Leadership Styles and Job Performance: a Literature Review


Citation Download PDF

Journal of International Business Research and Marketing
Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2018, Pages 40-49

Leadership Styles and Job Performance: a Literature Review

DOI: 10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.33.3004
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.33.3004

1 Mohammed Al-Malki, 2 Wang Juan

1 2  School of Economics, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China

Abstract: The present research is a literature review of the leadership styles and its effectiveness within the organization team-building. Specifically, this paper tries to review the literature in the sphere of job performance focusing on the leadership styles. Both leadership types and styles had been reviewed in relation to the productivity in the organization along with the role stressors and role ambiguity. Leaders are claimed to have a positive impact on the efficiency of the organization by influencing the team members’ job performance. Additionally, literature review explores the concepts of role stressors such as role ambiguity and role conflict, which are often found as the most important source of job dissatisfaction and poor job performance. Understanding the nature of role stressors and potential sources which may cause them to will help organizations to take control of managing role stressors. Also, it was found that the relationship between job performance and job cooperation was somewhat controversial in the literature. Therefore, it is important to understand the nature of different leadership styles and assess their impact on resolving different organizational problems.

Keywords: Leadership styles, Leadership types, Job performance, Role ambiguity, Role conflict

Leadership Styles and Job Performance: a Literature Review

1. Introduction

For the last two decades, the critical importance of the team effectiveness has been considered as the main aim of the many papers. The process of managing teams and ensuring their effectiveness requires the presence of the leader who can motivate and provide a vision for their subordinates. Leaders are believed to set smart goals for the subordinates and empower them enough to achieve the organizational goals. The research sphere which is focused on analyzing the influence of leaders to manage the effectiveness of the teams can be regarded as one of the most developing areas. The role of leaders is regarded as the critical tools for the team members. The reason is that leaders play a vital role in formulating collective norms, assisting the team members to face and resolve the challenges arisen in the team environment. The critical importance of leaders on team member resulted in the creation new ways based on which leaders can provide value for the members of the team.

The managing style of the leaders is essential to the success of the teamwork. In many cases, leaders are not aware of the main needs and wants of their subordinates, or they fail to understand the difference between the individuals involved in the team. As a result, due to the various issues that were not identified in time among team members result in the decreasing productivity of team members.

It is crucial for the leaders to provide compelling direction which can help the members of the team achieve the team and organizational objectives. Compelling direction can consist of transformational leadership; also known as person focused leadership behavior, as well as compelling direction should be good enough to initiate the structure which is task-focused leadership. In this regard, it is important to look at the difference between the two types of the leadership behavior. Task leadership behavior or management style focuses on the accomplishment of the task on time and an accurate manner. Task-focused leaders formulate the schedules with easy-to-reach objectives which can help team members to work more effectively. On the other hand, person-focused leadership is mainly concerned with the creating better and enhanced environment which motivates and empowers employees.

The recent research conducted by Deloitte identified different types of team styles that should be followed by the leaders to ensure the efficiency of the teamwork. The first style is known as pioneers. Pioneers are the type of teams who have strong conceptual skills, and they often try to see the big picture of the situation. Moreover, they are open to take risks and always strive to achieve the goals and objectives by going beyond the expected boundaries. Also, pioneers are always open for innovations, and they try to find creative ways of solving existing problems. Another style is guardians, which is also popular among teams. Guardians can be described as the vice versa of pioneers’ style. Unlike pioneers, guardians always value stability, and they are less prone to change.

The further style is known as drivers, drivers are quite fast and look forward to facing challenges. They try to solve the emerging problems as soon as possible based on the available data and resources. The integrators are another style followed alongside three team styles mentioned above. They value relationships more, and they think that teams can achieve success only by working together. Thus, it is believed that teams that follow above-mentioned styles enjoy different advantages, such as innovativeness, increased communication between team members and quick access to decision making. According to the classification of team styles, the research aimed to define the influence of various factors which may trigger the motivation of team members in the workplace.

2. Concept of Leadership and the Impact of Role Stressors

2.1 Concept and the role of Leadership

Leadership is considered as a widely discussed topic in the literature. Leadership is considered as a way person uses to lead the other people. Employees play a critical role in ensuring the quality of service. When employees are clear about their expectations and requirements, they are more likely to perform better. Although leaders are responsible for the proper task and job allocation, different leadership styles have several approaches how tasks are being allocated. Leaders are claimed to have a positive impact on the efficiency of the organization by influencing the team members. Particularly, leaders considerably influence its followers in the organization. Therefore, it is important to understand the nature of leadership styles such as transactional and transformational to assess their impact on resolving different organizational problems.

