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Being a leader is not an easy task. Leaders need to make fast, accurate, and profitable decisions. Why do some leaders excel in what they do and some just get fired? Is it because successful leaders are good at everything? Actually on the contrary, they are good at what they do. You might ask: what do they do then? According to research done by Gallup, an organization who specializes in study of human nature and behavior, successful leaders know their own strengths and invests in others' strengths, they also get people with the right strengths on their team, and they also understand and meet the four basic needs of those who look to them for leadership. These are the 3 keys identified by Gallup for being an effective leader. (Tom Rath, & Barry Conchie, 2008)
In this thesis, the word "employees" are used instead of "followers" in the case of organizations.
The 4 basic needs of employees' are trust, compassion, stability, and hope. The reason why these 4 needs of employees are important and why leaders should possess these characteristics to satisfy these needs will be explained.
There are currently a lot of leaders that think that they should be better at what they are not. This is not a wrong way of thinking, but if you look at great leaders, they invest and get better in what they naturally good at. In Tom Rath and Barry Conchie's book, the engaging stories of some truly successful leaders of our time are presented. Such as Best Buy's Brad Anderson, The Ritz-Carlton's Simon Cooper, Standard Chartered Bank's Mervyn Davies, and Wendy Kopp of the legendary nonprofit Teach For America. With awareness of their strengths and limitations, these leaders were able to be partner with the right people thus to create an unprecedent growth in their careers.This thesis will focus on explaining what is a leadership style based on strengths and how leaders satisfy employees' basic needs and why satisfy these needs will determine the motivation behind the willingness to follow a leader.
1.2 Problem Statement
How do strengths based leadership and a leader's characteristics affect the employees' willingness to follow a leader?
1.3 Research Questions
In order to understand the relationships between all the variables, sub questions are built up as follows:
Research question 1: To what extent do leaders' knowing their strengths and investing in others' strengths influence employees' willingness to follow a leader?
Research question 2: Why satisfy the four basic needs of the employees play an important role in the employees' willingness to follow a leader?
Reseach question 3: How do leaders know their strengths, investing in others' strength, and satisfy the four basic needs of the employees affect employees' willingness to follow a leader?
1.4 Conceptual Model
Employees' willingness to follow (DV)
Strengths based leadership (IV)
Dependent variable in this thesis is employees' willingness to follow a leader.
Independent variable in this thesis is strengths based leadership, which will influence employees' willingness to follow a leader in a positive way.
Moderator in this thesis is trust, hope, stability and compassion which affect the dirction and/or strength of the relation between the independent variable and dependent variable.
Strengths based leadership: Beccoming a more effective leader: knowing your strengths and investing in others', getting the people with the right strengths on your team, and understanding and meeting the basic needs of those who seek leadership. (Tom Rath, & Barry Conchie, 2008).
Trust: The notion of trust is naturally used in human interactions. We all recognize that there is risk in the appropriateness of any anticipated action of another person and that trust should reflect this level of risk. (Sudhir Aggarwal, Zhenhai Duan, Faye Jones, & Wayne Liu, 2010).
Stability: The objective risk of job loss is low. (Alfonso, 2004).The degree of confidence about the organization's financial future. (Tom Rath, & Barry Conchie, 2008).
Hope: Hope is defined as ba positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of (1) agency (goal-directed energy) and (2) pathways (planning to meet goals). (Bruce, et al., 2004).
Compassion: Compassion is broader than empathy- it entails, even inspires helpful and merciful action. (Peter J.Frost, 1999).
The academic relevance of this thesis is trying to point out some important concepts in a leadership based on strengths and the combination of this style of leadership with some important characteristics that employees look for in a leader. These concepts might give current organization leaders or future organization leaders another perspective on strengths management.
This thesis will also describe why some organization leaders are successful in leading their team to be a more profitable and productive company and why some leaders are being fired because they do not understand the importance of strengths management. So the managerial relevance of this thesis is for current leaders and future leaders to learn some best practices of current successful leaders and apply them in their career as a leader.
1.6 Research Design and Data Collection
A descriptive research design is proposed in this thesis due to the reason that relationships among multiple, specific variables are interested.
