How Organizations Can Fast-Track Transitioning Leaders

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

New job roles can be a daunting prospect for anyone. There are contrasts with old responsibilities, new expectations, and all sorts of surprises that pop up along the way. Adjusting quickly to the demands of a new position is important for productivity. But how can organizations fast-track transitioning leaders to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need?

In “Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders,” authors L. Dragoni, H. Park, J. Soltis and S. Forte-Trammell suggest that supervisors can play a key role in leadership development.

The study points towards the need for supervisors and mentors to not only tell transitioning employees how to lead effectively, but to show them how effective leadership looks in practice. This increases the chance of a smooth transition, and frees individuals up to focus on leading others.


“Telling” deals with effectively communicating the knowledge-based components of the job, which include areas of responsibility, reporting channels and the like.

By giving transitioning leaders this necessary information up front, you can reduce the potential for future mistakes and free them up to focus on other important aspects of the job.

The study suggests that leaving them to figure these things out on their own, through trial and error, will impact their overall job efficiency in the initial stages, as well as the quality of their leadership over others.


The study also suggests that the “showing” aspect of helping to develop new leaders is critical in their success.

Employees who have been lucky enough to work with a great leader may require less “show and tell.” When new leaders who have had this benefit in the past are paired with supervisors who don’t put in the proper time and effort in training, they bounce back better than those who haven’t ever worked with great leaders.

But don’t be despondent if the person you’re training has not had this benefit of working with a great leader before. The research shows that these employees often see the greatest gains from working with a “show and tell” supervisor.


In conclusion, training that provides both showing and telling gives transitioning leaders the greatest chance for success. Showing without telling leaves the new leader navigating the occasionally rough waters of organizational structures and processes alone. Telling without showing often leaves the new leader struggling to figure out appropriate behavioral responses to organizational situations.

If you’re involved in training and developing leaders for a new role, the big take-away is that you need to spend time telling them the ins and outs of the job and showing them effective leadership in context. Be the leader you want them to be, and give them a head start by telling them inside information that will help them navigate their new job role. It will save everyone time, and allow them to focus their attention on the people they’re leading.

How Positive Events Can Impact Work-Related Stress

Publication: Academy of Management Journal (December 2013)
Article: Building positive resources: Effects of positive events and positive reflection on work stress and health
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Work-related stress is a problem that most (if not all) of us face. Daily events often affect our stress levels, which in turn can affect our health.

Has a doctor ever told you that you should reduce your stress level in order to lower your blood pressure, lessen your pain, or reduce your exhaustion? If so, the results of a recent study on work-related stress may be of great interest to you.

In “Building positive resources: Effects of positive events and positive reflection on work stress and health,” Joyce Bono and her colleagues were interested in how positive events and a positive reflection intervention impacted people dealing with work-related stress on a number of physical and mental levels.

The researchers found that positive events (such as a compliment from a supervisor, accomplishing a goal, etc.) directly reduced stress and improved overall health. Their study also found additional support for the negative effects of negative events on people dealing with work-related stress.

In addition, the researchers implemented an intervention in which participants were asked to report three positive things that happened each day, as well as their reasoning behind why these good things occurred. As a result of this intervention, the participants generally had better physical and mental outcomes (though not a reduction in blood pressure). These results suggest the important role of positive events and positive reflection in reducing work-related stress and improving overall health. While many organizations (and meetings) tend to focus on what has gone wrong, this study suggests that positive events should also be discussed.

Maybe you could start your meetings by talking about some recent team accomplishment, expressing gratitude for employee effort, or acknowledging a positive event. Who knows? You might actually be improving your own health in the process.

Organizational Attachment: An Outcome of Social Satisfaction and Relationships

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (November, 2013)
Article: Positive and negative workplace relationships, social satisfaction, and organizational attachment.
Reviewed by: Andrea Hetrick

Previous studies on organizational attachment have looked at the role of positive relationships on the attitudes of employees. But, for the most part, they have ignored the impact negative relationships can have.

To examine the influence of negative relationships, authors Venkataramani, Labianca, & Grosser (2012) conducted a study on employees in a midsize manufacturing company and a product development firm.

In these samples, they found that both negative and positive connections impact workplace relationship satisfaction. This level of satisfaction, in turn, influenced employee feelings of attachment to the organization. The article also found that positive networks became increasingly important to worker satisfaction when negative relationships were more central.

The relationships found in this study existed regardless of the employee’s age, gender, part-time or full-time status, education, ethnicity, years worked at the company, location, or number of required work ties. Additionally, the emotions employees often experienced did not affect the findings in the study, and neither did whether or not a leadership position was held.

