In an era where the ethical lapses of today’s business leaders are headlined almost daily, understanding the central role of personal values in the leadership process is critical. A leader’s personal values do not only affect leadership style. They also influence how their followers perceive the importance of socially responsible business practices. Unless leaders hold personal values that align with organizational vision, they cannot inspire exceptional effort from their followers.
While those who study leadership emphasize the importance of values to the transformational leadership process, there is a striking lack of empirical studies that address how personal values affect the influence of leaders on their followers. In an effort to fill this gap, Kevin S. Groves, associate professor of organization theory and management at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, and Michael A. LaRocca, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Alabama, conducted a field study of leader personal values and follower outcomes.
Their findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.
There were two goals of the study:
- To empirically examine openness to change, collectivism, self-transcendence, self-enhancement, and traditional values as key predictors of transformational leadership and facilitators of extra effort among followers and follower ratings of leadership effectiveness (extra effort reflects the extent to which, as a result of a leader’s style, employees are willing to exert their effort beyond what would normally be expected.)
- To assess the potential mediating influence of follower attitudes toward corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the relationship between transformational leadership and follower extra effort.
The researchers hypothesized the following:
- Leaders’ openness to change and self-transcendent values will be positively related to transformational leadership.
- Leaders’ traditional values and self-enhancement values will be negatively related to transformational leadership.
- The values-laden influence process of such leaders will facilitate both followers’ beliefs in CSR and followers’ willingness to put forth extra effort.
- Transformational leadership will be positively related to follower stakeholder CSR beliefs.
- Follower stakeholder CSR beliefs will partially mediate the relationship between transformational leadership and follower extra effort.
- Follower extra effort will be positively related to leadership effectiveness.