The data collection method will be based on the secondary data which will be collected based on literature review. To guarantee the quality of the data, only high quality databases will be chosen to select journals. Top journals in the field of Organization & Strategy will be selected through the database included in the information portal from Tilburg University. In addition to these online sources,some related information from the book "strengths based leadership" which is written by Gallup Global Practice Leader Tom Rath and a renowned Leadership Consultant Gallup's Barry Conchie will be used.
1.7 Overview of the rest chapters
In the following chapters, research questions will be discussed one by one. Chapter 2 will discuss: to what extent do leaders' knowing their strengths and investing in others' strengths influence employees' willingness to follow a leader. Chapter 3 will talk about the reason why satisfy the four basic needs of the employees play an important role in the employees' willingness to follow a leader. And in chapter 4, the research question about how do leaders know their strengths, investing in others' strength, and satisfy the four basic needs of the employees affect employees' willingness to follow a leader will be explained. Finally, chapter 5 will give a conclusion for all research questions.Besides, the limitations of this thesis and the suggestions for future researches will be described in this chapter as well.
Chapter 2: Research question 1
2.1 Research question 1:
To what extent do leaders' knowing their strengths and investing in others' strengths influence employees' willingness to follow a leader?
If a man knows everything, then we can say that he knows nothing. Since human beings are not God, it is impossible to know and handle everything well. For example, Tom practice a lot of sports, but Tom may not be able to reach the very best possible level in any of these sports, because he does not have so much time and energy to focus on so many sports. By choosing one or two sports which he can put all his time and energy in, he might reach a higher level. You can apply the same logic to leaders in organizations. A great leader does not need to know everything, he needs to know what he is good at and use these strengths as his personal advantage and also be aware of his followers' potentials. This way, a good leader can combine his strengths and the strengths of his employees in order to create effective and productive teams in an organization.
Thus in this research question, two sub-questions will be discussed:
2.1.1 Why is it important for leaders to know their strengths and continuously improve these strengths?
A quote from the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark in The New York Times Magazine: "I've never met an effective leader who wasn't aware of his talents and working to sharpen them."
Based on the difference of individual's talents and limitations, leaders have different way of leading. Although some leaders try to imitate successful leaders' way of leading, serious problems will occur because of the difference in situation, people, and type of organization. Thus, without an awareness of one's strengths, it is almost impossible to lead employees effectively in an organization. Next to the awareness of one's strengths, leaders also need to continuously sharpen their strengths.
Identifying one's strengths and continuously sharpening them is more likely to lead to success, happiness, and satisfaction in one's career than struggling to overcome inherent weakness genetically, educationally, or environmentally driven. In Gallup's 30-year research project, they concluded that trying to accomplish something one is not equipped to do will only lead to stress, anxiety, and frustration. While working with one's strengths will lead to peace and prosperity. (James Kohnen, 2010). So as a leader, in order to maximize your talents, first you need to know what your strengths are, and then play to the strengths.
2.1.2 To what extent do leaders investing in others' strengths, influence employees' willingness to follow them?
People are always the best resource in an organization. But that does not mean people are the greatest asset, unless they are in the right position to leverage their greatest strengths-those things they do well consistently and energetically. (Marcus Buckingham, 2008). A smart leader always knows how to build good relationship with his employees; more important thing is that he knows how to motivate the followers and activate their potentials. In other words, if the leader gets to know what his employees' strengths are and maximize the function of these strengths, it can create a big resource for the organization, meanwhile, the employees can gain more confidence and get more engaged in their work.
According to the job-demand resource model which is introduced by Bakker and Demerouti (2008), there are at least four reasons that engaged workers perform better than non-engaged workers. Engaged employees often experience positive emotions, including happiness, joy, and enthusiasm; experience better health; create their own job and personal resources; and transfer their engagement to others. (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008)
Leaders can help employees' to sharpen their strengths by knowing employees' strengths and weaknesses, as well as their learning style, and help identify what skills need attention and what training and development activity will best fulfill this need. (Lyndsey Havill, 2010).
By experiencing the attention and support they are getting from their leader, employees are more willing and eager to follow their leader. In Rath and Conchie's research, they concluded that the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. That means, in the workplace, if an organization's leadership focuses on the strengths of its leader and employees, this will increase in engagement translates into substantial gains for the organization's bottom line and each leader and employee's well-being. (Tom Rath & Barry Conchie, 2008).
