Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Moderating Effects of Leadership Style on Subordinates' Perceptions of Decision Effectiveness: A Partial Test of the Vroom-Yetton Model

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Moderating Effects of Leadership Style on Subordinates' Perceptions of Decision Effectiveness: A Partial Test of the Vroom-Yetton Model

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

To investigate if a manager's basic leadership style moderates subordinates' perceptions of decision effectiveness, an experiment involving 258 students was conducted. Leadership style (transformational or transactional) and decision-making behavior ("consistent" or "inconsistent" with the Vroom-Yetton contingency model) were manipulated. Managers profiled as transformational leaders were rated significantly higher than those in the transactional and control conditions were, even when they engaged in autocratic behavior when the Vroom-Yetton model prescribed a group approach to decision making.

INTRODUCTION

The Vroom and Yetton (1973) leadership model is perhaps the best example of systematic research focusing on situational determinants of participative decision making (PDM) (Bass, 1990; Yukl, 1989a; Schweiger & Leana, 1986). The model identifies five approaches to decision making, which are gradations in the level of subordinate participation in decision making. These approaches range from autocratic through to joint decision making between superior and subordinate(s). Seven situational factors determine the conditions under which each of the five approaches to decision-making are considered appropriate.

By encompassing situational factors as moderating variables of the level of subordinate participation required in the decision-making process, the Vroom and Yetton (1973) leadership model has made a significant contribution to management theory and practice (Yukl, 1989b). In general, research has supported the model and its underlying premise that the situation moderates the PDM-decision effectiveness relationship (Field & House, 1990; Vroom & Jago, 1988). However, the model has been tested mainly using manager self-reports, with little support for the model coming from studies using subordinate self-reports (Field & House, 1990; Field, 1982; Field, 1979). Field (1979) argues that relying on manager self-reports is problematic. Social desirability may bias managers towards over reporting use of participative decision-making approaches, when describing decisions that resulted in successful outcomes. This bias occurs because participative approaches to decision making are included in the Vroom-Yetton feasible set more often than autocratic approaches. In addition, studies show (e.g., Field & House, 1990; Jago & Vroom, 1975) that subordinates' perceptions of managerial behavior do not correlate significantly with their superior's own descriptions of the same behavior. Such findings also call into question the validity of manager self-reports.

A major threat to the utility of the Vroom-Yetton (1973) model is that it deals with only one facet of leader behavior--that that of selecting a decision process for a particular problem situation. As Vroom and Jago point out, "... it (does) not profess to deal with all of leadership or of what leaders do. Instead it concentrates only on those aspects bearing on power sharing by leaders and on participation and influence by those who work with them." (1988, p.54) As a result, the model assumes that the degree of participation is the sole leadership behavior that influences decision effectiveness.

Locke and Schweiger's (1979) model of participative decision making identifies three groups of intervening mechanisms that impact on the PDM-outcome relationship: subordinate value attainment, cognitive factors, and motivational factors. Some researchers have argued that participation alone is not sufficient to activate these intervening mechanisms (Latham, Erez & Locke, 1988; Locke, Feren, McCaleb, Shaw & Denny, 1980; Locke & Schweiger, 1979). Moreover, the Vroom-Yetton (1973) model ignores the managerial skills required to identify situational factors and use each of the decision-making approaches effectively. For example, Field argues, "autocratic decisions require leader task knowledge and communication skills, while group participation decisions require leader discussion and conference skills. …

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