The current study examined the effects of leadership style charismatic or autocratic on followers’ internal and external attributions for their organization’s success or failure. In addition, role incongruence between the leadership style and gender was examined within the context of attributional error. Confirming the hypotheses, the results showed a three-way interaction between leadership style, gender, and organizational outcome.
Supporting the role incongruity theory, when there was role incongruence between the leadership style and gender (i.e., the female autocratic leader), the attributions for failure were more unfavorable toward the leader. The effect of leadership style on internal attributions for failure was mediated by the likeability of the leader. Overall, the current study was the first experimental investigation of the effects of leadership style, organizational outcomes, and gender on attributional biases within a single design.
Leaders play a variety of roles in organizations: they are commanders, conductors, team builders, supervisors, mentors, motivators, and promoters. Utilization of an appropriate leadership style is the key to successful execution in these roles. Effective leaders adapt a style that best fits the unique leadership situation they are in and their unique relationship with employees.
When employees see the way their leader listens, brings people together, sets a clear vision, and rallies others toward a common goal and desired outcome, the perception of that leader as charismatic (e.g., President Barack Obama or Steve Jobs of Apple Computers) is boosted. On the other hand, when the leader has total authority and control over main decision-making, and closely monitors employees until the job is completed, s/he is perceived as an autocratic leader.
Although the autocratic leadership style is more associated with the military, and seen as old-fashioned, examples are found in today’s business such as Martha Stewart and Howell Raines, former executive editor of The New York Times.
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