To maintain employee satisfaction, the study suggests that companies should encourage positive employee relationships and lessen negative ones. Doing so can ensure that employees will stick around, as satisfaction leads to higher job satisfaction and feelings of commitment.

To aid employee satisfaction, the authors suggest managers should:

  1. Support informal get-togethers among co-workers.
  2. Proactively resolve employee differences early on to decrease the occurrence of negative exchanges in workgroups.
  3. Form a climate of open communication to promote trust and relationship building.
  4. Adjust the workflow and communication arrangements in workgroups so that workers with negative relationships do not work together.

The authors also propose ways for employees to increase their own satisfaction levels:

  1. Work on fostering positive connections as opposed to socially withdrawing when negative relationships exist.
  2. Stop negative relationships when they begin to form, and before they affect promotion and other growth-related opportunities.
  3. Use negative relationships as feedback to bring about personal change.

How Power Distance Agreement Improves Performance in the Workplace

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology, November 2013
Article: Leader–Team Congruence in Power Distance Values and Team Effectiveness: The Mediating Role of Procedural Justice Climate
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Research in I-O psychology suggests that, when leaders and their employees share similar attitudes about how work should be done, it creates positive outcomes in the workplace.

A recent study by Cole, Carter, and Zhang (2013) has found that agreement on the appropriate amount of power distance– the disparity in control between employees and their supervisors– can play an especially significant role in workplace harmony, leading to improved performance.

When people expect leaders to assume complete authority and make all decisions, the company’s culture is said to be high on the power distance index. When those leaders are expected to make decisions democratically, using employee input, and employees are assumed to be on equal footing, the culture is said to be low on the power distance index.

As part of the study, researchers examined the extent to which leaders and their employees agreed on power distance expectations. When this agreement was higher, two positive outcomes were usually found: Team performance improved, as did organizational citizen behaviors (when employees go beyond their formal job descriptions to benefit the organization).

But why did this happen? The authors found that, when leaders and employees had similar expectations regarding power distance, there was agreement as to who should be making the decisions. For example, when high power distance was expected, all parties agreed that the leader should be making decisions unilaterally.

This type of agreement leads to a perception of procedural justice, or the feeling that employees are being treated fairly. In our example, the employees do not expect to make decisions, and perceive it as fair when they are not asked to do so. Procedural justice was ultimately associated with higher job performance and organizational citizenship behaviors.

The authors concluded that organizations should find ways to discover the power distance expectations of leaders and their employees. When agreement is low, the organization can then take steps to help correct the mismatch and train leaders to better suit their followers. Ultimately, this knowledge of team members’ preferences can be an important step towards improving overall team performance.

Empowering and Directive Leadership Styles: When Unsatisfied Followers are Better than Satisfied Followers

Publication: Academy of Management Journal (December, 2013)
Article: Directive Versus Empowering Leadership: A Field Experiment Comparing Impacts on Task Proficiency and Proactivity
Reviewed by: Andrea Hetrick

The dynamic workplace of today requires employees to take on less-formalized tasks. As a result, traditional views of leadership that center on task proficiency may no longer be effective.

Proactive behaviors– those involving taking charge, voicing issues, and initiating change– may have newfound value in organizations. Therefore, this study examined how empowering and directive leadership styles influence employee task and proactive behaviors.

Martin, Liao & Campbell (2013) recruited a sample of 95 business leaders to examine the effectiveness of empowering and directive leadership styles. Satisfaction aside, directive and empowering leadership styles increased task proficiency, while only empowering leadership was effective in increasing proactive behaviors. However, varying levels of follower satisfaction with their leader impacted their task proficiency and proactive behaviors.

Interestingly, the authors found that empowered followers who were unsatisfied with their leader were more proactive and more task-proficient than satisfied followers. More satisfied workers responded with proactive behaviors when their leader used a directive leadership style. Therefore, empowering leadership can be used to obtain positive results when employees are feeling unsatisfied.

Overall, the results of this study are important because they show that leaders can encourage their workers to be proactive. Additionally, this study shows that both empowering and directive leadership styles are important and effective. Lastly, this study shows that, when followers have different attitudes toward their leader, they will not react equally to the same intervention.

When coaching leaders, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  1. Leadership interventions can have positive impacts on workgroup performance.
  2. Daily logs, customized training, and biweekly sessions can be effective leader coaching techniques.
  3. Directive behaviors should remain a crucial part of a leader’s routine.
  4. Empowering leadership is more difficult to teach, and the benefits may not always outweigh the costs.
  5. Taking into account situational factors, such as follower attitudes, can be crucial when designing a leadership intervention program.

