Saturday, May 18, 2013

Altruism as an Enhancement to Leadership

Leadership is something of interest to businesses administrators, students and politicians. Leadership is often defined using  both its results as well as its traits. Recently, altruism has garnered greater interest among researchers as an additional trait of inclusion in high performance leaders. New research helps to understand what connection altruism has with networking, interpersonal influence, effectiveness and success.

Leadership ability often comes from the social capital built within greater networks. Nothing great can be done alone. These networks are described as a purposeful focus on how a person is perceived in relationships (Luthans, et. al, 1988). It is this perception of self that creates positive affectivity by balancing the leader’s personal image with that of others. If you don’t have an understanding of how people are perceiving you it will be impossible to enhance that impression.

The researchers further move on to argue that performance, satisfaction and subordinate organizational commitment are symptoms of effective leaders. Such leaders should be able to encourage performance in others, develop a level of commitment to particular causes, and ensuring the needs of followers during this process.

To develop maximize performance and create strong social networks that encourage focused action a level social intelligence is needed (Kolodinsky, 2003). Social networks must run both inside and outside organizations to create effectiveness. Without being able to understand the subtle nature of social cues and influences it will be hard to develop higher levels of influence. 

This influence also relies on emotional stability, optimism, intelligence, analytic ability, intuition and interpersonal relations (Kotter, 1982). By using these skills to a higher degree, leaders can develop a level of effectiveness that sets them apart from others. Each skill should be toned and developed to its full bloom to create a multitude of methods in order to see and solve problems adequately.

Few would trust a leader if their social intelligence were used only for self-serving purposes. A level of altruism and concern for the greater good needs to be part of  the decision making process. Therefore, leadership cannot be separate from moral character (Kanungo, 2001). That moral character is the ability to serve others and go above the call of duty to create ethical successes (Price, 2003). 

Research conducted by Moss & Barbuto  (2010) analyzed interpersonal political skills and its success as moderated by altruism. They used a multi-level model centering on employees from four organizations to create a variety of conditions. A total of 217 participants were used gauge overall perceived effectiveness of such leaders in determining the association of elements. 


-Interpersonal influence was positively related to effectiveness.
-Networking ability was positively related to effectiveness and success.
-Altruism strengthened the relationship to social intelligences and effectiveness.
-Altruism decreased the relationship between networking and success.

Business Analysis: 

Networking and connecting with others is an important part of leadership. Through this networking, people are more able to be effective and successful in their endeavors. Altruism seems to enhance one’s social intelligences and overall effectiveness in their leadership abilities. However, altruism also seems to have an opposite effect on networking and success. It is possible that there is a level of selfishness in some people’s use of networking. It may lead to an assumption that many people use their social networks to gain personal success but that that success is not based in the need to enhance people. Further research could uncover the percentage of people who network for their own benefit versus the benefit of others.  History seems to confirm this belief that politicking and altruistic behaviors are not necessarily mutually exclusive but are different activities that lead to effectiveness. It is we that define what effectiveness means. You may want to ask yourself what the differences are between greater and lesser leadership.

Luthans, F., Hodgetts, R. M., & Rosenkrantz, S. A. (1988). Successful vs. effective real
managers. The Academy of Management Executive, 11, 127-132.

Moss, J. & Barbuto, J. (2010) Testing the Relationship Between Interpersonal Political Skills, Altruism, Leadership Success and Effectiveness: A Multilevel Model.  Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management.

Kolodinsky, R. W. (2003). The role of political skill in intra-organizational outcomes: An
initial empirical examination. Paper presented at the Academy of Management
national conference, Seattle, WA.

Kotter, J. P. (1982). General managers are not generalists. Organizational Dynamics,
10, 5-19.

Kanungo, R. N. (2001). Ethical values of transactional and transformational leaders.

Price, T. L. (2003). The ethics of authentic transformational leadership. The Leadership
Quarterly, 14, 67-81. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 18, 257-265.

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