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Leaders, Followers and Teams


The value of productive communication in a team largely determines the success of achieving organizational goals and contributes to the high productivity of all involved individuals. However, in the communication process, flexibility among team members is a significant aspect that allows for conflict as a potentially motivating decision-making mechanism. Differentiated leadership roles help not only regulate the microclimate in the team but also coordinate the activities of various stakeholders, including both subordinates and senior management. Maintaining group norms and culture is one of the central leadership missions, which, in turn, may be achieved through a variety of approaches and organizational strategies. Accordingly, the transition to various practices of monitoring the activities of employees can be an important step in helping to optimize the work process and achieve mutual understanding with colleagues. Specific practices make it possible to influence leaders both on a personal and group level, which can allow followers to prove themselves as active participants in the work process. Team members do not have to be on good terms regularly since disputes may be an effective tool and do not always reflect the dysfunctionality of a group of colleagues.

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Value of Flexible Communication

In a continuous workflow, leadership approaches should be flexible and may involve not only maintaining mutual understanding in the team but also arguments as potentially valuable tools. According to Hülsheger et al. (2009), adaptability and flexibility both on an individual and collective level are properties that allow a team to achieve high performance in any working environment. This statement is logical because, based on the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, the group leader’s task is to coordinate the balance at the expense of their leading roles (Erdogan and Bauer, 2014). This means that consistently peaceful relationships in the team are not always a convenient way to solve individual operational problems. In some cases, arguments make it possible to find efficient options for overcoming challenges and barriers. Gabarro and Kotter (1980) provide an example of how impacting bosses can help realize short- and long-term development plans and note the importance of honesty in interacting with senior management. Even if a specific opinion is not shared by a boss and a leader, the dispute may become a background for further discussions and lead to a productive solution. In this case, one should take into account differentiated leadership roles as an element of flexible communication.

Differentiated Leadership Roles

Differentiated leadership roles create an atmosphere that contributes to achieving operational tasks as productively as possible, thereby proving the admissibility of disputes in the workplace. According to Oc and Bashshur (2013), followers who adapt to specific control styles can develop strategies for resistance to a single mechanism. This statement proves that following one leadership strategy, for instance, an autocratic style, can affect the performance of subordinates adversely in the long run. In case colleagues get along well and do not express disagreements regarding one another’s opinions, the competitive environment ceases to exist, and creativity falls. In addition, Erdogan and Bauer (2014) note the principle of reciprocity as one of the norms that should be taken into account when establishing effective interaction between leaders and followers. This mechanism implies reactions to the actions of team members. For instance, if a leader demonstrates gentleness towards a subordinate, this becomes an occasion for the latter to reduce productivity. Conversely, if a leadership style is too rigid, an employee can work productively, which, however, will lead to increased fatigue. As a result, differentiated control styles provide an opportunity to coordinate the work activities of colleagues successfully, while allowing disagreements as intermediate results of fruitful work. At the same time, maintaining group norms and culture should not be violated by any of the leadership approaches.

Maintaining Group Norms and Culture

A variety of leadership strategies make it possible to maintain group norms and culture, which is a valuable aspect of a productive work environment and helps achieve team cohesion. As Oc and Bashshur (2013) state, in most cases, groups with a strong element of the agreement are effective and promote a high level of organizational culture. However, when taking into account the different sizes of teams, one should take into account the distinctive cultural background of employees and other significant aspects, for instance, the level of professionalism. If followers are ready to support leaders’ decisions regarding the work strategy, this mechanism of activity is convenient for all involved. Nevertheless, as De Dreu (2008) argues, with group decision-making, conflicts are inevitable due to distinctive views on work processes and leverage instruments. Therefore, one of the main leadership tasks is to preserve organizational culture, while not hindering the expression of colleagues’ views. Providing an enabling environment for productive activities requires complying with the basic principles and norms that a particular company adheres to but does not imply unanimity as an integral component. Under such conditions, the transition to various leadership practices can be a convenient tool for optimizing followers’ activities in a team.

