Good leaders try to influence the way their followers behave. For example, in the workplace, leaders may try to align followers to organizational goals by displaying the necessary behaviors themselves. Leaders who have stronger relationships with their followers tend to be more successful at doing this, as they have greater influence over their followers’ behavior. Recent researcher (Ishaq et al., 2023) tested this idea.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The researchers administered three sets of surveys to leaders and their followers (52 CEOs and 253 followers) to measure how much the leader and their followers identify with their organization’s goals, how strongly followers identify with their leader, and how well followers perform.
The researchers found that when leaders strongly identified with and adopted the organization’s goals and values, followers were also more likely to identify with and adopt the organization’s goals and values. This also had a strong positive impact on follower performance within the workplace, beyond the typical effect of the leader-follower relationship. Further, the effect in this study only occurred if leaders were truly committed to the organization for its own sake, and not when leaders had selfish motivations for helping to achieve organizational goals.
This research offers several helpful pieces of advice for organizations that want to increase follower commitment and performance:
- Encourage commitment to the organization, rather than the leader. This will ensure that followers are not overly dependent on their leaders, and will keep them on track with organizational goals, even if leadership changes.
- Organizations and leaders should consider implementing reward systems focused on both individual performance and attaining collective goals.
- Organizations should seek to build authentic commitment from their leaders – rather than encouraging leaders to act in their own self interests. This will help leaders have more impact over follower commitment and performance.
Ishaq, E., Bouckenooghe, D. & Zakariya, R. (2023). Like leader, like follower: Impact of leader-follower identification transfer of follower outcomes. Journal of Business and Psychology, 38, 657-670.
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