“Leading by example” and organizational performance – FCW

“Leading by example” and organizational performance

As some bloggers will recall, I regularly read a number of academic journals with articles related to public management, and occasionally blog about them to share the results. I am particularly interested in studies that deal with how managers can improve the performance of their organization using techniques that do not require new budgets or other financial resources.

I just came across a great example of such research in the current issue of one of my favorite journals, the Academy of Management Journal. The title of the article is “Leader by Action: Leading by Example Impacts Quality and Quality of Service” and the author is Liat Eldor, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania . (Note that the article itself is behind a paywall, but most university libraries and some government libraries subscribe to this journal, and you can access it if your library has a subscription.)

The article contrasts the standard managerial technique of providing employees with instructions on what the manager wants the employee to do via “lead by example”. With this technique, the manager “demonstrates ideal working day behavior by engaging in employee activities,” the article explains. “For example, a store manager who serves customers at the front line of the organization to show how sales and service should be performed or an executive director who works at the front desk once a week to illustrate how customers should be. treated. “

Eldor wants to see if such behaviors improve the performance of an organization, including unlike the frequently discussed charismatic leadership behavior, where the manager presents a vision of the future state of the organization but does not demonstrate that vision by being a living model.

Eldor uses good research methodology to gather its evidence. To determine the extent to which managers are committed to leading by action, she asks employees in a sample of retail stores to indicate, among other things, the extent to which their store manager is “in control by” doing “instead. that by simply “telling” “and” is a good role model for me to follow. “

Note that the author asks employees to rate their managers rather than asking managers to rate themselves, a less valid way of collecting data. Most importantly, store performance data is collected from objective external sources, rather than the manager’s own assessment of their organization’s performance. The two performance measures are store productivity – store turnover per employee – and service quality, assessed by mystery shoppers in stores. Too many academic studies of organizations, especially in public administration, are tainted with reliance on self-assessments of subjective perceptions to collect this type of information.

The results are fascinating and the methodology makes them credible. Leading by example improved store productivity and store level service quality, more than charismatic leadership that simply presented a vision in words.

Although the setting for this research is retail stores rather than government offices, there is no reason to believe that the same mechanism would not work in government – and the store setting makes it easier to demonstrate the productivity and more practical to use mystery shoppers in a way that would probably not be accepted in a government context. I urge my manager-readers to pay attention to this study and think about how you can apply it in your own environment and in your own behavior. You can do that, and the suggestion here is that it will help you.

posted by Steve kelman at June 08, 2021 at 8:51

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