At present, numerous organizations stress on formulating the team and workflow to increase the efficiency of the performance in the organization. To achieve this, the role of the leaders is of high importance in the organization. Formulation of high performing teams can be accomplished by learning the expectations and references of team members. Furthermore, every member of the organization should have clear responsibilities, duties and need to understand their role in this entity.

In short, expectations of top-level managers should be identified and communicated properly to employees and subordinates Van et al. (1981).

Generally, in transactional leadership, the system based on rewards is used to motivate the followers. Though, the motivation given through such approach does not last long. Turning to transformational leadership, this style serves to improve the collaboration among organization members (Keegan et al., 2004; Bass and Avolio J., 1990; Pearce, 1981). Transformational leaders let their followers feel as the part of the organization. Such leaders have a strong inspirational vision to encourage the employees of the organization care about the company goals than their own goals and interests. Such leaders are believed to be enthusiastic and energetic.

Conversely, the laissez-faire leaders provide a good environment to subordinates as well as empower them to take decisions themselves. As the subordinates have full authority on making decisions, laissez-faire leaders do not usually give feedback on the accomplished tasks.

From the behavioral perspective, the number of studies that have analyzed the role of leadership in team context has increased. According to Fleishman et al. (1991) during the 1946-1986, 65 classifications of leader behaviors were proposed. The study undertaken by Fleishman focused on the analysis of the various classifications of leaders’ behavior by categorizing them into two groups. According to Fleishman, there are two common classifications of the team behavior which includes person-focused and task-focused. Task-focused behavior is mainly concerned with the definition of task requirements, the process of the task completion and complete fulfillment of the given task. Unlike task-focused behavior, person-focused behavior focuses on the development of the cognitive issues in individuals and behavioral patterns in individuals before they start working as a team.

The literature suggests that there are three main categories of the task-focused leadership that should be studied including transactional, initiating structure and boundary spanning. Transactional leaders always praise and reward their subordinates when they meet and exceed the required job expectations. In other words, the task-focused behavior is focused and formulated on the basis of goal setting theory, equity theory and reinforcement theory as accomplishing goals and completing tasks constitute the idea behind these theories. The literature suggests that transactional leadership based on contingent reward positively contributes to the team development and team effectiveness. The research conducted on identifying main factors which lead to the success of transactional leadership revealed that team members who are under the influence of transactional leader are more likely to have a strong relationship among member despite the small team size.

2.2 Leadership Traits

Peter Drucker (1989) mentioned that leadership is not created, taught and learned. Thus, a great amount of attention was dedicated to understanding the number of characteristics that are found in leaders. According to the trait theory of leadership, there have been some important studies, which aimed to provide more valid results to describe the specific traits of leaders that can be learned and taught. According to the research by Locke (1991) drive, self-confidence, cognitive ability, honesty, and integrity are considered to be the most commonly observed traits of successful leaders. Recently, knowledge of context and desire to lead were added to the list of successful leadership traits.

The research conducted by Bond and Smith (1996) identifies “Big Five” model of personality which can be used in the other cultural contexts. These traits include extroversion, emotional stability, readiness to accept challenges, agreeableness, and openness to experience.

Boyett (2006) mentioned the role of leaders is crucial in gaining the trust of their subordinates and stimulate their commitment towards the successful fulfillment of the undertaken project. Boyett (2006) described the influence of leaders in the following manner. Firstly, the leaders should have idealized influence, in other words, they have to be charismatic. Leaders can execute the confidence and competence. Secondly, leaders should be able to inspire their followers; this is mainly attributed to their role of inspirational motivation. It is important for the leaders to be able to take each separately while dealing with them. Each person is different from the others regarding their characteristics; needs, wants and attitude towards specific tasks. Therefore, leaders should have the individual consideration to each team member.

Another important trait of a leader is described as intellectual stimulation. Precisely, it is important for the leaders to be intellectually stimulating. Leaders have to able to question everything starting from simple assumptions to status quo. Finding a creative and innovative solution to specific and complex problems is considered as an evidence of leader’s intellectually stimulating behavior. Providing rewards to employees is considered as another important characteristic of transformational leaders. Leaders are expected to set the clear objectives for their subordinates. Upon the accomplishment of these objectives, the followers should be rewarded accordingly.
The study conducted by Keegan et al. (2004) identified the main behaviors that are observed in the traits of leaders such as goal clarification, team boundaries setting, the guidance of members, leading followers, engaging members to the team, meeting organization and information flow control. Aggregate leadership dimensions, in turn, include guiding, involving, role specifying and organizing teamwork.

