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How Does Leadership Affect Team Effectiveness Nursing Essay

A self-managed work team is defined as a group of interdependent individuals that can self-regulate their behavior on relatively whole tasks. Self-managing teams are also often in the literature referred to as self-directed work teams or empowered teams. (Fisher, 1993; Ford & Fottler, 1995; Manz & Sims, 1993). The traditional work team is defined by Banker, Field, Schroeder and Sinha (1996) as “workers perform core production activities, and other groups are responsible for support activities, such as receiving, quality control, and maintenance. Workers have no management responsibility or control. The first line manager controls planning, organizing, directing, staffing, and monitoring” (pp. 869).

According to Cohen and Ledford (1994) self-managing teams are expected to be effective and contribute to employee quality of work life. More specifically, self-managing teams are associated with improved productivity, quality, and cost reduction (Cohen, Ledford & Spreitzer, 1996). Despite these positive expectations and associations, studies address mixed outcomes of team effectiveness (Cohen & Ledford, 1994). A longitudinal study on self-managing teams in an assembly plant by Banker et al. (1996) found that the transition to self-managing teams increased the quality and labor productivity. On the contrary, a longitudinal study by Cordery, Meuller and Smith (1991) found a higher absenteeism and turnover among employees in self-managing teams. This implies that self-managing teams can have different effectiveness outcomes based on the dimension that is studied.

Leadership is a concept which can explain this variation. The lack of leadership is often identified as a primary reason why self-managing teams fail (Stewart & Manz, 1995). According to Sivasubramaniam, Murry, Avolio, and Jung (2002), leadership is a key team process: team members are unlikely to identify with team objectives without leadership. Although a self-managed team implies to be led without any (formal) leadership, Barry (1991) argues that leadership in a self-managed work team is even more important than in a traditional setting of team work. Without effective leadership power struggles and conflicts arise around task and process issue (Barry, 1991).

The basic idea of a self-managing is that the employees have control over the management and execution of an entire task (Banker et al, 1996). This is in contradiction with the arguments of other scholars that emphasize the importance of effective leadership in self-managing teams (Barry, 1991; Solansky, 2008). This lead to the following research question:

How does leadership in self-managed work teams affect the team effectiveness?

1.1 The relevance of this study

The main question that this study addresses is to what extent is leadership in self-managing teams affecting the team outcome. Central to this question lays the contradiction between self-managing and leadership. In other words, does one exclude the other? Much research has been devoted to understanding how to set up self-managing teams and maximize their productive and effectiveness, in contrast relatively little attention has been devoted to leadership in self-managing teams (Druskrat & Wheeler, 2004). This literature review aims to comprehend the existing literature on this topic, and finally answer the research question.

H. 2 Methodology

2.1 Literature search

This study is a literature review, which means that existing relevant literature is used to answer the research questions. The first step during this study was finding the relevant literature, which was done by using the databanks ‘Google scholar’ and ‘Web of Science’. Web of Science is facilitated by the University of Tilburg and provides the number of times a paper is cited, which is widely recognized as an indicator of the quality of a paper. Google scholar supplemented Web of Science and provided additional literature, which was not accessible through Web of Science.

To answer the research questions the keywords ‘self-managing team’, ‘self-managing work teams’, ‘self-managed team’, ‘autonomous teams’, ‘autonomous work teams’, ‘self-directed teams’, ‘self-directed work teams’, ‘self-managing teams’ + ‘leadership, ‘self-managing teams’ + ‘team effectiveness’, ‘self-managing team’ + ‘leadership’ + ‘team effectiveness’, and so on were used during the literature search. The keywords were combined in various ways, and this provided a diversity of papers. In addition I used forward and backward snowballing to enlarge the amount of relevant literature. The reference lists of the papers were examined on appropriate titles that fitted this literature review, and the papers were traced. Finally the findings of all the paper were re-examined and the most relevant ones were used for this study.

2.2 Literature selection

The first step in the literature selection is simply examining the titles, and selecting the papers that could fit to the scope of this study. Then I read the through the abstracts of the papers to get an indication of its main findings and contribution to literature. Hereby I made a further selection in the relevant papers. The last step was to create a deeper understanding by carefully reading the selected papers.

2.3 Literature processing

After searching and selecting the appropriate literature I tried to understand and summarize the main insights of the papers. The most important findings were selected and were compared to the other findings on similarities and differences. This was a continuously and iterative task, which made it to possible to comprehend the current literature in a clear manner.