Best-selling author Marcus Buckingham , during his keynote speech at the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference said that: "successful companies recognize the range of skills present in employees and place them on teams where they have an opportunity to do what they do best and they are partnered with people with different strengths".(Buckingham, 2008).
According to the statement above, a clear picture of the strengths based leadership is appeared. In this leadership, an effective leader needs to know what his strengths are and also invest employees' strengths. Meanwhile, the leader needs to sharp his stengths and motivate his employees to do this. People in an organization with fully developing their strengths, and use the strengths properly, they may maximaze their function in different department. Thus productive team will form.
Chapter 3: research question 2
3.1 Research question 2:
Why satisfy the four basic needs of the employees play an important role in the employees' willingness to follow a leader?
This thesis will mainly choose trust, compassion, stability and hope as the main leadership's characteristics. Because large numbers of researches have showed these keywords play important roles in the workplace. And in the following part of this chapter, they will be discussed respectively.
It is widely acknowledged that trust is a key to start a relationship. When you are willing to trust someone, it means that you have no doubt in your mind about the honesty, integrity and credibility of this person. In an organization, trust generally is considered an essential ingredient for successful relationships (Moorman, R. H., Niehoff, B. P., & Organ, D. W., 1993; Morgan & Hunt, 1994). So if a leader wants his employees to follow him voluntarily, he needs to first build trust between the relationships. Followers trust can be built through the transformational leader frequently empowering and encouraging followers to make their own decisions (Avolio & Bass, 1995).
Trust in leadership has been identified as a crucial element in the effectiveness of leaders (Bruce J. Avolio, William L. Gardner, Fred O. Walumbwa, Fred Luthans & Douglas R. May, 2004). In their research, they found the meta-analysis by Dirks and Ferrin (2002), trust in leadership was found to be associated with a variety of important organizational outcomes, including belief in information, commitment, organizational citizenship behavior, satisfaction with leaders, and intention to stay. However, in their concluding remarks, Dirks and Ferrin suggested that there is a need to examine the behavioral cues that followers use to draw conclusions about the character of the leader or, put simply, how leaders might develop trust in followers.
In the research, follower trust in their leader is considered one of the main variables mediating the effectiveness of transformational leadership (Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Moorman, R. H., & Fetter, R., 1990; Yukl, 1998). Podsakoff et al. (1990) reported that transformational leadership only indirectly influenced follower organizational citizenship behavior, and was mediated by follower level of trust in their leader.
Therefore, trust is an important factor which can lead employees' willingness to follow a leader. Followers must trust their leader first then they are willing to follow the leader. And the voluntary performance of employees includes loyalty behavior, cooperative behavior, and participation behavior dimensions (Bettencourt, 1997). Without trust to the leader, it may create the feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, frustration and fear, thus the relationship between leader and employees will not last.
The role of compassion in leadership is poorly understood. Many people believe there is no relationship between these two concepts. Compassion is located near responsibility in the geography of leadership. Compassion for people is one motive (not the only one) for taking responsibility for them.
Compassion is either a reminder, or the product, of the fact that the people in the organization are not property. If employees are seen as ends instead of a means to an end, you will have yourself a healthy running organization, but if you see employees as means to an end, then sooner or later they will drop out of your organization or they will not be effective employees in the organization.
In the organization, leaders need to give more support and do not hesitate to show genuine compassion for the people they are leading. Because it is common that employees are controlled by personal emotions during their work, which will create negative work results. As Peter Frost (2003) stated, the leader as toxin handler must demonstrate a capacity to notice and empathize with staff members who are dealing with pain and take steps to help the sufferer. Handlers act out of compassion but also out of a clear recognition that when employees are burned by emotional toxicity, they disconnect from work performance and are unable to function effectively. The leader identifies, contains, neutralizes or disperses emotional poison so that those in pain can begin to heal and refocus their efforts on getting the job done.
The benefits of compassion include inner peace and joy, bountiful and prosperous relationships with others, and a sense of competency and control over one's life. In a highly pressured business world, these are surely characteristics every successful person would strive for.
