Home Business & Finance Distance Leadership in International Corporations: Why Organizations Struggle when Distances Grow
Create an environment characterized by autonomy and self-responsibility
Self-leadership as a goal-focused strategy (Furtner & Rauthmann, 2011) revealed its positive impact on followers’ performance. Therefore, it is essential that organizations and leaders create an environment where followers can practice selfleadership strategies. A positive and performance-oriented organizational culture may enhance such an environment (Manz & Sims, 1991). Leaders have to place a large share of the responsibility in the hands of followers (Antonakis & Atwater, 2002). As shown in the present study, less face-to-face interaction can sometimes contribute to a setting that encourages self-leadership behavior.
Self-leadership and active leadership behaviors (transformational and transactional) are furthermore positively related which demonstrates that visionary and goal- oriented behaviors encourage self-leadership behaviors of followers. Positive correlations with self-leadership were found for transformational leadership subfacets. Formulating a compelling vision is key in transformational behavior which in turn can lead to better self-goal setting and self-observation (Bass & Bass, 2008). The inspirational aspect of leadership is strongly reflected in charismatic aspects of leadership. In particular, role-modeling behaviors of transformational leaders have the potential to trigger self-leadership in followers. Especially, the development of natural reward strategies (e.g., intensification) and performance referencing (e.g., group optimization) should be highlighted when creating the trainings.
In addition, transactional leadership drives subordinates to leverage self-leadership capabilities. This has several implications for the design of performance reviews and management trainings in international corporations. Establishing performance management procedures, such as setting clear goals, performing regular reviews, and conducting an objective evaluation together with subordinates, is a prerequisite for exercising transactional leadership. Yet, instead of controlling them, followers should experience an environment of self-responsibility and independence in order to support the achievement of their objectives. The power of self-leadership frequently resides within the empowerment of followers and a progressive scope for development. Having direct implications for workers’ individual performance, exercising self-leadership not only reflects personal cognitive evolvement but also directly impacts individual level outcomes. It might also teach distant followers how to cope better with the situation and could reduce perceptions of isolation. Panagopoulos and Ogilvie (2015, in press) recently discovered that self-leadership helps to self-evaluate and react appropriately in situations facing customers.
The present study finds self-leadership to be less established closer to the value- added chain and in lower hierarchy levels. Functions in manufacturing and supply chain often lack the freedom to execute self-leadership as processes are strictly defined. Especially direct productive areas could benefit from an elevation of selfleadership behaviors as continuous improvement often results from selfresponsibility and a change in mindset. Trainings directed to this target group can both limit the effects of indifference and enhance participation and appreciation. Furthermore, self-leadership can easily be trained and developed in individuals (Manz, 1986) and it heightens employees’ mental performance (Neck & Manz, 1996). Within the narrow frame of the job, strategies such as self-analysis, positive focus or success envision can be incorporated into work contexts with less job autonomy. Although only natural reward and social self-leadership strategies showed significant positive impact on followers’ performance, it is recommended to train all self-leadership skills holistically (Marques-Quinteiro & Curral, 2012).
Self-leadership can furthermore be integrated as part of lean management trainings. Kaizen and continuous improvement processes (CIP) have been on the rise since the innovative Toyota Production System invented by Taiichi Ohno has become a philosophy adapted by many large manufacturing corporations also in Europe and the United States. A fundamental piece of lean management has since become the effort to continuously improve processes in all functional areas of an organization.
The focus on the individual’s mindset in combination with CIP has yet not received much attention. A recent publication provides evidence that self-leadership can however be a driver to perform CIP cognitively. Pearce and Manz (2014) state that self-leadership entails the duty of “managing one’s behavior to meet existing standards and objectives; evaluating the standards and setting or modifying them; and addressing what should be done and why it should be done, in addition to how to do it” (p. 218). The authors describe a mental state of cognitive continuous improvement processes. Good (self)leaders learn more about themselves and integrate the learned information into their cognitive and behavioral systems - an important prerequisite in becoming better and better (Bennis & Nanus, 1985).
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