2.3 The Importance of Teamwork in Enhancing the Work Performance

Over the years, organizations are stressing on the team-building to increase their production processes, to service their customers, and to learn and grow in the long run (Cohen and Bailey, 1997; Osterman, 1994). Effective teams, or teamwork, may facilitate flexible work arrangements and complex task accomplishment, as well as act as a source of dynamic capability that ensures long-term organizational effectiveness (Teece at al. 1997). To date, management scholars have extensively investigated teams as both production units and social systems (see Ilgen et al. 2005), focusing on both their internal processes (e.g., Marks, Mathieu, and Zaccaro, 2001) and external environment (e.g., Ancona and Caldwell, 1992a). Team-based work systems, by enhancing connections and collaborations among people and different units, can serve as a functional structure that facilitates collective knowledge creation and utilization Mohrman et al. 1995).

Many books, academic journals, and latest news titles have been devoted to the importance of teamwork, group work and to different factors which may ensure its effectiveness. According to Edmonson (2017), the teams who plan everything firstly and execute their plans, later are not found to be feasible in the 21 st century. Collaboration and coordination are found to be an essential element of the team. At present, it is rare to find teams which are well designed and dynamic and which exist for a long period. The teams which have succeeded to stay competitive and successful are considered to be those who developed good interpersonal skills among one another. According to Edmonson, teaming is considered as an important of organizational growth. In this regard, it is crucial to underline the importance of leaders who are responsible in charge of these teams. Transforming static teams into dynamic one requires strong leadership skills. Dynamic teams are more open to innovation, and they keep up with the latest trends in the industry they are working. Moreover, it is important for team members to understand their roles. Understanding individual tasks that each member of the group is responsible for undertaking allows them to communicate with each other more efficiently and improves understanding their team members.

Burka (2006) proposed team leadership framework, which can be used to explain how leaders can enable teams to work better by increasing their effectiveness. According to the framework provided team effectiveness, also known as team performance outcomes, can be measured by dividing it into three groups including perceived effectiveness, team productivity, and team learning. Team learning is related to increased capacity which is explained by the teamwork and leadership. Precisely, team learning takes place in the process of working in a team and under the influence of leader which formulate the strong vision for the employees.

Edward Deming (1993) who successfully used and adopted Japanese model of successful management introduced a new corporate culture that valued flexibility, quality, customer service and motivation of employees. In this regards, considering the wide popularity of total quality model, it was also considered to apply to the case of teamwork and its performance. It is believed that when teams are used effectively and provided with necessary training, it is possible for the organization to achieve the expected outcomes. Moreover, these teams are believed to result in creating more innovative ideas, increased productivity and increased employee morale and satisfaction.

Richard Hackman who studied the behavior of teams for more than 40 years pioneered the study of team effectiveness. The outcomes of the research reveal some significant insights which can be of valuable importance: he discovered that success of the teamwork and its effectiveness is not only dependent on the personality of team members. Instead, “enabling conditions” is found to be of critical importance for the effectiveness of teams. These conditions that were identified by Hackman represent compelling direction, strong structure, and supportive context.

2.3.1 Compelling Direction

One of the important enabling conditions for team members is to provide compelling direction for subordinates. That is to say; leaders should be able to energize, motivate and direct towards the way that resembles the success of the organization. To illustrate this, the goals set by leaders should follow the SMART that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. It is also crucial that goals should be explicitly stated so that each member will have a clear picture of what required of them.

2.3.2 Strong Structure

Another important enabling condition for the success of the team members is strong structure. The main idea behind this condition is to prevent destructive behavior. This means that there should be right combination and mixture of team members, norms and a clear set of tasks that can help team members to promote positive team spirit and dynamics.

Team size is also important characteristic that play a crucial role in determining the success of the teamwork. Moreover, team members should be given autonomy while accomplishing the task by freely explaining their points of view without the strong pressure of the other team members. Precisely, it is critical for the leader to establish set of norms that prevent destructive dynamics within the team such as showing strong counter-argument against the other team member, interrupting the viewpoint of team members.

2.3.3 Supportive Context

The nature of supportive context ranges from providing reward systems for team members, providing up to date information systems that allow them to obtain relevant data necessary for the accomplishment of the daily tasks. Supportive context also involves providing relevant training that would be of critical importance for developing skills that are essential for the accomplishment of objectives.

2.3.4 Shared Mindset

The need for formulating shared mindset has become quite important in recent years. This can be explained by the fact that previously team members have a similar background, similar mindset, and world outlook.

Leadership in organizations considered as a multilevel phenomenon. Many scientists have acknowledged that the need for leaders is strongly related to their level in the hierarchy.

2.4 The Importance of Leadership in Reducing the Role Stressors

The reviewed literature states that role ambiguity and role conflict are the root causes of most conflicts in the organization. The study by Smith and Cooper, C. (1994) analyzed the relationship between leadership and stress. Precisely, the study aimed to identify whether stress has a significant influence on the performance of the leaders. Particularly, intrinsic factors have been identifying which influence on employee performance including long working hours, travel, the requirement for participation in various meetings. Besides that, the majority of employees reported that introduction and acceptance of the new technology was another cause of the work stress. According to Smith and Cooper, C. (1994) besides intrinsic factors, role ambiguity and conflict also play a major role as a source of stress. Failure to have a clear vision about the specific tasks that should be accomplished by an employee and ongoing conflicts with other team members is found to lead to lower job satisfaction.

