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Benevolent leadership and follower performance The mediating role of leader member exchange LMX

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Benevolent leadership and follower performance The mediating role of leader member exchange LMX
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  Benevolent leadership and follower performance:The mediating role of leader  –  member exchange (LMX) Simon C. H. Chan  &  Wai-ming Mak  Published online: 25 November 2011 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 Abstract  This study examines leader   –  member exchange (LMX) as a mediator of the relationship between benevolent leadership and follower task performanceand extra-role performance. Using a sample of 223 leader   –  member dyads in a nonprofit organization in the People ’ s Republic of China, results indicate that  benevolent leadership and LMX are  positively  related to follower task performanceand organizational citizenship behavior towards the organization (OCBO). Findingsalso support that LMX  partially  mediates the relationship between benevolent leadership and follower task performance as well as  fully  mediates the relationship between benevolent leadership and OCBO. Implications for the theory and practice of leadership in Asia are discussed. Keywords  Benevolentleadership.Leader   –  memberexchange (LMX). Nonprofit organizations.Taskperformance.Extra-roleperformanceUnder the umbrella of leadership literature, there are two main contrasting perspectives of leadership research. The first stream of leadership research is basedon the leader-focused approach. Existing studies have examined how leadership behaviors influence follower performance (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, &Fetter, 1990). For example, Jung and Avolio (2000) examined the impact of  transformational leadership on follower performance through trust in leader. Thesecond leadership stream is based on the relationship-based approach. Previousworks have explicitly explained leader-to-follower reciprocal social exchangerelationships (Janssen & Van Yperen, 2004; Lam, Huang, & Snape, 2007; Tangirala, Green, & Ramanujam, 2007; Wang, Law, Hackett, Wang, & Chen, 2005). The Asia Pac J Manag (2012) 29:285  –  301DOI 10.1007/s10490-011-9275-3S. C. H. Chan ( * ) :  W.-m. Mak Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom,Kowloon, Hong Konge-mail: mssimon@polyu.edu.hk W.-m. Mak e-mail: mswmmak@polyu.edu.hk   dyadic relationship is termed leader   –  member exchange (LMX) which is defined asthe quality of exchange between leader and follower and the degree of emotionalsupport and exchange of valued resources (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Wayne &Green, 1993). Researchers have attempted to respond to the call for a theoreticalintegration of leadership behaviors and LMX research (Gerstner & Day, 1997; Graen& Uhl-Bien, 1995; Howell & Hall-Merenda, 1999; Wang et al., 2005). Research on benevolent leadership has received growing interest in Asia as it hasgenerally been considered a desirable leadership style to followers (Farh & Cheng,2000; Wu, Hsu, & Cheng, 2002). Based on the Confucian tradition, this type of  leadership behavior demonstrates individualized, holistic concern for followers ’  personal as well as familial well-being (Farh & Cheng, 2000). A leader expresses benevolence for the return of performance effort from followers (Uhl-Bien & Maslyn,2005). Several empirical studies have demonstrated the positive impact of benevolent leadership on a variety of follower outcomes, such as job satisfaction, commitment,and performance (Cheng, Huang, & Chou, 2002a ; Cheng, Shieh, & Chou, 2002b; Liang, Ling, & Hsieh, 2007). In addition, researchers have identified a need for morestudies of LMX in the Asian context (Hui, Law, & Chen, 1999; Lam et al., 2007). LMX is premised on the notion of reciprocity, and in particular   guanxi  in China,which emphasizes the interpersonal relation between leader and follower (Uhl-Bien &Maslyn, 2003). Despite a substantial body of recent benevolent leadership research(Chen & Kao, 2009; Wang & Cheng, 2010), the explanation of benevolent leadership and LMX on follower performance has not received great attention.Building on social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) and the existing LMXdifferentiation literature (Erdogan & Bauer, 2010; Liden, Erdogan, Wayne, &Sparrowe, 2006; Nishii & Mayer, 2009), we propose to understand the high or low quality of relationship between benevolent leadership and LMX on follower  performance. LMX differentiation defines the degree of variability in the qualityof LMX relationships formed within the work groups. The degree of qualityexchange may vary from high to low between a leader and different followers. Weargue that differentiation may occur on the intention of benevolence of a leader tocreate different individualized care on followers within the work and non-work domain. As a consequence, we contend that an investigation is important to explainhow benevolent leadership and LMX influence follower performance. The mainobjective of this study examines LMX as the mediator between benevolent leadership and follower