Advanced Career Stage 67 16.07 1.96 Transactional Early Career Stage 83 6.21 0.68 Middle Career Stage 174 6.28 0.47 Advanced Career Stage 67 7.36 0.90 Laissez-faire Early Career Stage 83 2.38 0.26 Middle Career Stage 174 4.49 0.34 Advanced Career Stage 67 3.89 0.47