Impact of Follower Personality andOrganizational Structure on Transformational Leadership
Haritha Vashti KandallaVenkat R. Krishnan
Haritha Vashti Kandalla is an alumnus of Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur.Venkat R. Krishnan is Professor, Organizational Behaviour, Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur. E-mail:[email protected].
This study uses an experimental design to look at the effects of followers’ openness to experience, one of theBig Five personality traits and an organic organizational structure (operationalized as low configurationand large span of control) on transformational leadership. The five factors of transformational leadershipmeasured are idealized influence (attributed), idealized influence (behavioural), inspirational motivation,intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. The sample consists of 96 medical professionalsfrom two homogeneous health-care establishments of the Indian defence services. Results show thatfollowers’ openness to experience enhances idealized influence (attributed) and idealized influence(behavioural), as also the composite measure of transformational leadership. An organic structure by itselfdoes not have any effect on transformational leadership, but it does so in combination with follower personality.Idealized influence (behavioural), intellectual stimulation and the composite measure of transformationalleadership are higher when followers’ openness and organic structure are present than when both ofthem are absent.
There have been very few experiments con-ducted in the area of transformational lead-
ership, and none where the effect of followerpersonality and organizational structure(Pillai and Meindl 1998) have been studied,as is attempted in the present study. Burns(1978) defines transformational leadershipas leadership that occurs when leaders and
followers engage with each other such that
they raise one another to higher levelsof motivation and morality, directly hint-ing at the importance of the follower in theinteraction process. Conger and Kanungo(1998) state that there were leader-followerinfluence processes, leader-context influence
processes in any organization. All theseprocesses need careful study if one were tounderstand leadership fully. Despite suchassertions (Bass 1997; Conger and Kanungo1998), numerous studies have been con-ducted on the personality of the leader whilethe follower’s personality and organiza-tional structure have been neglected. Aftera study by Burns and Stalker (1961) compar-ing organic and mechanistic structures, therehas not been much literature devoted tostructure. Literature supports the hypothesisthat the emergence of transformational lead-
ership is dependent on organizational struc-ture. To this effect, the intention of this studyis to look at the effect of structure and fol-lower personality on transformational lead-ership, which has not been studied in anydetail before.
Theory and Hypotheses
According to Burns (1978), there are twotypes of leadership, transactional and trans-formational. The former is based purely onexchange, with the leader rewarding desiredbehaviour displayed by the follower, whilein the latter there is a mutual relationshipwhere both the leader and the follower areelevated from their present to a higher stateof morality. Ehrhart and Klein (2001) havefound that followers wanting to be activelyinvolved in making decisions and not havinga high degree of stability of work are at-tracted to charismatic leaders, thereby es-tablishing a relationship between followerpersonality and leader behaviour. Porter andLawler (1964) mention that a tall structureis good for producing security and socialneed satisfactions, while a flat structure is
good for self-actualization satisfaction, there-by stating that a fit is required between per-sonality and the organizational structure foreffective performance.
Bass (1985) states that transformational lead-
ership consists of four interrelated factors:charisma or idealized influence, inspiration,intellectual stimulation and individualizedconsideration and transformational leaderbehaviours are positively related to em-ployee satisfaction, self-reported effort andjob performance. Idealized influence consistsof two sub-factors-idealized influence(attributed) and idealized influence (behav-ioural). Though Bass considers charisma oridealized influence to be a factor of trans-formational leadership, authors have usedthe terms charismatic leadership and trans-formational leadership interchangeably.Podsakoff et al. (1990) find that trans-
formational leadership behaviours like ar-ticulating vision and high performanceexpectations result in follower trust in theleader, which in turn have an effect on their
organizational citizenship behaviours.Barling et al. (1996) studied branch managersof 20 branches of a large bank and found thaton training those managers in transform-ational leadership, the subordinates per-ceived higher intellectual stimulation,charisma and individualized considerationin the leaders and their organizational com-mitment increased significantly. It alsoresulted in better financial performance.Yammarino et al. (1997) found similar resultsin a research while studying women andtransformational leadership. Seltzer andBass (1990) questioned 138 followers about55 managers who were their leaders and
found that potential followers who had anexpressive orientation towards work and lifeand those who were very principled weremuch more susceptible to the influence ofa charismatic leader. Thus, personality ofthe follower is an important determinantin a leader being transformational, whichprompted the inclusion of personality in thisstudy.