Moreover, managerial stress can arise as a result of our relationship with coworkers, colleagues, and subordinates. Many studies revealed that majority of problems arise among employee due to the conflict and arguments which arise between them. This is considered as a leader-follower approach in which majority of followers to get approval from their leaders on particular issues.

The research conducted by Koustelios et al. (2004) has proposed that increasing cases of role ambiguity is more likely to increase the cases of conflict at work. Since conflicts are considered as the main source of diminishing social interactions among employees, the cases of turnover intentions are more likely to occur.

The study of role ambiguity leads to the acceptance of two conclusions. First of them is role ambiguity is found to be related to individual stress. Secondly, role ambiguity is reported to moderate the relationship between leaders behavior and employees job satisfaction.
The studies identified the significant and negative relationship between role ambiguity and job satisfaction. Thus, leadership styles that are positive in a manner are found to lessen the influence of role ambiguity on employee performance.

3. Leadership Styles Review

There are several varieties of leaders. Thus, it is difficult to choose the specific type of leadership and mention that it will suit all the contexts. In other words, it is impossible to say that the specific type of leadership is considered as the most desirable and other do not work. The selection of the right type of leadership depends on the context, situation, and followers.

3.1 Leadership Styles

The literature suggests that there are two main categories of the initiating structure leaders which are autocratic leaders and direct leaders. Direct leadership behavior consists of various behaviors including the organization of group work structure, specification, and allocation of tasks among team members, focusing on achieving specific goals and formulating clear means of communication among the team members. On the other hand, autocratic leaders are those who make final decisions without the consideration of team member’s opinion.

3.1.1 Boundary Spanning

Boundary spanning function of leaders is more oriented on collecting and bringing more information for the team members who can assist them in achieving specific objectives. Thus, boundary spanning function of leaders involves collaborating with external sources outside the team that can help them to obtain necessary information. Boundary spanning mainly emphasize the leader of the team as the director rather than a facilitator.

3.1.2 Person-Focused Leadership

The concept behind person-focused leadership can be analyzed based on the four categories of behavior that is transformational, consideration, empowerment and motivational. Regarding the contingency approach, House and & Rizzo J. R. (1974) identified several generic types of leadership:

3.1.3 Directive Leadership

This type of leadership is defined as the type of leadership where leaders provide a direct and unambiguous approach to their followers. Since the subordinates will be provided with necessary direction, guidance, and support, they will be required to achieve expected results in exchange.

3.1.4 Supportive Leadership

Supportive leadership requires a strong understanding of the needs and wants of the subordinates with the aim of providing them with the necessary support. In order to prove this type of leadership effectiveness, it is important for the leaders to be formulating friendly communication with their subordinates as well as the good working environment.

3.1.5 Participative Leadership

Participative leadership is concerned by taking into consideration the inputs and ideas of subordinates. Later, these contributions will be given specific evaluation before making the final decision. This type of leadership focuses on setting high and challenging goals for subordinates in order to ensure their continuous improvement.

Leadership styles that were identified and supported by the GLOBE project were built based on trust, integrity, and vision. According to the conclusions, charismatic and value-based leadership were accepted among all over the world.

3.2 Leadership Types

3.2.1 Passive Laissez-Faire leadership

This type of leadership does not exercise strict control over their subordinates directly. Most of people in the team are supposed to be highly experienced individuals. Thus, most of them do not need strict control and supervision. Due to the certain disadvantages provided by the leadership, team members may suffer from lack of communication, feedback for improvement and at the end, they may fail to meet the deadline for project completion.

3.2.2. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders are reported to work based on the balanced approach. This can be explained by the fact that they help their subordinates to solve some of the challenging issues at the same time they teach their subordinates about the ways of tackling the problems in the similar context. Therefore, researchers believe that role of the transformational leaders can be observed regarding bringing the motivational level of their employees to the stage of self-actualization. Moreover, most common qualities that are used to describe the personality of transformational leaders include charisma, intellectual stimulation. Another name for transformational leadership is a facilitator, in other words, in this case, team members and leaders motivate each other in order to achieve high levels of performance and motivations. Thus, it is considered as one of the most commonly adopted types of leadership where team members encourage each other by different means in order to achieve organizational goals and long-term plans. Unlike other types of leadership, this type of leadership has a high level of communication between the team members. Therefore, the case of transformational leadership was related to the increased levels of motivation, higher job satisfaction, commitment, productivity, and performance. Thus, transformational leader’s control, vision, and enthusiasm inspiring its followers lead to higher results in the management. In this context, the four essential components of the transformational leaders need to be reviewed.

