Leading Employees by Involving Them Leads to Results

Topic: Leadership, Job Performance, Citizenship Behavior
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (JAN 2010)
Article: Does participative leadership enhance work performance by inducing empowerment or trust? The differential effects on managerial and non-managerial subordinates
Authors: X. Huang, J. Iun, A. Liu, and Y. Gong
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Isn’t it nice when our supervisors invite our ideas/opinions and include us in decision making?  Of course it is!  These kinds of supervisory behaviors are known as participative leadership behaviors and, not surprisingly, they tend to positively impact employee job performance.  Although this effect is expected for all employees, a recent study by Huang and colleagues (2010) suggests that the reasons why participative leadership behaviors lead to improved performance depends on a subordinate’s hierarchical level in the organization.

In their study, Huang et al. collected a sample of 527 employees from a Fortune 500 telecommunications company in China. As expected, they found that participative leadership behaviors of supervisors leads to improved task performance and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) of their subordinates.  But, as mentioned above, there appear to be slightly different reasons why these effects occur depending on the hierarchical level of the subordinate (i.e., managerial vs. non-managerial).

Specifically, the effect of participative leadership behaviors on performance for managers appears to be due to psychological empowerment (i.e., feelings of competence and meaningfulness) whereas these effects are due to the trust placed in leaders for non-managerial employees.

According to Huang and colleagues, these findings suggest that managerial and non-managerial employees interpret the participative leadership behaviors of their supervisors differently. While non-managerial employees seem to focus on trust in their supervisor, managerial employees seem to focus on the increased autonomy and empowerment resulting from participative leadership behaviors.

Despite the differences identified, Huang et al.’s results suggest that participative leadership behaviors have a positive impact on employee psychological empowerment, trust in the leaders, and ultimately job performance (task performance and OCBs).

Huang, X., Iun, J., Liu, A., & Gong, Y. (2010). Does participative leadership enhance
work performance by inducing empowerment or trust? The differential effects on
managerial and non-managerial subordinates. Journal of Organizational Behavior,
31(1), 122-143.