Openness to experience would be the mostrelevant of the Big Five traits when it comesto transformational leadership or anythingpertaining to change. Those who are high onopenness to experience enjoy anything outof the ordinary. Anything new excites andstimulates them, and they enjoy doing thingsnever done before. Challenges are easy forthem to overcome; they have a vivid imagin-ation, are very open-minded and do not havea narrow focus, but have a very broad per-spective about most things. They enjoy dis-covering new things and try to understandthem. They are not derogatory about any-thing that might seem ridiculous but areready to try to understand that too.While relating the Big Five personality
construct to the three job performance cri-teria (job proficiency, training proficiencyand personnel data), Barrick and Mount(1991) have shown that conscientiousness is
consistently related to all performance cri-teria, and that openness to experience andextraversion are valid predictors of trainingproficiency. Their study used a total sampleof 23,994 with people belonging to five occu-pational groups. Taking intrinsic success tobe related to job satisfaction and extrinsicsuccess to be related to income and occupa-tional status, Judge et al. (1999) have found
that conscientiousness positively predictsintrinsic and extrinsic success. Taggar et al.(1999) have found that teams perform bestwhen both leaders and followers are highin leadership.
Ehrhart and Klein (2001) found that fol-lowers with strong participation and lowsecurity work values were more likely tobe drawn to charismatic leaders. A studyshowed that conscientiousness and emo-tional stability were not related to transform-ational leadership (Judge and Bono 2000).Proactiveness correlated positively withextraversion and conscientiousness, but notwith the other three factors and the higherthe score on the proactiveness scale, the morewere the chances of identification as a trans-formational leader by peers (Bateman andCrant 1993). This study used three samplesof sizes 282, 130 and 148, with the first two
composed of undergraduates and the last ofMBA students, and implied that proactiveindividuals are more likely to be perceivedas transformational. Shamir et al. (1993) saidthat the recognition of a leader as transform-ational was the result of a dyadic relation-ship between the follower’s perception andthe leader’s behaviour. The followers whoare more open to experience will encouragedemonstration of more transformationalbehaviour by the leader.
Hypothesis 1 Openness to experience in thefollower will enhance transformational
leadership.Based on Burns and Stalker’s (1961) typ-
ology of organizational structure, Shamirand Howell (1999) hypothesized that cha-rismatic leadership will be found more inorganic organizations as it emerges duringradical change that characterizes organic
organizations. They said that organic organ-izations enabled and encouraged expressionof individual behaviour by both leaders andpotential followers.
An organic structure will have few hier-archical levels, less configuration and a largespan of control. An organization that is lowon configuration will have a flat structureand the number of levels in the organizationwill be few. Those at higher hierarchicallevels are approachable for anyone in theorganization. The structure is not deep, butshallow. This means that there are a numberof people working under one person andinformation is more accurately passed down,unlike in situations where the informationis passed down so many levels that it is
severely distorted by the time it reachespeople who are supposed to implement it.One can meet the superiors anytime, as theyare more available for consultation.As there are very few levels in an organic
organization, there is a larger span of controlfor superiors or supervisors. Many peopleare at the same level in the hierarchy becauseof the flat structure. Therefore, there aremany people working under one superior.A very simple structure ensures that the mo-tivation to work is not the large number ofpromotions one gets, but the kind of workone does and the recognition one gets for it.With a greater span of control, the decisionstaken by managers influence a large numberof people and therefore the responsibilityshouldered by them is higher than other-wise. Therefore, the leadership skills of man-agers have to be more pronounced in thissituation.