First is the individual consideration (Mumford et al 2000). The second one is intellectual stimulation, which means encouraging the followers to try seeing the issue from the other side and broaden the outlook on specific matters. Third, the inspirational motivation, where the leader stresses on the particular importance of an employee in the team which helps the organization to reach the goal and successful cooperation and accomplishment of the project (Chen et al. 2005).

3.2.3 Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is defined as the style where the leader either rewards or punishes the employee for the task accomplished. Several studies on leadership found that when the transactional leadership is employed in the organization, the mutual trust between the leader and the task-holder develops. If there is a mistake in the work of subordinates, employees are going to be punished. Thus, employees may perform not at their best, and they may be afraid of making a mistake. As a result, they are less likely to work on new projects and learn new skills and knowledge. In contrast, employees who perform at their best are given good motivation in terms of rewards making them more motivated to work harder.

3.2.4 Task-Focused: Directive Leadership

Directive leadership refers to the style where the leader focuses on the task accomplishment and provides guidance and specifies tasks to avoid ambiguity (Gottfried et al. 2011). Directive leadership style is best applicable to the hierarchical organizational structures where the there is a high probability of task ambiguity among employees.

3.2.5 Person-Focused Leadership

Person-focused leaders offer people to take part in making and contributing their ideas while making significant decisions. It is worth to mention that person-oriented leader is more likely to energize people for the work they accomplish. Thus, they are more likely to be oriented to the person rather than to the task. One of the significant benefits of person-oriented leadership is that it focuses on employee-relationship management by formulating a strong relationship with customers and they make their employees make the difference in the company.

4. Impact of Role Stressors on Job Performance

4.1. Role Conflict and Role Ambiguity

Generally, according to the analysis of role theory, there are two main reasons which can be used to explain why an increase in role ambiguity results in a work-related conflict. The first widely used reason is related to the level of stress which may arise as a result of role ambiguity. The stress can arise as a result of accomplishing undesirable tasks or working in an organizational environment which does not have any organizational policies. Moreover, an increased case of role stressors also makes it difficult to resolve role conflicts at work. In this regard, it is important to mention some of the important theories of conflict. According to the traditional view of the conflict, it is regarded as a process which should be dealt and resolved accordingly, otherwise, it may cause different tensions among the employees which will decrease their levels of job satisfaction and commitment. Unlike traditional view, human resources view of conflict suggests that conflict is regarded as an inevitable process. Thus, it is natural for people to observe the conflict in often cases. On top of that, according to human resource view of the conflict, it is believed that ongoing cases of conflict play an essential role in fostering competition and leads to the creation of more positive ideas. Thus, second reason proposed by role theory can be related to human resource view of conflict which mentions that conflicts are an inevitable part of the organizational environment.

Unclear and uncertain expectations within a certain role especially in the case of workplace lead to role ambiguity. Moreover, when job and related responsibilities of an individual are not clearly defined, it is regarded as role ambiguity (Pearce et al. 2009). When it is not dealt according to taking necessary measures, it can have a negative consequence for the organizational performance of the worker (Datnow, 2001; Arami, 2016). When the role responsibilities of the employees are clearly defined, and clear expectations are set, it can help them to achieve more positive results by meeting organizational job requirements.

4.2. Leadership and Organization Performance

Several numbers of researchers have traditionally focused on the importance of in-role behavior. Moreover, the studies have mainly focused on the type of behavior as job performance and task performance, which is essential for effective functioning of an organization. Role requirements are essential in this regard to measure the job performance. In the role, the behavior is considered as an important factor which is used to measure the job performance (Avey et al., 2010). In-role behavior describes the “performance on required duties and responsibilities.”

According to Distefano (2002) success in the global market is largely dependent on the manager’s ability to lead their subordinates. The major finding of the study was that exceptional performances of the leaders among different countries were universal.

The study of the group work by Watson (2002) can be analyzed about important levels. These levels include group level, organizational level, group process and group effectiveness. According to the findings of Watson’s study, group level, and organizational level has a positive influence in increasing open communication and supportiveness. Moreover, important elements of group process such as open communication and supportiveness are found to increase group effectiveness.

The conflict is regarded as one of the major obstacles which can negatively influence the productivity of the employees. Several studies managed to discover the relationship between these two important variables; there is some investigation which discovered no relationship (Watson, 2005; William, 2012). This can be explained by the fact that there might be the influence of other factors on job cooperation.

