Managing like a Boss

James Cook University researchers have quizzed top managers on their leadership styles, providing new insights into how to make workplaces run more effectively.

Jane Oorschot, JCU sessional lecturer in human resources and management, said as part of her PhD research she interviewed 23 experienced leaders working in public and private sector organisations and analysed their responses.

“We wanted to explore the leader’s relationship with the ‘psychological contract’ – that’s the unwritten set of expectations and promises between the employee and the employer. It includes informal arrangements, mutual beliefs and perceptions, and the common ground they share. It’s not something that had been looked at explicitly before,” said Ms Oorschot.

She said the first task was to discover which of two broad leadership styles the participants used – transformational or neutral.

“Transformational leaders are focused on the team and individual development, while neutral leaders are more focused on the organisation’s goals,” said Ms Oorschot.

Neutral leaders had a more transactional psychological contract with employees, were more money-oriented and sought commitment to organisational values from employees. Transformational leaders had a more relational psychological contract and sought a supportive environment and high levels of trust, she said.

“Neutral leaders sought fairness in reward distribution and transformational leaders sought fairness in decisions,” said Ms Oorschot.

She said the results indicate differences in psychological contract perceptions for different leadership styles.

“It’s given us greater insight into the relationship between leadership styles and how different types of leaders see psychological contracts. Hopefully, with this understanding we can bring some extra insight to managers’ roles and why they are the way they are and behave the way they do,” said Ms Oorschot.

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