In a turbulent environment, a mechanistic
organization cannot survive (Bass 1998).Organizations need to be flexible to meetnew demands and changes as they occurand transformational leadership can enablethe firm to do so. Howell and Avolio (1993)studied 78 managers from the top level of alarge financial institution. They found thatsupport for innovation in the organizationmoderated the relationship between trans-formational leadership and performance.Thus, if the organizational structure is or-ganic with an emphasis on innovation, thejob performance of followers increases.
Ivancevich and Donnelly (1975) conducteda study with 295 salesmen from three organ-izations and found that salesmen in flat or-
ganizations faced less pressure from theirsupervisors, were given more autonomy,were more satisfied and preformed better(were more efficient) than those in tall
organizations who found being constantlysupervised stifling. In another study by Car-penter (1971), teachers from flat schools dis-played more job satisfaction compared tothose from medium and tall schools in theareas of community prestige, professionalauthority and participation in determiningschool goals.
Pillai and Meindl (1998) showed that
organic structure and collectivistic culturalorientation were positively associated withthe emergence of charismatic leadership.Data was collected from 596 managers andsubordinates embedded in 101 work unitsin a large, complex organization. The studyalso showed that perceptions of structureand collectivistic orientation drove work
performance, ratings of leader effectiveness,satisfaction with leadership and job satis-faction. Garg and Krishnan (2001) found thatformalization was not negatively related to
transformational leadership and that decen-tralization was related to transformational
leadership provided value-based leadershipwas not controlled.Pawar and Eastman (1997) studied the
typology of structure given by Mintzberg(1979) and said that both simple structureand adhocracy forms were more receptiveto transformational leadership than themachine bureaucracy, professional bureau-cracy or divisional structural forms. An
organic, non-formalized organization witha larger span of control would be positivelyrelated to the job performance and satisfac-tion of employees. In addition, such organ-izations are also the ones that are conducivefor transformational leadership to appear.Hence, we have:
Hypothesis 2 An organic organizationalstructure would enhance transformational
Hypothesis 3 Followers’ openness to experi-ence and organic structure would togetherenhance transformational leadership morethan either of them separately would do.
The data for this experiment was obtainedfrom two health-care organizations asso-ciated with the Indian defence services.These organizations have the capacity tohandle cases ranging from 25 to 1,500 innumber. They are led by people of appro-priate seniority according to the size of theorganization. The organizational hierarchyhas seven levels. There are officer and non-officer cadres, with doctors and nurses beingin the former and the ambulance attendants,
maintenance staff, etc., belonging to the lat-ter. There were 137 officers in one organiza-tion and 161 in the other. We invited 120officers to participate in the study, of whom102 participated, resulting in a final usablesample of 96 officers. The work experienceof the respondents ranged from 1 to 33 years.Further demographic data was not availablebecause of the strict rules of confidentialityimposed in the organization.
In this experimental study, followerpersonality (openness to experience) and or-ganizational structure (organic) were mani-pulated (yes or no) using a 2 x 2 design andtransformational leadership was measured.The basic scenario given to respondentsasked them to visualize themselves as offi-cers in the Indian Army Medical Corps, whowere on study leave to a civil hospital for ayear. While working in the hospital, theynotice that relations between the manage-ment and employees are not very cordial.One day, matters come to a head betweenthe management and employees when anemployee is dismissed for demandingmoney to remove a dead body. The norm inthe hospital is that employees can makemoney their own way, including charging forremoving dead bodies. Thus, the dismissalshocks employees and their union calls for astrike. The respondents are now asked tomeet the union representative to resolve theissue.