Resolving role ambiguity has a positive impact on increasing the job performance. The findings of papers show that there is a statistically significant and negative relationship between resolving role ambiguity and increased job performance. According to the goal-setting theory, subordinates are more likely to show high levels of commitment and responsibility when they are informed about the goals they have to achieve. The goals setting theory proves to be the most commonly used theory which is used as the theoretical basis of many studies involved in studying the relationship role ambiguity and job performance (Simon, 2014; Shepherd, 1994, Pearce et al. 2009). Previous studies conducted in the field found that resolving role ambiguity have a positive influence on increasing job satisfaction. However, the influence of role ambiguity on job cooperation was not analyzed by many scholars.

Increased job cooperation is linked to increased levels of job satisfaction among the employees. It has been reported that satisfied and happy employees are more likely to cooperate with their colleagues by sharing and exchanging knowledge. In this regard, it can be mentioned the majority of the studies focused on finding the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance (Larson, 2012; Watson, 2002; Mumford, 2000). Moreover, there were studies that could not identify the relationship between these two variables (Keegan et al. 2004; Wilson, 2001; Barsade and Gibson, 2007).

5. Discussion

Leadership is believed to be subject to strategic planning. Leadership is found to play an important role in providing common direction and commitment. The collective work strategy is strongly related to the pursuit of successful leadership style. In a highly competitive world, it is crucial for the organizations to be aware of the potential impact of role stressors. As it can be seen from the review of the previous literature and findings of the current research, role stressors such as role ambiguity and role conflict are found as the most important source of job dissatisfaction and job performance. Understanding the nature of role stressors and potential sources which may cause them to will help organizations to take control of managing role stressors.

Laissez-faire leadership is the least effective type of leadership styles. Many studies found out that the current type of leadership was the least productive. Majority of these studies mentioned that laissez-faire leaders were considered as the main culprits of role conflict. Due to the nature of the laissez-faire type of leadership, subordinates can have challenges regarding identifying their responsibilities and daily tasks (Simon, 2014). The laissez-faire type of leadership encourages the role ambiguity among the subordinates. The result of the current studies showed that there is a positive relationship between laissez-faire leadership and role ambiguity. It is also important to mention that final decision making is strongly dependent on the laissez-faire leaders although they provide complete power and freedom to their subordinates in accomplishments of daily tasks.

Role conflict is an evolving problem among team members (Seifert et al, 2003). Role conflict can result in different undesirable results such as lower productivity, damaged relationship and even can lead to absenteeism (Skogstad et al, 2007). One of the potential sources of role conflict can be linked to matrix organizational structure used by the leaders. As a result of matrix structure, subordinates face some drawbacks such as mixed communication and reporting lines, increased competition for resources and in many circumstances, they have to deal with different management styles of the leaders and managers. Transformational leaders deliver strong and concise coaching for each follower so that the members of the organization would not endure any confusion in their roles (Barrow, 1977). Thus, transformational leaders in most cases prevent the issue of role ambiguity, which implies that transformational leaders have a negative impact on role ambiguity which is justified by the findings of the current study.

Transactional leaders pay attention to the duties and responsibilities of every team member as it is crucial to specify the role of each employee in the organization to stay away from the cases of role conflict. The review of the literature shows that several characteristics shown by transactional leaders are more likely to have a negative impact on role conflict, by decreasing its chances of occurrence. Transactional leaders mark an agreement between followers and him concerning the importance of each task detail that needs to be accomplished within the certain period. (Mach et al. 2010). As a result, higher levels of transactional leaders are found to decrease the likelihood of occurrence of role ambiguity.

Resolving role ambiguity and role conflict is believed to increase the job performance. Increasing job performance is found to have a positive influence on increasing job cooperation. The review of the literature shows that the relationship between job performance and job cooperation was somewhat controversial in the literature. However, the recent studies show that there is a significant relationship between job performance and job cooperation. The idea behind role theory suggests that organizational environment plays an important role in identifying the main roles of individuals since these rules clearly state what is expected from the employees. The role of the leaders and their characteristics and leadership styles are key to improving the effectiveness and productivity of the workforce. The findings of the study suggest that transactional and transformational leadership are impactful on role ambiguity and conflict.

6. Conclusion

Each leadership style is unique regarding their cooperation and communication, motivation, objective setting and decision making. Based on the review of the literature, the study provides a literature review which consists of transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership. The influence of various types of leadership styles is analyzed for role conflict and role ambiguity. The review is meant to analyze the influence of styles and characteristics of transformational, transactional and laissez-faire type of leadership in resolving role ambiguity and role conflict to increase job performance.

It is critical for the leaders to bear in mind of potential side effects of role ambiguity and role conflict which is detrimental to the process of employees’ productivity and effectiveness. A clear understanding of employee needs and clear picture of potential negative effects of role ambiguity and role conflict can encourage leaders to take effective measures to create a better organizational environment where employees can work upon their best potential. If undertaken effectively, leaders will tend to transform the companies to be the more inclusive place to work through active and dynamic processes which will be accomplished by overcoming job stressors such as role conflict and role ambiguity. Moreover, leaders and their management styles also play a critical role in managing role conflicts and finding main sources of role stressors. For instance, a mentoring function which is represented in all types of leadership plays an important role in managing role stressors.