As the definition of stability mentioned before, stability in this thesis mainly refers to two aspects. One is the objective risk of job loss is low which is mentioned by Alfonso (2004). And the other one is the degree of confidence about the organization's financial future which is found in the book of Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (2008).
Nobody likes to work in an environment where they always need to worry about losing their job. Leaders need to show that the employees are worth it for the organization, and make employees believe that they have a low risk of job loss. The followers also need to know that the core value from the leader is stable. This will buffer them from unnecessary change and ensure that they know what is expected. Spiritual leaders are often great promoters of stability, as followers turn to their messages for strenths in times of crisis or elation. Such as great teachers who lead in classrooms everyday know the value of giving students constant support and reassurance. (Tom Rath & Barry Conchie, 2008).
In the workplace, while it's critical for organizations to evolve, change and grow over time, they must also offer employees stability and confience. At a very basic level, employees need a paycheck, and they need to feel secure about having a job. If managers and leaders do not meet these basic needs, they are sure to face resistance. Rach and Conchie's research shows that employees who have high confidence in their company's fincial future are nine times as likely to be engaged in their jobs when compared to those who have lower confidence about their organizations' financial future.
Leaders of an organization should let their employees know how they can help build a better organization; they should let their employees be more engaged or informed about critical metrics of an organization, for example sales, cost, and profit. This gives employees stability and confidence.
Recently a cognitive based theory of hope developed within the field of positive psychology has been discussed in relation to organizational leadership. (Shorey, & Snyder, 1997). Hope in this context can be described as a positive motivational state that contributes to leaders and followers expanding the requisite energy necessary to pursue and attain organizational goals. In an effort to further understand hope in relation to leadership the authors identify linkages between hope and theories of motivation, goal setting, and goal pursuit, commonly applied in leadership studies. This is followed by a review of emerging leadership concepts and theories that explicitly include the concept of hope.
Few would argue that leaders are purveyors of hope, for as Luthans and Avolio (2003) acknowledge, "the force multiplier throughout history has often been attributed to the leader's ability to generate hope," Yet despite this acknowledgment, little attention has been paid to hope within leadership studies. This does not mean that hope has been discounted as a critical factor in effective leadership. It is simply that hope, which is often considered an emotion, has been difficult to define.
However, hope theory developed within the field of positive psychology has recently provided researchers with a definition of hope that is clear and measurable. Hope theory defines hope as, "a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy), and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)," (Snyder, Irving & Anderson, 1991). In other words hope is not just an emotion, it is a dynamic, powerful, and pervasive cognitive process that is observable across numerous contexts including that of formal organizations.
More recently hope theory has been applied to concepts of organizational leadership. Shorey and Snyder (2004) have presented hope as common process in leadership and hope is now included in emerging concepts and models of leadership. This pioneering work has only just begun and there are many unanswered questions regarding the "processes by which leaders influence hope in followers," (Avolio et al., 2004).
Rath and Conchie indicated from their research that there are more than 1,000 people had listed the exact same word to their leaders, without any categories or options provided. It seems that followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the most influential leaders in their lives: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.
If a leader can deal with these four main needs in the leadership, then the employees will be loyal to their leaders and show good performance in the organization.
Chapter 4: research question 3
4.1 Research question 3:
How do leaders know their strengths, investing in others' strength, and satisfy the four basic needs of the employees affect employees' willingness to follow a leader?
We conceive of authentic leaders as persons who have achieved high levels of authenticity in that they know who they are what they believe and value and they act upon those values and beliefs while transparently interacting with others. Avolio, B., Luthans, F., & Walumbwa, F.O., (2004) defined authentic leaders as bthose individuals who are deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others' values/moral perspective, knowledge, and strengths; aware of the context in which they operate; and who are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and high on moral character. We suggest that authentic leaders are able to enhance the engagement, motivation, commitment, satisfaction, and involvement required from followers to constantly improve their work and performance outcomes through the creation of personal identification with the follower and social identification with the organization. (Kark & Shamir, 2002).
Chapter 5: Conclusion
5.1Conclusion and recommendation
Leaders need to build trust, show compassion, provide stability and create hope to the followers.