2.4 Literature Validity

Several steps have been taken to secure the validity of this study. First of all the methodology of this study is clearly described and explained. Secondly, the literature which is used in this paper is given and appropriate to answer the research question. Thirdly the results of the selected literature are discussed and a conclusion is formulated based on these results. Finally all the steps together could make it for other scholars possible to replicate my study in order to support or challenge the findings of this study.

H.3 The main concepts

3.1 Self-managed work team

As previously stated, a self-managed work team is defined as a group of interdependent individuals that can self-regulate their behavior on relatively whole tasks (Cohen & Ledford, 1994). In addition Zarrage and Bonache (2005) define a self-managed work team as non-hierarchical work group responsible and accountable for a particular area or task in the organization. A self-managing team is characterized by: 1) face to face interaction, 2) employees with interrelated tasks who are responsible for making a product or service, 3) employee discretion over decisions such as task assignment, methods for carrying out work and scheduling of activities (Cohen & Ledford, 1994). Self-managing teams may or may not be under direct supervision (Cohen, et al. 1996). The role of supervisor in a self-managing team differs from a traditional work team; he or she helps employees to generate self control (Mills, 1986). In general, the members of self-managing team have a variety of skills that is needed to perform the task, and team receives performance feedback (Cohen, et al. 1996).

3.2 Leadership

Yukl (1998) defines leadership as someone “that guide, structure, and facilitate activities and relationships in a group or organization” (pp.3). This is in line with most definitions that imply that leadership is process of intentional influence by one person over others (Solansky, 2008). Leadership is a key process to a group because it directs the behavior of group members in the pursuit of a common goal (Hoyt and Blascovich, 2003). Most studies emphasize that effective leadership is beneficial to the team effectiveness (Carte, Chadambaram & Becker, 2006).

Solansky (2008) makes a general distinction of shared and non-shared leadership in self-managing teams. Shared leadership, also often mentioned as distributive leadership, is defined by Cox, Pearce, and Perry (2003) as a condition in which teams collectively exert influence, and leadership is distributed among all team members depending on their skills, abilities, and the task. On the contrary, the traditional view of leadership suggests that leadership is a specialized role that cannot be shared without jeopardizing the group effectiveness (Solansky, 2008).

Carte et al. 2006 mention 3 forms of leadership in their study on emergent leadership in self-managing virtual teams: 1) Transformational leadership, which is described and defined by burns (1978) as leadership which inspires commitment and sacrifice for the group in each follower by seeking to understand that person’s motivation and using that to engage. 2) Directive leadership aims to guide the group members’ participation and is defined as providing and seeking compliance with directions for accomplishing a problem-solving task (Bass, Valenzi, Farrow, & Solomon, 1975; Kahai, Sosik & Avolio, 2004). 3) Directive leadership aims to guide group members’ participation and is defined as the equalization of power and sharing of problem solving with group members by consulting them before making a decision (Bass, 1990; Kahai, 2004).

3.3 Team effectiveness

Team effectiveness is essential for the organizational performance (Herb, Leslie, & Price, 2001; Thamhain, 2004). Team effectiveness has been defined in various ways. Hack-man (1991) defined group effectiveness as the degree to which 1) a group’s output meets requirements in terms of quantity, quality, and timeliness (2) the group experience improves its members' ability to work as a group in the future, and (3) the group experience contributes to individual satisfaction. This in general in line with the definition of Cohen & Ledford (1994), which described 3 dimensions of effectiveness: 1) team performance, 2) employees attitudes about their quality of work life, and 3) employee behavior. In this study the definition of Cohen & Ledford will be used for team effectiveness. Team performance is associated with controlling costs, improving productivity and quality, employee attitudes is associated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment and employee behavior with absenteeism. Literature that measures one of the 3 dimensions of team effectiveness will be included in this study.

H.4 Results

In this chapter the main contributions of the papers will be addressed. The connections between the papers will be highlighted; similarities and differences between papers will be addressed. Furthermore relevant methodological issues and the limitations of the papers will be discussed.

Leadership in self-managing teams has been for a long time been understudied by scholars (Druskrat & Wheeler, 2004). Most research was devoted to understanding how to set up productive and effective self-managing teams. Scholars started to address this gap in the literature and studies were conducted to explore how leadership in self-managing teams affects team effectiveness. According to Stewert and Mainz (1995) the lack of leadership is one of the main reasons for the failure of self-managing teams. Some scholars raised the question if leadership in self-managing teams is contradicting with its principles, as for example ‘autonomy’. Still, in 2004, this debate was mentioned by Druskrat & wheeler (2004), although they directly argued that leadership is necessary in self-managing teams and even in most cases inevitable. Although self-managing teams make their own decisions, they still receive directions from and must report to higher levels in the organization (Duskrat & Wheeler, 2004). Leadership in self-managing teams has been developing in 3 directions, namely: 1) standalone leadership 2) Shared leadership and 3) Rotated leadership.