The review of the literature can be good evidence to claim that the field of leadership is quite diverse and there are many unexplored areas of leadership that can be critical to the success of the organizations. Moreover, the future research can take into consideration various leadership theories and identify their influence to overcome role stressors. One of the important theories of the leadership is trait theory. Based on the trait theory, the future research can consider the importance of specific leadership characteristics which can improve the job performance and cooperation.


  • Arami, M. (2016). Comparison of the leadership style of male and female managers in Kuwait: An empirical investigation. Journal of International Business Research and Marketing. Volume 1, Issue 2, January 2016, Pages 37-40.
  • Bardes, M., & Piccolo, R. F. (2010). Goal setting as an antecedent of destructive leader behaviors. When leadership goes wrong: Destructive leadership, mistakes and ethical failures, 3-22.
  • Barrow, J. C. (1977). The variables of leadership: A review and conceptual framework. Academy of Management Review, 2(2), 231-251.
  • Barsade, S.G. and Gibson, D.E. (2007). ‘‘Why does affect matter in organizations?’’, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 21, February, pp. 36-59. Crossref
  • Bass, B. and Avolio, J. (1990). The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press
  • Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational dynamics, 18(3), 19-31. Crossref
  • Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2000). Platoon readiness as a function of leadership, platoon, and company cultures. State Univ of New York At Binghamton. Crossref
  • Bond, R., & Smith, P. B. (1996). Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis of studies using Asch’s (1952b, 1956) line judgment task. Psychological bulletin, 119(1), 111. Crossref
  • Boyett, J. H. (2006). Transformational leadership: The highly effective leader/follower relationship. The Science of Leadership, 1-9.
  • Chen, H., Beck, S., and Amos, L. (2005). Leadership styles and nursing faculty job satisfaction in Taiwan. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 37, 374–380. Crossref
  • Cohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes teams work: Group effectiveness research from the shop floor to the executive suite. Journal of management, 23(3), 239-290. Crossref
  • Daniels, K. and Bailey, A. (1999). Strategy development processes and participation in decision making: predictors of role stressors and job satisfaction. Journal of applied management studies, 8(1), p.27.
  • Datnow, A., and Castellano, M. E. (2001). Managing and guiding school reform: Leadership in success for all schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 37(2), 219-249.Crossref
  • Deming, W. E. (1993). The new economics. MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study, Cambridge, MA, 51-56.
  • Dragoni, L. (2005). Understanding the emergence of state goal orientation in organizational units: The role of leadership and multilevel climate perceptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1084 –1095. Crossref
  • Drucker, P. F. (1989). What business can learn from nonprofits. Harvard business review, 67(4), 88-93.
  • Dubinsky, A. J., Yammarino, F. J., Jolson, M. A., and Spangler, W. D. (1995). Transformational leadership: An initial investigation in sales management. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 15(2), 17-31.
  • Edmonson, C., Sumagaysay, D., Cueman, M., & Chappell, S. (2016). The nurse leader role in crisis management. Journal of Nursing Administration, 46(9), 417-419. Crossref
  • Fleishman, E. A., Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Levin, K. Y., Korotkin, A. L., & Hein, M. B. (1991). Taxonomic efforts in the description of leader behavior: A synthesis and functional interpretation. The Leadership Quarterly, 2(4), 245-287. Crossref
  • Gottfried, A. E., Gottfried, A. W., Reichard, R. J., Guerin, D. W., Oliver, P. H., and Riggio, R. E. (2011). Motivational roots of leadership: A longitudinal study from childhood through adulthood. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(3), 510–519. Crossref
  • Gyensare, M. A., Anku-Tsede, O., Sanda, M. A., & Okpoti, C. A. (2016). Transformational leadership and employee turnover intention: The mediating role of affective commitment. World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, 12(3), 243-266. Crossref
  • Hamoud, M. W., Tarhini, A., Akour, M. A., & Al-Salti, Z. (2016). Developing the main knowledge management process via social media in the IT organisations: A conceptual perspective. International Journal of Business Administration, 7(5), 49
  • Hauge, L.J., Einarsen, S., Knardahl, S., Lau, B., Notelaers, G. and Skogstad, A. (2011). Leadership and role stressors as departmental level predictors of workplace bullying. International Journal of Stress Management, 18(4), p.305. Crossref
  • House, R. J., and Rizzo, J. R. (1972). Role conflict and ambiguity as critical variables in a model of organizational behavior. Organizational behavior and human performance, 7(3), 467-505. Crossref
