Eyes on the prize

Topic: Leadership, Personality, Performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (MAY 2009)
Article The role of goal-focused leadership in enabling the expression of conscientiousness
Authors: A.E. Colbert, L.A. Witt
Reviewed By: Larry Martinez

Colbert and Witt take the stance that goal-directed leadership tactics (being very directive about goals) creates an environment that allows highly conscientious employees to express their conscientiousness most effectively. In other words, this type of leadership can activate the conscientiousness that may be lying dormant (or at least unharnessed) in a leader’s employees. That is, if leaders can effectively communicate organizational goals to their employees in such a way as to create goal-alignment, conscientious individuals will be better able to achieve these goals than their less conscientious counterparts, and these conccientious employees will be more productive than they would be in a less goal-directed environment.

So the point that organizations and leaders should take here is this: different personalities respond differently to the same leadership. Specifically, conscientious employees (who tend to be the best performers anyway) especially benefit from being told exactly what their job is, what roles they should perform, and what tasks should take priority. Having a non-goal-focused leader may suppress otherwise conscientious behaviors in employees who are just itching to be on-the-ball.  Use your employees’ natural predilections to your advantage!

Colbert, A. E, & Witt, L. A.  (2009).  The role of goal-focused leadership in enabling the expression of conscientiousness.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 790-796.