Testing Multi-Dimensional Nature of "New Leadership" in a Non-Western Context: The Case of Malaysia

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Past researchers in leadership studies have observed a shift in the dimensions of new leadership behavior such as transformational and transactional styles. For the past few decades, leadership styles continue to be one of the most exciting issues for organizations. Many studies have attempted to explore its effect on work outcomes such as employees commitment, job satisfaction, turnover intention, and performances. Leadership styles exhibited by the managers have often been known as the essence of leaders' behavior which is the major driving force behind this continuous recognition of employees' behavior in the management literatures. Hence, a better understanding of the dimensionality of leadership styles is needed to facilitate further theoretical development and practical measurement of the construct. The purpose of the research reported here was to test empirically and to validate a conceptualization of two forms of leadership styles known as transformational and transactional that consists of four and five dimensions, respectively. Data was gathered through a survey using a structured questionnaire to employees in Malaysia with a total of 146 respondents. A series of tests such as factor analysis, correlation, and reliability analysis was conducted to confirm that the instrument is valid (content, construct, convergent, discriminant and nomological) as well as reliable. Implications regarding the value of conducting validity and reliability test for practitioners and re searchers are discussed.

Keywords: leadership styles, goodness of measure, validity, reliability, multicultural society

INTRODUCTION

Leadership can be practiced by any organization members regardless of their status in the organizations, and leadership is generally understood as the ability to exert influence over others (Peabody, 1962). Past studies (Ansari, 1990; Farrell & Schröder, 1999; Rajan & Krishnan, 2002) have conceptualized leadership as a social influence process from an organizationally designated superior to his or her subordinates.

In view of the fact that Malaysia' s colonial heritage, coupled with more recent foreign direct investments by Japanese and Westerners, the traditional patterns of leadership and business management have been modified (Sin, 1991). It is evidenced that Malay sians' management styles and practices are being westernized especially in those working in manufacturing companies that reported directly to their foreign partners and/or bosses. In spite of the above statement, it has been found that Malaysian leaders are not expected to be self-serving such as placing their own interest ahead of the group, as they are still governed by their key cultural and religious values which underpin their behavior, beliefs, and attitude (Kennedy & Mansor, 2000). As revealed by Abdullah (1996), Malaysian managers are only familiar with one level of interaction; hence, it is time to learn through exposure to different work settings, social interaction, and observation of work related practices not only in intracultural levels, but at the intercultural levels, and cross-cultural levels.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Leadership Styles

Past studies on leadership have not found conclusive evidence on Malaysian leadership style. For example, Gill (1998) suggested that Malaysian managers are found to be more direct, less delegate, and are more transact onal. However, Govindan (2000) reported that Malaysian leaders lean more towards participative and consultative styles. This is in line with the assertion of Abdullah (1992) that the use of stronger tactics in Malaysian context is not likable as Malaysians generally are not in favor of overt display of anger and aggressive behavior. Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939) have pioneered the study of leadership where an experiment study was designed to examine the relative effectiveness of democratic, laissez-faire, and authoritarian leadership styles. …