Sustaining Corporate Social Responsibility through Responsible Leadership

Publication: Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2013)
Article: Responsible Leadership: A Missing Link
Reviewed by: Arlene Coelho

When an organization works to benefit an environmental, social or humane cause– whether by donating money to non-profit organizations or providing goods and services to them pro bono– it’s called Corporate Social Responsibility. What seems on the surface to be a purely charitable effort also helps to further the company’s work culture. But, according to a study by Susana C. Esper and Kathleen Boies, Responsible Leadership is required to ensure sustainable grassroots involvement.

In “Responsible Leadership: A Missing Link,” the authors found that Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives tend to work best when there is involvement from the very top to the very bottom of the organizational hierarchy. The current paper defines responsible leadership in terms of a supervisor who is able to engage the organization’s stakeholders on a personal level, aligning the individual employee’s values and interests with those of the company. This trait ensures that employees will remain dedicated to the cause on both a personal and organizational level, ensuring long-term sustainability.

The authors make an important distinction between embedded (i.e. those activities thoroughly ingrained in the company’s routines and policies) and peripheral (i.e. volunteering and donations) Corporate Social Responsibility. Their study found that the embedded variety is ultimately more effective for organizations because it is more meaningful, reflecting responsible leaders focused on the company’s charitable initiatives. As a result, Corporate Social Responsibility becomes pervasive and central to the company’s vision and mission.

In summary, the authors concluded that responsible leaders are crucial to the success and sustainability of an organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and that it is in their best interest to make those initiatives as central to the company’s success as possible. The key to doing so lies in making the message of Corporate Social Responsibility appealing to each individual employee on a personal level.

Whether through the use of formal or informal means, it is through the organizational leaders’ championing of noble causes that a corporate culture of social responsibility can be created. As the missing link between the company’s macro-level strategy and micro-level actions, these responsible leaders are key to ensuring sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility programs.

Consequences of Abusive Supervision

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (January 2014)
Article: Abusive supervision and feedback avoidance: The mediating role of emotional exhaustion
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

We all know that bullying is a problem in schools, but only recently have I/O psychologists become interested in bullying in the workplace.

One form of non-violent workplace aggression is abusive supervision, which occurs when a supervisor exhibits hostile behaviors such as public ridicule, yelling, or breaking promises. Abusive supervision obviously has negative consequences, but in a recent paper titled Abusive Supervision and Feedback Avoidance, Marilyn Whitman and her colleagues were interested in how abusive supervision leads to some of these unfortunate results.

Not everyone is affected by abusive supervision in the same way. However, in a sample of nurses, the researchers found that abusive supervision was related to emotional exhaustion, which in turn was related to feedback avoidance. In other words, when supervisors are abusive, workers often become emotionally exhausted, and as a result they actively try to avoid getting feedback from their supervisors.

In addition, feedback avoidance leads to additional emotional exhaustion, becoming an endless loop of negative reinforcement. While avoiding an abusive supervisor might seem like a good defense mechanism for an employee, it actually tends to make things worse.

Organizations may want to consider eliminating potentially abusive supervisors during the selection process. Applicants who exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and are more likely to attribute others’ behaviors to hostile intentions are more likely to be abusive supervisors.

Organizations could also implement training programs to raise awareness regarding what could be considered abusive behaviors, as well as how to cope with and report abuse.

Problem Solving at Work: It’s Not What You Know, but WHO You Know

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (September, 2013)
Article: The Relational Antecedents of Voice Targeted at Different Leaders
Reviewed by: Cynthia Maupin

When it comes to problem solving at work, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you know as much as who you know.

Employees who work directly with products or customers have first-hand experience with some of their company’s biggest issues. But many don’t have the influence or resources to solve those problems without assistance from organizational leaders. Who they turn to for help is often more about their relationships with the various leaders than on the person’s position, or company protocol.

A recent study examined the role supervisors have on problem solving at work, both within and between organizations. The authors found that employees who have strong relationships with their direct supervisor feel more comfortable communicating issues with them, which ultimately promotes positive organizational change.

The study also found that the strength of workplace communication depends on how close the employee’s direct supervisor is with his or her boss. If employees are comfortable with their direct supervisor, but perceive the supervisor’s relationship with their boss as weak, they tend to share less with their supervisor, because they don’t believe them to have the influence needed to initiate meaningful organizational changes.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that, with the flattening of organizational hierarchies, more employees are comfortable with going to their boss’s boss in order to get things done, especially if the employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor was poor.

In other words, the opportunity to communicate with more than one level of leadership within an organization gives employees a better chance to solve critical problems. Why is this important?