Standalone leadership, which is also referred to as non-shared leadership (Solansky, 2008) and vertical leadership (Pearce & Sims, 2002) is defined as an appointed or a formal leader of a team. Shared leadership, which is often also referred to as distributed leadership (e.g., Carson, Tesluk, & Marrone, 2007; Mehra, Smith, Dixon and Robertson, 2006), is defined as members that are empowered to share the task and responsibilities of leadership (Ensley et al., 2003; Katzenbach, 1997; Solansky, 2008). Rotated leadership is, a form between shared and non-shared leadership, and is defined as temporary designated leadership to a team member in which he or she takes responsibility for the actions of the self-managing team (Erez, Lepine & Elms, 2002). These three forms of leadership in self-managing teams and their affect on team effectiveness will be from here on discussed.

Stewart and Manz (1995) created a typology and integrative model of leadership in self-managing teams. Based on power orientation (autocratic – democratic) and leadership involvement (passive – active) they came up with 4 leadership styles in self-managing teams, which are: overpowering leadership, power building leadership, powerless leadership and empowered leadership. In addition they developed several propositions, but it goes beyond the aim of this literature review to discuss them one by one. However there will be elaborated on the general insights of the leadership styles and their hypnotized effect on team effectiveness. Overpowering leadership is characterized by active involvement and an autocratic orientation of leadership, and is proposed to have a negative effect on the team and the organization. Power building leadership is characterized by active involvement and democratic orientation of leadership, and is proposed to have a positive effect on the team and the organization. Powerless building leadership is characterized by passive involvement and autocratic orientation of leadership, and is proposed to have little to no effect on the team and the organization. Empowered leadership is characterized by passive involvement and democratic orientation of leadership, and is proposed to have a positive effect on leadership. This typology of leadership in self-managing teams was not tested in this study, but provided directions for further research.

4.1 Standalone leadership

Cohen et al. (1996) examined encouraging behavior from supervisors among self-managing teams, and found that it had a negative effect on team performance. This was in contrast to the findings of Manz and Sims (1987), which argue that the encouraging behavior of external leaders (supervisors) have a positive effect on group performance. A possible explanation of the findings of Cohen is that self-managing teams that perform less receive more attention from supervisor. Another explanation, which is in line with the findings of Beekun (1989) that the more a supervisor tries to lead and intervenes the self-managing team the negative it effectiveness outcomes will be.

Moreover a study in large telephone company by Cohen, Chang and Ledford (1997) found that external supervisors of self-managing team that encouraged and secured the autonomy of the team members led to improved the quality of work (e.g., satisfaction and motivation) and contributed to the effectiveness of the self-managing team. A methodological limitation of this study is that the founded relationships are moderate. The study of Druskat & Wheeler (2004), which is in line with the study of Cohen, et al. (1997) and increase our knowledge by arguing that external leaders must manage the boundary between the self-managing team and the organization. They found that external leaders that effectively manage the boundary between a self-managing team and the larger the organization were associated with superior team effectiveness. On the contrary, supervisors that associated themselves largely with team or management showed moderate effectiveness.

Morgeson (2005) studied in 3 organizations how external leaders of self-managing teams intervene during novel and disruptive events and its consequence for the effectiveness. His finding indicate that during novel events preparation by the external leader is high important for the effectiveness of the self-managing team. And during disruptive events active intervention by the external leader is contributes to team effectiveness.

A multi-method field study of Wageman (2001) examined two kinds of leadership behavior activities; design choices and hands-on coaching on the effectiveness of self-managing teams. His study was restricted to self-managing teams that have a designated team leader, who is not a member of the team, and often referred to as the manager. The findings of his study showed that the quality of hands-on coaching and design choices of leaders both influence self-management, the quality of members relationships, and members satisfaction. However only design activities of leaders affect the team performance. Moreover the quality of design and the coaching interacts. Teams that are well designed benefit more from effective coaching than poor defined self-managing teams. Moreover well-designed self-managing teams where less undermined by ineffective coaching than poor designed self-managing teams. To conclude coaching activities of managers in self-managing teams do influence to some extent the tea outcomes, but this effect is not directed related to performance. On the contrary, design choices by leaders in self-managing teams have an effect on the effectiveness of a self-managing team.