performance.This study makes two main contributions. First, this study examines whether LMX serves as a mediator of the relationship between benevolent leadership andfollower performance. While past research indicated the full mediation of LMX between transformational leadership and follower performance (e.g., Wang et al.,2005), this study advances the leadership literature by investigating the impact of  benevolent leadership and LMX on follower performance. Second, researchers havenot taken into account elements of other leadership behaviors, such as benevolent leadership, with the relation-based approach of leadership (i.e., LMX) to explainfollower performance in the Chinese context (Hui et al., 1999). To respond to thecall for Chinese leadership research, it is essential to understand the antecedentsand consequences of LMX in the benevolent leadership  –  follower performancerelationship (Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002; Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). 286 S.C.H. Chan, W.-m. Mak   Theory and hypotheses Benevolent leadership is rooted in China  ’ s patriarchal tradition (Farh & Cheng,2000). It has been generally treated as a constructive and most welcome leadership behavior by followers (Cheng et al., 2002a , b; Wu et al., 2002). A benevolent leader  devotes energy to take care, show concern, and encourage followers when theyencounter problems (Farh & Cheng, 2000). He/she expresses interest in the personallife of followers and takes good care of their family members (Aycan, 2006; Cheng,Chou, & Farh, 2000; Farh & Cheng, 2000; Pellegrini & Scandura, 2006, 2008). Benevolent leadership resembles the individualized consideration dimension of transformational leadership, as benevolence provides individualized care andencouragement to followers in the work domain (Cheng, Chou, Wu, Huang, &Farh, 2004; Farh, Liang, Chou, & Cheng, 2008). A benevolent leader would show good care to followers for their career development, provide opportunities to learnfrom mistakes, and teach them how to perform better (Wang & Cheng, 2010). In thenon-work domain, benevolent leadership works beyond individual care of personalinterest in followers by extending to family members. A benevolent leader envisagesa unique dyadic relationship with different followers within the same work groupwhich is similar to the notion of LMX differentiation. It implies that benevolence of a leaderonfollowers may varyuponfollowers ’  contributions and interest. Followersmayhave unequal quality exchange and benefits of individualized care in the work domainand relation of family welfare in the non-work domain by a benevolent leader.The theoretical model of LMX as a mediator of the relationship between benevolent leadership and follower performance is presented in Figure 1.Benevolent leadership and follower performanceBenevolent leadership has been argued as a leadership behavior which incorporatesconcerns for followers and family well-being, maintenance of prestige, andavoidance of humiliating behavior (Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008; Tsui & Farh,1997). The role of benevolence has been viewed as an important element of a leader to enhance follower performance. Existing studies have found a positive impact of  benevolent leadership on follower performance (e.g., Cheng & Jiang, 2000; Farh &Cheng, 2000; Farh et al., 2008). With regard to follower task performance, it is defined as the completion of tasks and work role required by employees (Williams &Anderson, 1991). A benevolent leader can fulfil a role obligation in front of followers, which helps followers to build a more productive work group (Pellegrini& Scandura, 2008). Followers generally accept their job role by engaging in certain Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)Benevolent LeadershipTask PerformanceOrganization CitizenshipBehaviortowards the Organization (OCBO) Figure 1  Research framework Benevolent leadership and follower performance 287  work tasks. As such, benevolent leadership is expected to be positively associatedwith follower task performance.In addition, the reciprocity of the relationship between a benevolent leader andfollower takes the form of genuine gratitude, personal loyalty, or compliance withthe leader  ’ s requests (Farh & Cheng, 2000; Martinez, 2003). When both benevolent  leader and follower respect each party, social harmony exists (Cheng et al., 2002b).In the high-quality exchange relationship, a benevolent leader gives favor tofollowers and followers reciprocate to offers of expanded responsibilities, such asextra-role performance, which is represented by organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). It is defined as  “ individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization ”  (Organ, 1988: 4). Bydiscretionary, behavior is not an enforceable requirement of the role or the jobdescription (Allen & Rush, 1998). OCB is a type of behavior that takes the initiativeto do extra duty, help colleagues, protect organizational resources, and do more thanthe minimum amount of work (Farh, Earley, & Lin, 1997).In general, the dimensionality of OCB can be divided into organizationalcitizenship behavior towards the organization (OCBO) and organizational