For frontline employees: Your position within a company and the relationships you make are valuable to the organization’s ultimate success. You can utilize your relationships– not only with your supervisor, but also your supervisor’s boss if necessary– in order to get important problems solved.

For first-level supervisors: You need to build strong relationships with both your subordinates and your own supervisor in order to properly manage your leadership resources.

For second level supervisors: Having a strong relationship with the supervisors you manage will enable employees to trust their ability to solve problems. But if employees are continually coming to you instead of their direct supervisor with their issues, it may indicate problems with that supervisor’s management style.

Long story short, better relationships build better, stronger organizations. So start investing in those you work with to solve workplace problems more efficiently and effectively.

If you’re happy and you know it, your boss doesn’t matter: How a positive mood makes up for transformational leadership

One of the major areas of recent leadership research has been on the impact of transformational leaders. Transformational leaders exhibit behaviors that go above and beyond basic job requirements, including behaving in a manner that helps employees focus on group needs rather than individual, showing high levels of optimism and positive feelings, creating an intellectually stimulating work environment, and helping employees feel personally cared for at work. The behaviors of transformational leaders are seen to have positive outcomes within an organization, increasing creativity as well as helping behaviors. The current study suggests that a transformational leadership style may be less influential when employees have a naturally more positive demeanor, looking specifically at both employee creativity and helping behaviors.

In order to study this, surveys were collected from 212 pairs of supervisors and employees in China. Supervisor surveys measured the employee’s creativity and helping behaviors, while employee surveys measured their own general demeanor (known as Positive Affectivity) and their supervisor’s leadership style.

The researchers found that transformational leadership was not as impactful for predicting helping behaviors or creativity in employees who had more positive general demeanor. This suggests that organizations may be able to look at employee personality traits when pairing employees with supervisors in order to improve the work environment. If a group of employees tends to have a more negative attitude, pairing them with a supervisor who exhibits traits of a transformational leader may be more effective. On the other hand, employees who are generally in a positive mood do not need this specific leadership style in order to be effective. By paying attention to specific personality traits that may impact job performance, organizations may be able to increase levels of employee creativity and helping behaviors.

The Role of Social Networking for Cultural Entrepreneurs

Publication: Creativity and Innovation Management Journal (2013)
Article: Cultural Entrepreneurship: The Impact of Social Networking on Success
Reviewed by: Arlene Coelho

The last few years have seen a growing trend of cultural business start-ups, globally. A cultural business (events, arts, music, theatre, etc.) is significantly different from a commercial business for more than one reason. Cultural businesses are usually at an agency level with a limited number of people. They still have their founding member(s) actively involved in the day to day dealings of the business. Additionally, the success measures for these businesses rely heavily on social networking and strong interpersonal connections in addition to fiscal outcomes. Constructing sturdy social ties lies at the very heart of a successful cultural venture. Maintaining healthy relations with competitors and building on personal networks directly helps a cultural business gather information and resources for mutual benefit.

Due to the nuance of this business sector however, there is an absence of a guided direction as to how much networking actually helps the cultural business and to the extent to which a cultural entrepreneur’s reputation affects the business. The current paper explored this area, and reveals some interesting and constructive information.

It appears that the more favorable a business’s reputation, the more likely it is to succeed and grow. A start-up’s reputation hinges on that of its entrepreneur. The current research therefore suggests that the more actively (socially) involved a cultural entrepreneur is the better the chances are for the business to succeed. A cultural entrepreneur is expected to build strong social relations with competitors, as well as building a sturdy personal social network, in order to be in the loop on important shifts and developments in the cultural business landscape.

Two major obstacles affect cultural business: funding sources and competition with other similar businesses. In the face of limited funding, private cultural businesses find it difficult to compete with public institutions that receive more government funding. A strong networking specialist can greatly help to mitigate the disadvantages a for-profit culture enterprise might face. However, it appears that while a healthy network can help overcome the constraints posed due to limited funding, the benefit is not the same when the level of competitiveness increases. Since cultural entrepreneurs spend a tremendous amount of energy and time networking for mutual benefits with peers, who are also potentially competitors, there seems to exist a general supportive mindset among the cultural community. Unfortunately, when the level of competitiveness increases, perhaps due to a dearth of available funding, it poses a problem that cannot be resolved through social networking alone. In fact, social networking may negatively affect the business, at times of increased competitiveness, since social networking involves a mutual benefit factor.

With the limited research available on cultural entrepreneurship, the current study has contributed in a large way by pointing out the importance of social networking and its limitations as well. Cultural entrepreneurs should focus on building social networks, as part of their business strategy that can assist in overcoming some of the common issues faced by cultural start-ups. However, they should remain conscious that in times of increased competition, alternatives to these social networks will need to be explored.