O’Connel, Doverspike and Cober (2002) conducted an empirical study on the impact of leadership on group performance in the context of self-managing teams. They tested the relationship between team leadership and group performance, and included teams size as moderator. In this study the team leader was a designated leader, who is also a member of the team. This in contrast to the external designated leader in the study of Wageman (2001). This study was conducted in a large manufacturing plant among 102 teams. O’Connel et al. (2002) found a relationship between team leadership and team performance as rated by the managers and this was also moderated by team size. The most interesting finding of this study was that the quality of team leadership was significantly related to the ratings of quality and overall performance for teams with fewer members, but not those team with a larger number of members. Thus, the effect of leadership depends on the size team, and the larger the team the less the leadership impacts the group performance. One limitation of this study was that there were contradictions between the ratings in performance by the team members and the team leaders. This is possible explained by the different perspectives of team members and team leaders. Another possible explanation is that the team managers possess more knowledge about the actual performance of the self-managing team, than the team members.

Elloy (2004) examined the impact of superleader behaviors in self-managing teams on organizational commitment, job satisfaction and organization self-esteem. The results from this study indicated that self-managing teams that were led by a supervisor who exhibited the characteristics of a superleader performed better. Elloy (2004) associates superleaders with individuals that are able to help other team members to lead themselves. He argues that leaders must become coaches and facilitators in order to be successful. He concludes that superleader behavior is appropriate leadership behavior in self-managing teams, and plays a crucial role in their success of failure.

4.2 Shared leadership

More and more studies in the field of leadership in self-managing teams have concentrated on shared leadership. Solansky (2008) compared shared leadership with single leadership in self-managing teams. The results of this study suggested that shared leadership, in comparison to single leadership in self-managing teams led to more motivational, social and cognitive advantages among team members. In other words, shared leadership provides team members with more confidence, satisfaction, and ownership in team processes and objectives. An important methodological limitation in this study that needs to be addressed is the context in which it is conducted. This was a laboratory study with students. Although a laboratory context has some advantages, for example the environment can be controlled. However the external validity is low, and more research in the field is necessary.

A longitudinal study by Carte, Chidambaram and Becker (2006) was conducted on leadership in virtual self-management team. They found that high performing self-managing teams displayed more leadership behaviors over time, than low performing self-managing teams. Their findings are in line with the findings of Solansky (2008), he emphasizes the importance of shared leadership. In addition, Carte et al. (2006) enrich our understanding of leadership by including that besides shared leadership, more leadership behavior is important for team effectiveness. Also they argue that teams that displayed more shared monitoring leadership and concentrated producing behavior were more likely to be high-performing self-managing teams.

Carson, Tesluk & Marrone (2007) conducted a study in which they examined the antecedents condition that led to development of shared leadership in self-managing teams and examined the affect of shared leadership on team performance. This study was conducted among 59 consulting teams. Internal team environment and external coaching were found to be important predictors for the emergence of shared leadership. More interestingly, shared leadership was found to be an important predictor for team performance rated by the clients. In contrast to the previous discussed studies performance was measured from the client side. This prevents self-rating biases of team members. They suggest positive effects of shared leadership on the team performance as judged by the clients.

Pearce and Sims (2002) conducted a study in which they compared shared leadership to vertical leadership. Vertical leadership stems from an appointed or formal leader of a team. Their most important finding was that leadership is an important predictor of team effectiveness. Shared leadership is likely to enhance team effectiveness. Furthermore they found that a transformational and en empowering style of leadership was exhibited by high-performing teams. On the contrary, an aversive and a directive style of leadership was exhibited by low-performing teams.

Mehra, Smith, Dixone and Robertson (2006) conducted a study in which they used social network analysis to examine shared leadership in teams. They investigated 28 sales teams on their structure of leadership and how that is related to team performance. Contrary to most previously discussed studies, they found that decentralization of leadership is not significantly related to superior team performance. Although they argue that certain shared leadership structures is associated with better team performance than others.

4.3 Rotated leadership

Erez, Lepine and Elms (2002) found that teams that with rotated leadership among team members performed better and higher levels of voice and collaboration than teams that relied on leader emergence. Erez et al. conducted a quasi-experiment among 38 self-managed undergraduate teams. Teams that used rotated leadership did not lead to higher levels of workload sharing or member satisfaction, but a said led to higher levels of voice and cooperation and finally to higher level of team effectiveness. The most important contribution to field is testing rotated leadership and its effectiveness consequences. The idea of rotated leadership was according to them not tested before. Some limitations need to be considered, this study is a quasi-experiment, hence field studies are necessary to generalize the findings of this study.

H.5 Conclusion and reccomendations

In this section, conclusion and recommendation will be formulated based on the results described in the previous chapter. Before elaborating on the conclusion of this study, I will repeat the research question as formulated in this study:

How does leadership in self-managed work teams affect the team effectiveness?

