Effective leadership is the foundation for great performance – but what makes an effective leader?

“Leadership is one of the most significant predictors that determines the success of organizations”   – Alex Koohang, Joanna Paliszkiewicz and Jerzy Goluchowski –

Effective leadership. Not a particularly ‘sexy’ term. It suggests notions of being solid and reliable. It doesn’t necessarily invoke the heroic, rock star status that blog posts across many online magazines advocate. And in an increasingly volatile world, mainly stemming from political leadership styles, surely solidity and dependability is okay.

Alex Koohang, Joanna Paliszkiewicz and Jerzy Goluchowski built a research model to examine whether effective leadership is a foundation for increased trust; and whether this increased trust then leads to successful knowledge management and, in turn, if this leads to enhanced organisational performance.

THE RESEARCH

The researchers built a model consisting of six constructs:

  1. Leading organization
  2. Leading people
  3. Leading self
  4. Trust
  5. Knowledge management
  6. Organizational performance

This formed the basis of a questionnaire which was sent managers in various organisations across nine regions in the United States. 217 managers completed the survey.

Underpinning this model was the work of Joanna Paliszkiewicz and colleagues on the characteristics of effective leadership:

Leading organisational change Listening Seeking feedback
Leading innovation Empowering Managing time
Motivating employees Interpersonal communication Learning
Being grounded in values/principles Influencing and being flexible Understanding individual differences/ diversity and inclusion
Leading and resolving conflict Being self-aware Building/sustaining relationships among people

The work of D. Scott Sink and Thomas C. Tuttle who identified seven indicators of organisational performance:

Effectiveness Quality of work-life
Efficiency Innovation
Quality Profitability
Productivity

And the work of Joanna Paliszkiewicz, this time on the five characteristics of knowledge management:

  1. Localization
  2. Use of knowledge
  3. Knowledge acquisition and development
  4. Knowledge codification
  5. Knowledge transfer

THE FINDINGS

“Trust has been viewed as an imperative element for organizational success”                             – Alex Koohang, Joanna Paliszkiewicz & Jerzy Goluchowski –

  1. Effective leadership of self, others and the organisation is a foundation for greater levels of trust.
  2. Increased trust, as a result of effective leadership, contributes to the successful implementation of knowledge management practices.
  3. Successful knowledge management practices, as a result of increased trust stemming from effective leadership, significantly and positively contributes to better organisational performance.

IMPLICATIONS AND IDEAS

While the findings of this research are based on a fairly small sample, all of whom self-reported on effectiveness, nonetheless this offers managers and leaders some helpful clues in areas to focus on.

  1. Evaluate where you are using the 15 characteristics of effective leadership. Which areas are you stronger at? Which areas do you need some development on? This could be done at an individual and also a team level, with leadership teams. The results can then be used to help with development and improvement.
  2. Examine how you measure your organisation’s performance, using Sink and Tuttle’s indicators. Are you focusing on some areas more than others? Are there some elements you don’t look at? How does this get reported and to who?
  3. Review your current leadership development offering. What evidence drove the design of your programme, if you have one? Does it provide a balance of a focus on the here and now, along with looking at the future? How are you evaluating success both in terms of individual impact, as well as organisational?

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Research reference:

Koohang, A., Paliszkiewicz, J. & Goluchowski, J. (2017). The impact of leadership on trust, knowledge management and organizational performance. Industrial Management and Data Systems, 117(3), 521-537.

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