In many kinds of organizations, leadership is one of the core factors that determine the success of the entire institution as well as its level of performance in the market or industry. Leadership behavior is a complex phenomenon that is comprised of a variety of aspects. Leadership behaviors can differ significantly from one individual to another and are driven by a multitude of internal and external characteristics such as the environment in which such behavior occurs, the situation that triggered it, the leader who displays, and the followers it targets, among others.
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Theoretically, leadership behaviors that work well in successful organizations could be beneficial for other organizations as well. This is why it is important to study such behaviors and identify their key features that could be adopted by companies that seek improvement. This was the main purpose of the article under discussion.
The focus of this paper is the article by Larsson and Vinberg entitled “Leadership behavior in successful organizations: Universal or situation-dependent.” This work was published in 2010 in the Total Quality Management Journal. The research project presented by Larsson and Vinberg included four organizations of different kinds, sizes, specializations, and structures that acted as the study participants. The purpose was to explore leadership behaviors in these organizations and analyze them in order to identify the most effective aspects. Additionally, the implications of the identified successful leadership behaviors were discussed.
The major elements targeted by the examined leadership behaviors were the effectiveness of work, its quality, the state of the working environment, health and wellbeing of employees, and their perceptions of their leadership.
The authors of this study were determined to find out if leadership behaviors observed in organizations were a universal dynamic or a pattern dependent on situations and circumstances. For this purpose, leadership behaviors in these organizations were divided into three groups based on their focus – structure, change, and relationship-orientation. This was done based on the leadership behavior theory according to which two dimensions are recognized in this phenomenon – relation- and structure-orientation.
In this regard, the two dimensions represent two spheres of organizational performance that need to stay in balance that may alter depending on situations and conditions. Moreover, Larsson and Vinberg noted that a high level of performance in both of these aspects is, in most cases, associated with the ultimate organizational success. However, for this project, Larsson and Vinberg decided to use a system comprised of three dimensions. The third dimension that was added to the theoretical framework was change-orientation.
This dimension is relatively new and was introduced in the 1990s. Its development, explained in the introduction to this study, was encouraged by the growing tendency for change that created pressure in the society of that time. The contemporary society embraces constant change as a necessity. As a result, this dimension is critical to the evaluation of leadership behaviors in successful organizations. All of the three dimensions were assessed and analyzed in terms of their relation to such outcomes as effectiveness and productivity, quality, and well health and job satisfaction of employees.
Over the course of this research, the latter relationship-oriented leadership behaviors were noticed to be the most powerful and influential. In particular, Larsson and Vinberg found that relationship-oriented behaviors usually translated into the increased productivity and a higher level of cost-effectiveness in organizations. The same finding was confirmed by other studies the authors mentioned. Furthermore, a tight connection also was identified between the combination of relationship- and change-orientation and change effectiveness. In other words, these findings indicate that the application of relationship-orientated behaviors to projects that focus on change and productivity results in beneficial outcomes.
For that, of course, relationship-orientation needs to work as a supplement to the core productivity- or change-orientation. From the practical perspective, it is possible to notice that the orientation towards relationships is a highly effective type of leadership behavior. It is able to produce improvement in projects whose major focus is on some other spheres of performance.
Moreover, nine topical leadership behaviors were identified in the participating organizations, which fitted in all three dimensions. The research project carried out for this study was focused on the establishment of measuring criteria and evaluation characteristics according to which all the participating organizations were equal in terms of their leadership performance. In other words, the environments and specializations were not the influential factors in this assessment.
As a result, only the most generally applicable spheres of behaviors and organizational focuses were selected. They are of universal importance because regardless of size, specialization, and structure, all organizations tend to aim at the improvement of quality, productivity, and effectiveness. Moreover, all organizations depend on the performance of their workers, who, in turn, are majorly driven by such factors as job satisfaction, occupational stress, and turnover intention.
As it was noted previously, over the course of this research, it was found that the relationship-oriented dimension of leadership behaviors in organizations had the strongest effect in terms of success and performance. As a result, a conclusion was made that the leaders that can be characterized as high-performers rely on this dimension of leadership behavior primarily when carrying out their professional duties and tasks. This feature adds to the effectiveness of their leadership styles and communication. Also, it was noted that relationship-oriented leadership behaviors could be applied by leaders working in any professional field, which makes possible the improvement of leadership performance based on the strategy of adoption of this behavior.
Moreover, it is important to note that the study explored leadership behaviors directed at some of the most important factors contributing to organizational success and level of performance. Namely, the spheres in which the behaviors manifested included work effectiveness, job satisfaction of the workers, their working environment, the quality of work they performed, and the ideas of leadership as well as the perception of leadership behaviors in their organizations.
This research was carried out using the comparative qualitative method. The employees of the participating organizations were invited for interviews with the researchers, which served as the major sources of data. Based on the information received in the interviews, the researchers completed their analysis. The results were interesting but also made much sense in terms of how leadership works and the importance of the relationship-oriented segment in the process of interaction between a leader and his or her subordinates.
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Practically, it was found that relationship-oriented types of leadership behaviors are highly useful and universal because they can be applied separately and in combinations with the behaviors of other types. They work well as means for the improvement of organizational and employee performance, quality, productivity, and the general effectiveness of work.