  • Ilgen, D. R., Hollenbeck, J. R., Johnson, M., & Jundt, D. (2005). Teams in organizations: From input-process-output models to IMOI models.  Rev. Psychol., 56, 517-543. Crossref
  • Jesuit, D. K., & Sych, L. (2012). Local economic development and cross-border networks. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 25(6/7), 473-482. Crossref
  • Keegan, A. E., and Den Hartog, D. N. (2004). Transformational leadership in a project-based environment: a comparative study of the leadership styles of project managers and line managers. International journal of project management, 22(8), 609-617. Crossref
  • Kirkman, B. L., Lowe, K. B., & Gibson, C. B. (2006). A quarter century of culture’s consequences: A review of empirical research incorporating Hofstede’s cultural values framework. Journal of international business studies, 37(3), 285-320. Crossref
  • Kirkpatick S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: do traits matter?. The executive, 5(2), 48-60. Crossref
  • Koustelios, A., Theodorakis, N., & Goulimaris, D. (2004). Role ambiguity, role conflict and job satisfaction among physical education teachers in Greece. International Journal of Educational Management, 18(2), 87-92. Crossref
  • Locke, E. A. (1991). The motivation sequence, the motivation hub, and the motivation core. Organizational behavior and human decision processes. Crossref
  • Mach, M., Dolan, S. and Tzafrir, S. (2010). “The differential effect of team members’ trust on team performance: the mediation role of team cohesion”, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 83 No. 3, pp. 771-94. Crossref
  • Marginson, D., & Ogden, S. (2005). Coping with ambiguity through the budget: the positive effects of budgetary targets on managers’ budgeting behaviours. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 30(5), 435-456. Crossref
  • Mohrman, S. A., Cohen, S. G., & Morhman Jr, A. M. (1995). Designing team-based organizations: New forms for knowledge work. Jossey-Bass.
  • Mumford, M., Zaccaro, S. J., Johnson, J. F., Diana, M., Gilbert, J. A. and Threlfall, K. (2000). Patterns of leader characteristics: Implications for performance and development. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 115–133. Crossref
  • Osterman, P. (1994). Supervision, discretion, and work organization. The American Economic Review, 84(2), 380-384
  • Pearce, J. L. (1981). Bringing some clarity to role ambiguity research. Academy of Management Review, 6(4), 665-674.
  • Pearce, C.L., Manz, C.C. and Sims, H.P. (2009). “Is shared leadership the key to team success?”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 234-8. Crossref
  • Peterson, M. F., Smith, P. B., Akande, A., Ayestaran, S., Bochner, S., Callan, V. and Hofmann, K. (1995). Role conflict, ambiguity, and overload: A 21-nation study. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2), 429-452. Crossref
  • Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: a review of the literature. Journal of applied psychology, 87(4), 698. Crossref
  • Seifert, D. L., Stammerjohan, W. W., & Martin, R. B. (2013). Trust, organizational justice, and whistleblowing: A research note. Behavioral Research in Accounting, 26(1), 157-168. Crossref
  • Shepherd, C. D. and Fine, L. M. (1994). Scaling and measurement: Role conflict and role ambiguity reconsidered. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 14(2), 57-65.
  • Skogstad, A., Einarsen, S., Torsheim, T., Aasland, M. S. and Hetland, H. (2007). The destructiveness of laissez-faire leadership behavior. Journal of occupational health psychology, 12(1), 80. Crossref
  • Smith, M. and Cooper, C. (1994). “Leadership and Stress”, Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 15 Issue: 2, pp.3-7. Crossref
  • Teece, D. J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic management journal, 18(7), 509-533. Crossref
  • Van Sell, M., Brief, A. P., and Schuler, R. S. (1981). Role conflict and role ambiguity: Integration of the literature and directions for future research. Human relations, 34(1), 43-71. Crossref
  • Watson, W. E., Johnson, L., and Zgourides, G. D. (2002). The influence of ethnic diversity on leadership, group process, and performance: An examination of learning teams. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 26, 1–16. Crossref
  • Yammarino, F. J., and Bass, B. M. (1990). Long-term forecasting of transformational leadership and its effects among naval officers: Some preliminary findings. In K. E. Clark, and M. B. Clark (Eds.), Measures of leadership (pp. 151–171). West Orange, NJ: Leadership Library of America
  • Yang, I. (2015). Positive effects of laissez-faire leadership: conceptual exploration. Journal of Management Development, 34(10), 1246-1261. Crossref
  • Zaccaro, S. J., Kemp, C. and Bader, P. (2004). Leader traits and attributes. In J. Antonakis, A.T. Cianciolo and R.J. Sternberg (Eds.). The Nature of Leadership. (pp. 101–124). , Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.



Comments are closed.