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Measures of leadership style and behavior

Author: Dr Simon Moss

This page outlines some of the measures of leadership style or behavior that are often utilized in research. Some of the measures include a variety of different styles. Other measures concentrate more on transformational or supportive leadership.

Comprehensive measures

The Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire-XII

Stogdill (1963) developed a leadership scale that encompasses a comprehensive range of behaviors. In particular, this scale differentiates12 distinct leadership behaviors. Some of these behaviors revolve around supportive relationships and consideration of other individuals:

Most of these subscales comprise 10 items. However, integration, predictive accuracy, demand reconciliation, and representation comprise 5 items only.

Nicol (2009) showed that leaders who espouse hierarchical beliefs, called a social dominance orientation, are less inclined to show consideration or to tolerate uncertainty--but are more likely to emphasize production. Right wing authoritarianism, which reflects the extent to which individuals follow authorities, embrace social conventions, and condemn breaches of these traditions, was not significantly related to any of these leadership behaviors.

Some researchers administer only a subset of scales. Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko, and Roberts (2008), for example, administered the measure of initiating structure, which includes items such as "...maintains definite standards of performance" and "...makes sure that his or her part in the group is understood by the group members". They reported an alpha reliability of .92.

Measure of behavioral repertoire

According to Lawrence, Lenk, and Quinn (2009), great leaders need to apply a diverse array of practices to accommodate the conflicting imperatives and values of organizations. Other measures of leadership style and behavior, however, may not gauge this flexibility effectively. Lawrence, Lenk, and Quinn (2009) developed a measure that overcomes this limitation.

The measure is derived from recent variants of the competing values framework (Quinn & Rohrbaugh, 1981). This framework was derived from studies that uncovered the determinants of organizational effectiveness. These determinants can be divided into four clusters of leadership roles:

In addition, these four clusters of leadership roles vary on two dimensions. To illustrate, two of the clusters--collaborate and control--primarily relate to internal processes within the organization, whereas the other clusters--create and compete--primarily relate to external relationships outside the organization. Furthermore, two of the clusters--collaborate and create--are intended to promote flexibility, whereas the other two clusters--control and complete--are intended to reinforce existing practices and stability.

These sets of determinants, sometimes called quadrants, seem to conflict with each other. Yet, according to the competing values framework, effective organizations are able to manage and reconcile these conflicts. Consequently, performance on these quadrants actually tend to be positively related to each other.

Lawrence, Lenk, and Quinn (2009) developed a measure that indicates the extent to which leaders have developed this range of behaviors, called behavioral repertoire. For each of these four clusters or quadrants, nine questions were developed, such as "meeting with customers to discuss their needs". In addition, each of the four quadrants correspond to three facets, each represented by three questions. Exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analyses substantiated the factor structure of this measure. That is, four key factors emerged, each corresponding to three subfactors. The four factors were correlated with each other. However, as predicted, factors that differed from each other on both level of flexibility and level of internality were not as highly related to each other.

Charismatic leadership

The Conger-Kanungo Scale of Charismatic Leadership

Conger and Kanungo (1998) developed a measure of charismatic leadership, which comprises 20 items. Several studies have substantiated the reliability and validity of this scale (Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, 2000&Conger, Kanungo, Menon, & Mathur, 1997). In particular, the scale comprises five factors or factors. These factors represent the extent to which leaders demonstrate sensitivity to opportunities and constraints in the environment (e.g., "Recognizes the abilities and skills of other members of the organization"), exhibits sensitivity to the needs and preferences of members of their workgroup (e.g., "Influences others by developing mutual liking and respect"), promulgates an inspiring vision (e.g., "Provides inspiring strategic and organizational goals"), engages in personal risk, partly to inspire followers through role modeling (e.g., "Takes high personal risks for the sake of the organization"), and demonstrated unconventional behavior (e.g., "Uses nontraditional means to achieve organizational goals).

Leader prototypicality

Recently, van Knippenberg and van Knippenberg (2005) developed a measure that assesses the extent to which leaders are prototypical of the group--that is, the degree to which they align with the norms and standards of their collective. From the perspective of the social identity theory of leadership, members who epitomize this prototype are perceived as highest in status and influence (Hogg, 2001). A typical example of the five items in this scale is "My team leader is a good example of the kind of people in my team".

In a study conducted by van Dijke and de Cremer (2009), the alpha internal consistency of this scale was .91. Furthermore, consistent with the hypotheses, when the leader was perceived as more prototypical, followers more inclined to evaluate the procedures as fair.

