July 31, 2006

Attuning to others in the workplace is part of leadership

Doctoral dissertation research from Case Western Reserve University finds

Men tend to better predict what their co-workers think about their demonstration of leadership behaviors at work than women, according to a researcher from Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management, who explored leadership attunement as another quality of effective leadership in the workplace.

But where women fell short may be influenced by gender differences on the job where women naturally do some things better than men but have those skills taken for granted.

"Women were more effective overall, yet they were three times poorer at predicting how they would be rated than men," according to Scott Taylor when he studied the potential of being attuned to different people in the workplace for his doctoral research in organizational behavior at Case.

"Being in tune with one's effectiveness on the job turns out to be complicated," he said.

The saying that women have to work twice as hard as men to prove themselves—and that organizations are slow to recognize the fact that they put in the extra effort—may be why they are poor predictors, said Taylor.

So even though they think their work goes unnoticed, Taylor said the work is rated higher for effectiveness on the job than the individual predicts.

"One possibility is that women are hard on themselves. They feel they are doing a good job but may not be good at helping others see the job they are doing," said Taylor.

The researcher explained that leadership attunement can be an additional assessment that adds a new dimension to assessing leadership competence.

While past studies have demonstrated that how people assess their own abilities is how they believe others see them, Taylor found that "self-ratings were not the same as a person's predicted ratings."

His conclusions come after using a multi-source assessment survey (often called a 360-degree feedback assessment). He studied 251 business leaders from three different organizations and alumni who earned advanced management degrees from a Midwestern university and asked each manager to fill out the self assessment on their leadership abilities and also had the leader's manager, peers and people who report to them complete the online survey too. Then the researcher randomly picked two groups for the leader to go back to, using the same set of questions, predict how the individuals from the two groups would respond in order to find out how attuned they were to the people they work with and for.

Taylor also gave the business leaders a vocabulary test that measured intelligence and looked at a correlation between IQ and emotional competence and leadership effectiveness. His findings contribute to a growing body of research in organizational behavior and social psychology by people such as Richard Boyatzis and Daniel Goleman that finds emotional competence or emotional intelligence plays a greater role in leadership effectiveness than IQ.

After the data were analyzed, each individual in the study was provided with information gathered to help them with future job performance.

According to Taylor, one of the benefits of this assessment is, "When leaders receive negative feedback and a leader cannot predict that feedback, it is more difficult for the leader to simply dismiss the negative feedback."

"In the case of women, the inability to predict accurately compared to men should open up a needed dialog about how women feel others see and value their work," continued Taylor.

When making these assessments, Taylor said it is hard for people to separate how they perceives themselves in an isolated situation like work, from how they perceive themselves in other areas of life.

Taylor said by asking the leader to predict how the boss or manager and co-workers would rate the leader's effectiveness adds a new dimension to leadership skills.

"While being attuned to what co-workers think is good, too much attunement can mean that the worker is spending too much time thinking about themselves," said Taylor.

Many times a lower self-assessment by good leaders comes from a humility factor that also has been found to cause a difference between good leaders and others who were assessed for effectiveness.

Upon completion of his doctoral work, Taylor will become an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Boston University in August.

For more information: Susan Griffith 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, July 31, 2006 01:08 PM | News Topics: HeadlinesMain, Research, Weatherhead School of Management

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