citizenship behavior towards the individual (OCBI) (Lee & Allen, 2002; Williams & Anderson,1991). However, this study only focuses on the relationship between benevolent leadership and OCBO for two reasons. First, Lee and Allen (2002) and Huang, Iun,Liu, and Gong (2010) argued that OCBO rather than OCBI is more likely to beinfluenced by leader behavior. OCBO is as an important consequence in leadership behaviors research in the Chinese context. Second, Chen, Tsui, and Farh (2002)suggested that leader-relevant commitment tends to be directly influenced by follower OCBO. Antecedents of different dimensions of OCB may vary which intend to benefit  particular parties (Huang et al., 2010). By showing individualized concern tofollowers, a benevolent leader signals the value of reciprocate effort by followerswho are more likely to engage in behaviors that benefit the organization. A positiverelationship between benevolent leadership and OCBO is expected. Thus: Hypothesis 1  Benevolent leadership is positively related to follower task performanceand OCBO.LMX and follower performanceEmpirical studies have indicated that LMX is positively associated with work attitudes, such as job performance (Bauer & Green, 1996; Gerstner & Day, 1997; Kraimer, Wayne, & Jaworski, 2001; Liden, Wayne, & Sparrowe, 2000) and OCB (Anderson & Williams, 1996; Law, Wang, & Hui, 2010). Research on LMX has  built on social exchange theory (Blau, 1964); the differentiated and mutually beneficial exchange relationships between leader and follower are evident. Masterson,Lewis, Goldman, and Taylor  ’ s (2000) cross-sectional study indicated that LMX and work performance were found to have a positive effect. LMX theory explains that leaders form unique relationships with each follower in which high LMX employeesreceive higher levels of support (Deluga, 1994; Graen, 1976). 288 S.C.H. Chan, W.-m. Mak   LMX literature has shown considerable support to the wide variety of follower task performance (Kacmar, Witt, Zivnuska, & Gully, 2003; Law et al., 2010). The central premise of LMX theory posits that a leader and follower develop mutualtrust, respect, influence, and obligation in their relationship (Graen & Uhl-Bien1995). Leaders can provide relevant support to followers in order to display a highlevel of task performance. In high-quality LMX, followers enjoy their task challengewhich fit with their work value. The opportunity to experience task challenge allowsfollowers to contribute to the meaningfulness of work in the work context. A benevolent leader will encourage followers to undertake more job responsibilities soas to enhance their task performance.Also, high-quality LMX would take on duties beyond formal job requirements,which exhibits a higher level of extra-role performance than expected. Findings haveconfirmed that LMX has a positive impact on OCBs (Law et al., 2010). However,the quality of leader   –  follower relationship may enhance a difference of perceptiontowards OCBO and OCBI (LePine, Erez, & Johnson, 2002). Although a meta-analysisexamined that LMX was more strongly related to individually-focused OCB rather than an organizationally-focused one (Ilies, Nahrgang, & Morgeson, 2007), the natureof the LMX  –  OCB relationship may vary upon potential moderators, such as the in-role perception (Van Dyne, Kamdar, & Joireman, 2008), and supervisors ’  perceivedorganizational support (Erdogan & Enders, 2007). Lee and Allen (2002) identified a  more cognitive-driven approach on the significance of OCBO rather than OCBI. Moreimportantly, studies explained that a leader posts a more direct effect on how followersrespond to their organization in the Chinese context (Chen et al., 2002; Huang et al.,2010). Therefore, we replicated the relationship between LMX and follower task  performance and OCBO: Hypothesis 2  LMX relates positively to follower task performance and OCBO.LMX as a mediator In the existing literature, Wang et al. (2005) provided empirical support for the effect of transformational leadership and high-quality LMX relationships on follower task  performance and OCB. The quality of LMX was indicated as the mediator betweennegative affectivity and performance (Hui et al., 1999). Gerstner and Day (1997) examined the relationship between LMX and performance across a wide range of  jobs and organizations. Bass (1990) stated that high-quality LMX relationshipsmanifest the development of other leadership behaviors such as benevolent leadership. Although few studies revealed that LMX quality was related to benevolent leadership and follower performance (e.g., Cheng et al., 2002b; Lianget al., 2007), researchers did not provide specific explanation on how LMX with benevolent leadership influence follower performance.A rationale to explain how LMX mediates the relationship between benevolent leadership and follower performance is regarding the quality of a social exchangerelationship. According to social exchange theory (Blau, 1964), benevolent leadership provides a broader cultural framework and facilitates conditions in therelationship-building process with followers. The benevolent leader demonstrates as Benevolent leadership and follower performance 289
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