Academic journal article Journal for East European Management Studies

Considering the Gap between Implicit Leadership Theories and Expectations of Actual Leader Behaviour: A Three-Study Investigation of Leadership Beliefs in Romania*

Academic journal article Journal for East European Management Studies

Considering the Gap between Implicit Leadership Theories and Expectations of Actual Leader Behaviour: A Three-Study Investigation of Leadership Beliefs in Romania*

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

When organisations embrace a strategy of adapting to business in other cultures, understanding how to increase the relational abilities of leaders can become a key objective (Hawrylyshyn 1985). Such strategies must include considerations of cultural factors that influence which types of interpersonal interactions are both desired and expected. In regard to desired behaviours from leaders, understanding cultural determinants of these behaviours can be critical paths to producing higher leadership skills in cross-cultural contexts. But it is also important to note that routines and norms for communication and other interpersonal behaviours, which are affected by both organisational and national cultures, may alter which types of behaviours are most likely to be expressed by leaders. We note that these two ideas - of simultaneous preferences and expectations of leadership behaviours - are related, but in fact may be different due to moderating factors within organisational and national cultural environments. The conceptual underpinning for behavioural preferences of leaders can be found in Implicit Leadership Theories (ILTs). ILTs have been found to be stable constructs (Epitropaki/Martin 2004) that are related to proximal leadership-based constructs and processes such as LMX, and other more distal organisational outcomes (Epitropaki/Martin 2005).

1.1 ILTs and ideal versus real leadership preferences

A key aspect of intercultural competence is to develop listening, observational, and communication skills so that personal values, norms, and behavioural leadership preferences can be compared to those of managers from other cultures. As noted by de Bettignies (1985), if managers can be sensitive to such differences, they can then adjust their own communication and other interpersonal behaviour to best match the leadership preferences of people from other cultures. Managers who are effective in this process tend to decrease perceived uncertainty during cross-cultural operations, and this type of development can be critical for longterm organisational effectiveness (De Cieri et al. 2008).

The conceptual base of this research is found in the area of implicit leadership theories. Implicit leadership theories (ILTs) are schema-based theories, which have their roots in cognitive psychology. Essentially schemas are types of knowledge structures or mental models that individuals use as cognitive frameworks for sense making. These knowledge structures in effect represent categories of experience, which can include descriptions of people, objects, and events (Lord/Foti 1986; Lord et al. 1989). In particular, ILTs are presented as schemas which are specific to leadership perceptions, and individuals are presumed to hold implicit leader profiles composed of ideal leader behaviours as ILTs. In addition, individuals are presumed to match these implicit models of leadership behaviour to actual observed patterns of leadership behaviour in organisations (Epitropaki/Martin 2005). Thus, ILTs represent a leadership categorization ap- proach to understanding organisational behaviour (Lord/Alliger 1985; Foti/Lord 1987; Lord/Maher 1993). This approach has received support in both laboratory studies (Cronshaw/Lord 1987) and field settings (Engle/Lord 1997; Epitropaki/ Martin 2004).

However, even if managers are aware of the types of leadership behaviours that are preferred within a cultural setting, people may still not expect those behaviours due to contextual factors that limit the expression of leadership behaviours. For example, Brain and Lewis (2004) have demonstrated that Australians prefer transformational leadership because national cultural values of small power distance and high individualism, characteristic of Australian society, fit this leadership style. Nonetheless, situational factors such as work unit size and organisational level can alter such preferences.

As most empirical investigations of leadership preferences have been mainly conducted in North America, we explored ideal (i. …

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