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Is Leadership in the Eye of the Beholder?

Christian Jacobsen and Lotte Andersen, in their article “Is leadership in the eye of the beholder? A study of intended and perceived leadership practices and organizational performance,” published in the Public Administration Review, studied differences in perceptions of leadership between leaders and their employees. In their paper, Jacobsen and Andersen analyze transformational and transactional leaders to determine the presence of a relationship between the efficiency of leaders perceived by themselves and their employees on the organizational performance. This summary overviews the author’s main points and the results of their research.

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The authors used three different types of data to determine the correlation between leadership from the perspective of leaders, their employees, and its impact on organizational performance (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). To prove their hypothesis regarding the necessity to differentiate between leader-intended and employee-perceived leadership, Jacobsen and Andersen gathered and compared the data from over 1600 teachers and 79 school principals in Danish high schools. This data has been collected via a survey that revealed how leaders and employees grade the effect of leadership in their organization. In both cases, leaders tended to put a greater value in their contribution than it was perceived by employees (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). According to Jacobsen and Andersen (2015), the perceptions of employees and the intentions of leaders on the use of leadership practices have a weak correlation.

Another step of the study was to determine whether leader-intended or employee-perceived ratings were closer to the set value that was used to estimate the performance of an educational facility. The authors used student marks as a measure of organizational performance, which was modified by multiple sociodemographic factors, such as gender and household income, to ensure a higher level of objectivity. For both transformational and transactional leadership styles, this comparison revealed an insignificant relation between them and organizational performance (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). There was a stronger association between employee-perceived leadership and school performance (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015).

The authors discussed the results to determine the meaning of these correlations. The findings reveal that both transactional and transformational leaders overestimate their input, although this notion can be more related to the nature of the profession (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). Moreover, because transactional leadership results are more straightforward to count than the effects of transformational leadership, leaders tend to overestimate their input more if the latter style is used (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). As a result, the impact on the organizational performance was reflected better by employee ratings of the value added by their leaders than by the leaders themselves (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). Another factor that leads to the higher scores for transformational leadership cases is its social desirability (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). Nonetheless, organizations need to choose the leadership style based on all factors, including but not limited to the impact on performance (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015).

In summary, the authors studied the consequences of differing perceptions of the impact of leadership styles on the organization between leaders and their subordinates. Their findings suggest that the meaningful contribution to the company’s efficiency is made only by leaders whose impact is clearly perceived by employees (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). Moreover, it is revealed that transformational leaders are more prone to overestimate their impact on organizational performance than transactional leaders (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015). The authors note that their study is not meant to be taken as a source of comparison of the value of transactional and transformational leadership.

Reference

Jacobsen, C. B., & Andersen, L. B. (2015). Is leadership in the eye of the beholder? A study of intended and perceived leadership practices and organizational performance. Public Administration Review, 75(6), 829-841. Web.

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