Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Exploring Differences in Leadership Styles: A Study of Manager Tasks, Follower Characteristics, and Task Environments in Korean Human Service Organizations

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Exploring Differences in Leadership Styles: A Study of Manager Tasks, Follower Characteristics, and Task Environments in Korean Human Service Organizations

Article excerpt

This study was designed to analyze the leadership style of managers in Korean Public Human Service Organizations (PHSOs) in terms of the leadership continuum developed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1973). Its purposes were to explore whether or not there is a difference in leadership styles between human services and administrative work and, if there is, to examine whether or not their leadership styles are adaptive to the follower's characteristics and task environment. Results showed that the leadership style of administrative managers is significantly different from that of human service managers. However, the leadership style was not changed in accordance with follower characteristics and task environment. This result indicates either one of the following interpretations; (1) that follower characteristics and task environments cannot be counted as an independent variable of the leadership process, or (2) that the leaders in Korean PHSOs have not yet been transformed into situational leaders.

Keywords: leadership style, situational leadership, leadership effectiveness, human services organization, leadership continuum, follower.

Leadership can be defined as those managerial activities that influence subordinates to strive willingly to attain the goals of the organization (Terry, 1960; Weinbach, 1994). Effective leaders adapt their styles of behavior to meet the needs of their followers as well as the task environment. As all followers are unique individuals, the manager must treat them differently (Mersey & Blanchard, 1982) in order to be an effective leader. It is also true that leadership style should vary in accordance with what specific managers need to accomplish in a given organization in order to achieve effective leadership. It is commonly recognized that organizational characteristics do have an impact on leadership effectiveness (Hooijberg & Choi, 2001).

Public human services organizations (PHSOs) can be some of the best places to conduct empirical research and explore the leadership differences of managers and leadership adaptability to different followers and different task environments. There is a wide range of human resources in such organizations that can be utilized quite appropriately in the study of leadership traits. In a broad sense, these PHSOs carry out two different functions: human services and administrative work. Social workers in PHSOs are professionals and specialists in human services who are in charge of providing assistance and services to families, the elderly, adolescents, children, and people with disabilities, according to the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA, 2005) description of such tasks in the PHSO directory.

Administrative staff members, on the other hand, are generalists, who deal with administrative work, such as personnel and budget, and they must abide by a variety of local government regulations. The leadership styles of human service managers in the PHSOs can, therefore, be different from those of administrative managers in the same organization because their tasks are different. Their leadership styles thus have to adapt to the characteristics of their subordinates and their unique task environment to perform best in their organizations.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1957) depicted a wide range of leadership styles as a continuum that moves from authoritarian or boss-centered leader behavior at one end of the managerial behavior continuum to laissez-faire or subordinatecentered leader behavior on the other end of that same behavioral spectrum. Hersey and Blanchard (1982) classified the managerial spectrum into seven progressive steps. Managers of human services have to behave differently from those managers who are doing administrative work in terms of each leadership style in order to achieve both personal and organizational goals effectively in their individual task environments.

This study was designed to analyze the leadership style of managers in Korean PHSOs in terms of the leadership continuum developed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1957). …

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