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership represents the extent to which leaders inspire followers to pursue collective values and aspirations--values and aspiratons that transcend their egocentric needs and goals. These transformational leaders also invoke and regulate emotions--rather than merely apply rational processes--to motivate other individuals.

Several measures have been developed to assess transformational leadership, such as the MLQ and Leadership Practices Inventory (for more detail, see Transformational leadership).

Change leadership

Herold,, Fedor, Caldwell, and Liu (2008) developed a measure that represents the extent to which leaders demonstrate the behaviors that are needed to implement change effectively. The scale comprises seven items, representing the extent to which the leaders promulgate a clear vision, justify this direction, emphasize the urgency of this change, form a coalition of supporters, empower individuals to fulfill these objectives, monitor progress, and support individuals who experience difficulties. Respondents are asked "Related to the specific change being studied, my leader...", together with seven items, such as "empowered people to implement the change" or "built a broad coalition up front to support the change". Alpha reliability was .89.

Supportive leadership

Servant leadership

Barbuto and Wheeler (2006) developed a measure of servant leadership. The original scale entails five subscales. These subscales include altruistic calling (e.g., "This person does everything he or she can to serve me"), emotional healing (e.g., "This person is very good at helping me with emotional issues"), and organizational stewardship (e.g., "This person encourages me to have a community spirit in the workplace").

Ehrhart (2004) constructed a measure of servant leadership that comprises only one principal factor. The scale consists of 14 items. Typical items include "My supervisor does what she or he promises to do", "My supervisor emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community", "My supervisor makes the personal development of department employees a priority", and "My supervisor creates a sense of community among department employees". Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko, and Roberts (2008) reported alpha consistency to approximate .96.

By definition, servant leaders demonstrate some unique qualities, distinct from other leadership styles (for a discussion, see Graham, 1991& Hale & Fields, 2007& Smith, Montagno, & Kuzmenko, 2004). First, their decisions are governed by moral considerations. Second, because of this moral stance, they attempt to satisfy the needs of all stakeholders, including customers and suppliers. Third, they strive to facilitate the growth and well-being of employees as an end in itself--and not merely to pursue some grand vision of the future, like charismatic leaders. Finally, they attempt to maintain humility and overcome hubris, by reflecting upon their limitations (see Brown & Trevino, 2006& Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010).

Consistent with this definition, servant leadership demonstrates incremental validity. For example, as Liden, Wayne, Zhao, and Henderson (2008) showed, servant leadership was positively associated with citizenship behavior and task performance even after transformational leadership and leader-member exchange was controlled.

Some research has attempted to examine the mechanisms that underpin the benefits of servant leadership. Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010), for example, uncovered both workplace characteristics and individual states that mediate the association between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behavior. First, they proposed that a climate of procedural justice might mediate this relationship. In particular, the key features of servant leadership revolves around moral decisions, respect towards all stakeholders, and humility. As a consequence of these features, decisions tend to be ethical and unbiased and employees are granted opportunities to express their concerns--the primary ingredients of procedural justice. Because of this sense of justice, employees feel connected to the organization, promoting organizational citizenship behavior.

Second, a service climate mediates the association between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behavior. This service climate emanates from the propensity of servant leaders to epitomize respect towards all stakeholders as well as embody humility and integrity. These qualities emanate throughout the culture, guiding the behavior of employees both to customers and to each other.

Third, the self efficacy of employees also mediates the relationship between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behavior. Servant leaders facilitate the growth and development of employees. These employees, thus, accrue more skills, enhancing their self efficacy. This self efficacy translates into the belief that discretionary acts they undertake will be constructive, encouraging organizational citizenship behavior.

Fourth, servant leadership also increases the likelihood that employees feel committed to the leader, to reciprocate the support they received (see social exchange theory). This commitment often evokes proactive behavior, translating into organizational citizenship behavior.

Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010) conducted a study to substantiate these propositions. Employees rated the extent to which their supervisor demonstrated servant leadership. Three weeks later, they also evaluated the degree to which the procedures were just, represented by items like "To what extent are procedures in your workgroup based on accurate information", and the degree to which a service climate prevails, corresponding to items like "How would you rate the recognition and rewards employees receive for the delivery of superior work and service". Furthermore, they evaluated their own self efficacy and commitment to their supervisor. Finally, two weeks later, supervisors rated the extent to which these employees enacted citizenship behaviors, such as helping colleagues.