The conclusion is that it has become clear that leadership in self-managing teams contributes to team effectiveness. In the beginning of the 90’s there was debate in the literature about if leadership in self-managing teams is contradiction with its autonomy principle. Some scholars even argued that leading and intervening activities from supervisors in self-managing teams contributed negatively to team effectiveness. Not long after that many scholars started to argue that leadership is effective in self-managing teams and moreover they state that lack of leadership often is the reason for the failure of self-managing teams. Even the team members of self-managing team need direction, as Elloy (2004) stated: ‘leaders in self-managing teams need to help other team members to lead themselves. Most studies find improved team performance and improved quality of work in self-managing teams with leadership. To conclude, leadership in self-managing teams contributes in a positive manner to team effectiveness.

The stream of literature can be categorized in 3 forms of leadership in self-managing teams: designated leadership (non-shared leadership), shared leadership and rotated leadership. Rotated leadership is in a beginning stage and lies somewhat between designated and shared leadership. An interesting question which can be raised is does one form of leadership in self-managing teams contribute more to team effectiveness than another. The current state of the literature does not give a clear answer to this question. Although some studies tend to compare designated styles of leadership with shared styles of leadership and some argue that shared leadership contributes more to team effectiveness that designated leadership, these results are mostly vague and the effects are modest. Thus, a clear conclusion on which form of leadership is more beneficial to the effectiveness of a self-managing team is not possible. Further research is recommended and necessary in order to create clarity on which form of leadership style contributes more to team effectiveness.

As discussed in the first paragraph even team members of a self-managing team need direction. Although this needs to be interpreted with cautious, the appropriate style is not command them, but to help them manage their self and their tasks, independent of the leadership form. Druskat & Wheeler (2004) stated: ‘leaders must manage the border between the organization and the self-managing teams.’ Employees of self-managing teams need to have a certain level of freedom to manage their work. This seems an obvious conclusion, despite many self-managing teams fail because of the leaders that interrupt the process of becoming and staying a self-managing team. Organizations need to consider, even more when there is a designated leader, to educate the leader in how to lead a self-managing team.

Furthermore there are few conclusions which fall outside the direct scope of this literature view but a relevant to mention. Besides the form of leadership other design features as for example size of the team, the stage of a self-managing team, task complexity, etc. play an important role in predicting team effectiveness. A more complete model to predict the effectiveness of self-managing teams could clarify to what extent leadership predicts the effectiveness of teams. Another interesting topic that needs to be further studied is more leadership styles among team members in a self-managing team. According to Carte, et al. (2006) high performing self-managing teams displayed more leadership styles over time among its group members. More research to validate their findings and also to develop a mix of leadership styles which is beneficial to the self-managing team.

H.6 Discussion and reflection

In this final section the results of this study will be discussed and a reflection on the research process will be given.

As stated in the conclusion most literature emphasizes the importance of leadership in self-managing teams. Many studies show positive effects of leadership in self-managing teams on the group effectiveness. Although by means of these results a clear conclusion can be drawn on the research question, it also creates insights for new questions to be raised. It could be interesting to organizations that use self-managing teams to know which form of leadership and what for context leads to higher levels of effectiveness outcomes. The small amount of literature advocates that the self-managing teams with shared leadership are more effective than self-managing team with designated leadership. Although these preliminary results need to be further studied and could help to create even better performing self-managing teams. Another question that can be raised is if know which form of leadership is most effective then there still need to be know how to educate leaders to develop the necessary characteristics for that form of leadership. So knowledge about leadership is still somewhat general and needs to go deeper in order to understand how leadership and its characteristics affect team effectiveness. Although it was not direct the goal of this study to answer that question, during the search and processing of the literature it became clear that this gap needs to be explored.

One limitation of this study lies in how other scholars define self-managing teams. During the exploration of this study it became clear to me, that ‘self-managing teams’, ‘autonomous teams’ and ‘self-directed teams’ are often used as buzz-word. This had as consequence that a number of times teams were considered as self-managing teams, but in reality were not. An illustration of this is organizations that let teams participate in decision-making and then consider team as self-managing. Participation is just one of a number of characteristics of a self-managing team. To prevent this bias I analyzed the papers in how they defined self-managing teams and excluded the ones that did not fit to the scope of this literature review.

Another limitation is that most studies concentrated on the dimension performance in team effectiveness. A few studies also included or concentrated on quality of work and behavior, although too few to draw undisputable conclusions. More research that explore all these dimensions of team effectiveness could clarify all the consequences of leadership in self-managing teams.


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