Follower personality was manipulated bypresenting the union representative as eitherbeing open to experience or not being opento experience. Organizational structure wasmanipulated by describing the organizationas either being organic or not being organic.The following cells were used: Cell 1-bothorganic and open to experience (n = 28); Cell2-organic but no openness (n = 19); Cell 3-
open but not organic (n = 31); Cell 4-neitherorganic nor open (n = 18). Respondents weregiven the scenario pertaining to their cell,and all were asked to visualize themselves,their union representative (follower), and theorganizational structure as given in the scen-ario. They were asked to answer questionson their own transformational leadershipaccording to how they would have behavedhad they been in the same situation in reality.The success of the manipulation was
checked by questionnaires for the person-ality of the follower and the organizationalstructure. The questionnaire for the opennessdimension of follower personality was the20-item scale of the NEO five-factor ques-tionnaire taken from the International Per-
sonality Item Pool (2002). The Cronbachalpha for the questionnaire was 0.67. Resultof a t-test showed that the mean opennessscore in the yes-openness cells (M = 1.88;SD = 0.46) was significantly higher (t = 2.67;p < 0.01) than the mean openness score in the
no-openness cells (M = 1.61; SD = 0.49).Span of control and configuration were the
two dimensions of organic structure thatwere used for this study. The questionnairesfor span of control and configuration wereframed keeping in mind the elaborations ofthe constructs given by Robbins (1990). The
Cronbach alphas were 0.70 for span ofcontrol and 0.56 for configuration. Result ofa t-test showed that the mean span of controlscore in the yes-organic cells (M = 2.11;SD = 0.55) was significantly higher (t = 4.37;p < 0.001) than the mean span of controlscore in the no-organic cells (M = 1.45;SD = 0.78). Similarly, the mean configurationscore in the yes-organic cells (M = 1.77;SD = 0.46) was significantly lower (t = -7.07;p < 0.001) than the mean configuration scorein the no-organic cells (M = 2.50; SD = 0.55).Thus, manipulation checks showed that
the differences in personality and structureacross the cells were significant in the ex-pected direction. Therefore, the cells wereseen as intended. The transformational lead-
ership qualities of the respondents weremeasured using the 47-item Multi-factorLeadership Questionnaire (MLQ) (Bass andAvolio 1991) along five factors-idealizedinfluence (attributed), idealized influence(behavioural), inspirational motivation, in-tellectual stimulation, and individualizedconsideration. Descriptive statistics for thefive factors are provided in Table 1. The fivefactors were highly correlated to each otherand therefore, a composite score for trans-formational leadership was calculated bytaking the mean of the five factors.
Descriptive Statistics and Correlations for Outcome Variablesa
° N = 96. Cronbach alphas are in parentheses along the diagonal.***
To test Hypothesis 1 and 2, two t-tests weredone on the whole sample divided into twoparts, one where openness to experience waspresent or not present, and the second wherethe organization was organic or not organicseparately. The results are shown in Table 2.
Table 2 shows that transformational lead-
ership was higher in the openness cells thanin the no-openness cells, thus supportingHypothesis 1. Looking at the five trans-formational leadership factors separately,openness enhanced idealized influence (at-tributed) and idealized influence (behav-ioural). Table 2 also shows that there was nodifference in transformational leadershipacross the organic and not-organic cells.Thus, Hypothesis 2 was not supported.Looking at the four cells together, an an-
alysis of variance was done to check for dif-ferences in transformational leadershipacross the four cells. Two-tailed t-tests werealso done between pairs of cells to see if therewas any significant difference in transform-ational leadership between Cell 1 (both or-ganic and openness present) and each of theother three cells. The results are summarizedin Table 3.
Results of analysis of variance showed thatthe composite transformational leadershipvariable and the factors of idealized influ-
ence (behavioural) and intellectual stimula-tion were significantly different across thefour cells. Idealized influence behavioural
and intellectual stimulation were lower in
Cell 4 (no-openness and not-organic) than inCell 1 (both organic and openness present).There were no differences between the re-
maining two cells (Cells 2 and 3) and Cell 1.Hypothesis 3 obtained partial support.