Procedural justice, a service climate, self efficacy, and commitment to the supervisor partly mediated the association between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behavior (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010). In addition, the positive association between procedural justice and organizational citizenship behavior, as well as the positive association between a service climate and organizational citizenship behavior, was more pronounced when employees were committed to the supervisor. This commitment, presumably, increases the extent to which the culture of organizations governed the behavior of employees.

Ethical leadership

Brown and Trevino (2006) delineated the concept of ethical leadership. These leaders do not only behave ethically--with honesty, integrity, and fairness. They also attempt to instill followers with these ethical beliefs and reinforce ethical behavior. They underscore the significance of ethics and values, even offering incentives to shape the ethical conduct of individuals. Brown, Trevino, and Harrison (2005) developed a measure to assess ethical leadership, with items such as "...disciplines employees who break ethics rules".

Self sacrificing leadership

Self-sacrificial leaders are individuals who strive to pursue the mission and purpose of their collective, often to the detriment of their personal needs (e.g., Choi & Mai-Dalton, 1999& De Cremer, van Knippenberg, van Dijke, & Bos, 2006). These leaders experience a profound sense of duty to ensue workgroup goals are fulfilled, even willing to engage in risky behavior to achieve this objective. They often show concern to employees, ensuring these individuals embrace the group mission (De Cremer, van Knippenberg, van Dijke, & Bos, 2006).

De Cremer, Mayer, van Dijke, Schouten, and Bardes (2009) adapted questions from Bass and Avolio (1995) to construct a scale of sacrificial leadership that comprises four items: "goes beyond self-interest for the good of the group," "considers the moral and ethical consequences of decisions," "emphasizes the importance of having a collective sense of mission," and "specifies the importance of having a strong sense of purpose". Alpha reliability was .81.

Leader member exchange

Leader member exchange, or LMX, represents the quality of relationships that leaders form with each follower. When LMX is high, the leader and follow like and respect each other as well as demonstrate loyalty and contribute with vigor (Liden & Maslyn, 1998).

Several measures of LMX have been developed. One of the most common variants is called the LMX-7 (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995), which comprises seven items, such as "I usually know where I stand with my supervisor", "How well does your leader recognize your potential", and "How would you characterize your working relationship with your leader"--all with different response scales. Alpha reliability tends to approach around .85 to .90 (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

A variety of other measures have emerged. Liden and Maslyn (1998) developed a scale that comprises 12 items, with alpha reliability that exceeds .85. Bauer and Green (1996) developed a measure that comprises eight items, such as "I would characterize the working relationship I have with my team leader as extremely effective".

Empathic leadership

Empathic leadership refers to the extent to which leaders experience empathy towards their followers. Empathic leaders appreciate the feelings and perspectives of their followers and tend to engage in behaviors that align to the needs of these individuals. This form of leadership can be both measured and manipulated.

For example, to manipulate empathic leadership, in a study conducted by Cornelis, Van Hiel, De Cremer, and Mayer (2013), participants believed they had been assigned to a group of six people, who would interact over computer. They were assigned the role of team leader, supposedly as a consequence of their scores on a questionnaire. To evoke an empathic leadership style, they were told that successful leaders empathize with their subordinate. They were also encouraged to consider how the other people experience the task. In the control group, participants were told that successful leaders are rational and focus objectively on tasks and goals. They were told to maintain a rational and detached perspective.

In this study, the participants then learnt information about one of their supposed team members. This team member conveyed to the team leader, the participant, feedback this person had received from the questionnaire. The feedback indicated the person either needs and likes or does not need to be accepted by other people, indicating high or low need to belong respectively. Finally, participants indicated the degree to which they would like to know the perspectives of their team members, called voice, a facet of procedural justice.

If leaders were empathic, they were more likely to exhibit this procedural justice, especially if they recognized the team members show a need to belong. Accordingly, empathic leaders are sensitive to the needs of followers. Followers who experience a need to belong are especially sensitive to procedural justice. That is, they perceive justice as a sign of respect and acceptance. Empathic leaders, aware of this sensitivity, will thus offer more voice to people who need to belong.

To measure empathic leadership, Cornelis, Van Hiel, De Cremer, and Mayer (2013) asked other participants to complete a scale of empathic concern. Again, empathic leadership was positively associated with procedural fairness, but only if followers seemed to exhibit a high need to belong. In this study, procedural fairness extended beyond voice and included other facets, such as deriving decisions from accurate and complete information as well as devoting more attention to the fairness of decisions.


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