Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Transformational Leadership and Group Climate-Empirical Results from Symphony Orchestras

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Transformational Leadership and Group Climate-Empirical Results from Symphony Orchestras

Article excerpt

The study investigates the degree to which the conductor's transformational leadership style and a cooperative climate in the orchestra favorably effect the orchestra's artistic quality. The authors study the assertion that the conductor's transformational leadership style promotes the orchestra's artistic quality only if there is a cooperative climate in the orchestra. An empirical study of 208 musicians from 22 professional German symphony orchestras confirms the assumed interaction effect of the conductor's transformational leadership style and the cooperative climate among the musicians on the orchestra's artistic quality. Conclusions for the effectiveness of transformational leadership in organizations are drawn.

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Literature gives us several indications on how transformational leadership increases success in groups and organizations (Avolio et al., 1999; Bass, 1998; De Dreu & Weingart, 2003; Fuller et al., 1996; Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). However, this positive impact of transformational leadership can not be generalized. Instead, the positive effects of transformational leadership in organizations seem to depend largely not only on the specific performance criteria, but on particular situational conditions (Gebert, 2002; Ehrhart & Klein, 2001). Since transformational leadership in organizations typically includes the leadership of groups of followers, it might not be sufficient to consider only characteristics of the individual follower. In order to identify additional conditions for the effectiveness of transformational leadership it seems rather beneficial to consider characteristics of the work group.

This paper investigates the question whether the climate in a group of followers is a prerequisite for the success of transformational leadership. According to the construct organizational climate (Schneider, 1988), here, group climate is defined as the group's collective climate "based upon the perceptions of individuals who share common [...] descriptions of their work environment" (Joyce & Slocum, 1990, p. 133). Literature reveals that group climate is a multidimensional construct and that group climate contributes to work effectiveness (Koys & DeCotiis, 1991; Kopelman et al., p. 282).

The question of whether a cooperative group climate among the followers is a prerequisite for the success of transformational leadership is investigated in the context of symphony orchestras. We assume the conductor's transformational leadership promotes the artistic quality of a symphony orchestra only if there is a highly cooperative climate in the orchestra. Although rarely analyzed in leadership research (Hunt et al., 2004), leadership in the symphony orchestra seems particularly fruitful for the study of the above question. Existing literature allows us to make the assumption that transformational leadership is especially relevant in the context of symphony orchestras (Atik, 1994; Faulkner, 1973; Boerner, 2002; Boerner et al., 2004). Moreover, a cooperative climate in the orchestra seems to be of outstanding relevance for a symphony orchestra's artistic quality. First, due to the extraordinary high level of coordination demanded from the group members (Young & Colman, 1979), the interdependence of the musicians' tasks is very high. Therefore, intense cooperation is needed to attain a good performance. Second, the fluctuation of the members of professional orchestras tends to be low (Boerner, 2002), so symphony orchestras can be regarded as groups with a high degree of stability over time. Since group climate is attained through the socialization process and through symbolic interaction among group members (Reichers & Schneider, 1990, p. 29), it is to be expected that a symphony orchestra, as do other organizational groups, develops a specific group climate.

In the remainder of the paper, we will initially explain in which way a transformationally leading conductor will positively influence the artistic quality of an orchestra. …

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