In the present study based on an experi-mental design, it has been shown that fol-lowers’ openness to experience enhancestransformational leadership behaviour, ashypothesized. Earlier studies that empha-sized only the leader characteristics may nothave given the complete picture, namely,that transformational leadership depends onthe follower as much as the leader. This im-
plies that leaders should choose their fol-lowers carefully, to ensure that there is afit between their leadership style and the
Results of t-tests for Comparing Openness with No-Openness Cells, and Organic with Not-Organic Cells
Results of t-tests for Comparing Cell 1 with Each Other Cell Separately and Analysis of Variance
Note: The t-tests compare Cell 1 with each of the other three cells separately. The F-statistic is for an overallcomparison of all four cells together.t=p<0.10. *=p<0.05. **=p<0.01.
followers. In addition, organizations shouldthink twice before deciding that a leader isineffective, as that too depends on the per-
tonality of the followers.Organic structure does not seem to en-
hance transformational leadership behav-iour. A possible explanation for this can bethe very nature of the organization chosen.Although the defence establishment is a verycentralized, hierarchical organization, thehealth-care department has officers who aredoctors and experts, and they have full au-thority to deal with their area of responsi-bility as they want to. Thus, they are free toexercise their decision-making abilities as ifthey were working in an organization withan organic structure. They may not havebeen able to differentiate between an organicand a non-organic structure due to this, andmight have shown similar levels of trans-formational leadership in both situations.Future researchers can think of replicatingthe study in a non-defence environment.
Ghiselli and Johnson (1970) studied 413managers in different businesses and foundthat satisfaction of needs pertaining to indi-vidualism, need for autonomy and self-actualization were more highly related tomanagerial success in flat than tall organ-izations. This study implied that flat or-ganizations were more progressive as theyencouraged behaviour that fulfilled higherorder needs. Burns and Stalker (1961) havedefined mechanistic and organic structuresand stipulated that transformational leader-ship is more likely to emerge in organic struc-tures, as they are likely to face radical changerequiring leadership.The present study is not in agreement with
these researches and goes further to look atstructure and follower personality together.The composite variable for transformationalleadership and the two factors of idealizedinfluence (behavioural) and intellectualstimulation vary across the four cells categor-ized by structure and follower personality.
The implication here is that although struc-ture by itself does not affect transformationalleadership behaviour, it might do so in com-bination with openness to experience in thefollower. Organizations should thus payequal attention to the follower personalitywhile designing programmes needing ef-fective leadership rather than focusing onlyon the structure.
In a study by Judge and Cable (1997), jobseekers who scored high on openness toexperience were more attracted to innovativeorganizational cultures and less attracted todetail- and team-oriented cultures. Theresults of the present study suggest that thefollower personality is a stronger variablethan organizational structure and that it en-hances the effect of structure.
Limitations and Suggestionsfor Future Research
Only two dimensions (span of control andconfiguration) were used to manipulateorganic structure. Additional dimensionscould have helped capture the variable oforganic structure more accurately. Anotherlimitation of the study is that the sample sizeis not the same across cells, and not largeenough. Future researchers could try to geta larger sample.A significant finding of the study is that it
is the follower personality that is the maindeterminant of transformational leadership,and structure in combination with person-ality enhances leadership behaviour. Thisfinding is not in agreement with those stud-ies that emphasize only structure and ignorefollower personality. Future research can
re-examine the effect of follower personalityon transformational leadership, with andwithout organizational structure, to check ifthere is indeed an interaction effect.
In this age of knowledge workers, where thesuccess of an organization depends on theextent of effective use of its intellectual cap-ital and retention of key employees, the focusof leadership research has to shift to thefollower from the leader. There is a need tounderstand followers’ motives for goodperformance and satisfaction with a leader.This is among the first experiments to pro-vide evidence concerning the impact offollower personality on transformationalleadership. Earlier studies have emphasizedthe importance of organizational structureon emergence of transformational leader-
ship. This study goes a step further by sug-gesting that organizational structure maynot, by itself, have any effect on transform-ational leadership, but that there might bean interaction effect between the follower
personality and the organizational structure,resulting in an enhanced effect on transform-ational leadership. The dominant variable isfollower personality rather than structure.The domain of transformational leadershipcannot remain confined to certain awe-
inspiring personalities but should explorefollowers’ personality and the structure ofthe organization. This study delineates therole of context in any leadership situationand makes transformational leadership lessesoteric and more within the reach of all whowish to understand it.
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