Transition to Various Leadership Practices

In a dynamic work environment, the transition to various leadership practices and solutions can help strengthen monitoring over colleagues, which allows optimizing control and, at the same time, ensuring high-performance interpersonal interaction. Oc and Bashshur (2013) note that physical distance affects control capabilities negatively and does not contribute to maintaining the pace that the situation requires. Nonetheless, Malhotra et al. (2007) argue for modern technologies and consider remote monitoring that can be equally effective. Concerning the issue of conflicts, no significant differences in the team should affect the authority of leaders. In other words, even despite distinctive views on individual operational nuances, a leader can and should coordinate the work of colleagues, regardless of personal beliefs. In this case, the transition to different practices can be a way to adapt to any environment. Hülsheger et al. (2009) remark that finding and promoting a balance in relationships is enough to maintain productivity. The team is not obliged to demonstrate extremely high friendliness to one another since this contradicts with the natural and inevitable conditions of work of people with distinctive backgrounds. At the same time, followers can influence leaders and strengthen mutual understanding in the collective in case of adequate impact strategies.

Impact on Leaders

Using special practices of influencing leaders helps achieve higher operational results and makes it possible to affect both at the individual level due to personal positions and at the group level through mass opinions. High LMX quality can and should be supported by decision-makers as a way to maintain productive communication, which, in addition, can be essential when achieving other significant goals, for instance, low turnover (Erdogan and Bauer, 2014). In such an environment, followers are active participants in the work process and demonstrate cohesion. At the same time, they create opportunities for the transformation of working conditions by influencing leaders and strengthening both group and individual principles of expression. Gabarro and Kotter (1980) give an example of a situation when leaders themselves exert influence on senior management and resort to various strategies, for instance, certain mechanisms for presenting information or manifesting dependability. Impacts do not mean pressure and can be expressed in the form of speeches at general meetings, seminars or conferences. The main goal is to create an environment in which employees have an opportunity to convey specific ideas to leaders, which, in turn, can influence the workflow positively. Such a practice may be accompanied by disputes and disagreements, but it does not mean that the team shows poor results and its leaders are dysfunctional; therefore, conflicts are possible and sometimes necessary.


Disagreements and arguments in the team are not evidence of low organizational culture and poor leadership and can serve as valuable mechanisms for optimizing the workflow. Based on the provisions of the LMX theory and the cohesion strategy, employees can and should be active in order to maintain a dynamic mode of activity and, at the same time, realize their professional potential. Differentiated leadership roles and the transition to various control practices can help improve the quality of monitoring colleagues’ performance results. At the same time, maintaining working norms and culture may be achieved through adapting to specific conditions, and the influence of followers on leaders is one of the indicators of a free and ambitious collective. The value of the topic discussed lies in an opportunity to assess the role of arguments as tools that do not inhibit but stimulate the workflow and draw conclusions regarding the flexibility of a leadership position in a team.

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Reference List

De Dreu, C. K. (2008) ‘The virtue and vice of workplace conflict: food for (pessimistic) thought’, Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 29(1), pp. 5-18.

Erdogan, B. and Bauer, T. N. (2014) ‘Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory: the relational approach to’, The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations, pp. 407-434.

Gabarro, J. J. and Kotter, J. P. (1980) ‘Managing your boss’, Harvard Business Review, pp. 92-99.

Hülsheger, U. R. et al. (2009) ‘Team-level predictors of innovation at work: a comprehensive meta-analysis spanning three decades of research’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(5), pp. 1128-1145.

Malhotra, A. et al. (2007) ‘Leading virtual teams’, Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(1), pp. 60-70.

Oc, B. and Bashshur, M. R. (2013) ‘Followership, leadership and social influence’, The Leadership Quarterly, 24(6), pp. 919-934.

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