Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Leadership and morale

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Leadership and morale:
How does leadership affect morale?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. The personality, traits and character of a leader can have numerous effects on employees and an organisation (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005).

As most people have a coach, boss or manager at some point in their lives, it is hard to understate the importance that good leadership has in many aspects of life. Leadership organises and directs collective effort, and is therefore a critical factor determining organisational success at many levels, whether it be a government, army, corporation or sports team (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). Good leadership enables organisations and groups to prosper and thrive, resulting in enhanced wellbeing for group members, employees, or citizens. Leadership, in essence, involves the creation and maintenance of teams and persuading people to pursue a common goal, and the personality, traits, and character of the leader determine what style is used to achieve this (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005).

A variety of leadership theories have been postulated in historical literature, with varying disagreements. Three leadership models emerge with the most substantial evidence base; the transactional, transformational, and contingency models of leadership (Ayman et al., 1995; Erskine & Georgiou, 2017). In parallel to these theories are the most notable leadership styles, referred to as autocratic, democratic, and lassez-faire. A leader's behaviours, qualities, traits, management skills, and underlying personality are represented within the aforementioned leadership styles and theories (Warrick, 1981).

Different leadership styles can have an influential effect on employee attitude, energy, health, motivation, performance and satisfaction (Warrick, 1981). Employee morale is a key underlying aspect influenced by leader behaviour, which affects employee wellbeing and behaviour, and ultimately organisational performance (see Figure 1; Noor & Ampornstira, 2019). Due to this important relationship between morale, employee satisfaction, and organisational success, it is important to identify the leadership styles and their corresponding behaviours and traits that positively and negatively affect morale. As leadership practices are observable and learnable, in depth understanding of the relationship between leadership and morale facilitates the creation of more connective leaders who can develop a sense of community and self-sacrifice among conflicting parties (Bass & Bass, 2008).

Focus questions:

  • What are the characteristics of good leadership?
  • What are the characteristics of bad leadership?
  • What are the different theories of leadership?
  • What are the effects of good and bad leadership on morale?

Defining leadership[edit | edit source]

The concepts of leadership and its definitions have expanded and evolved over time; however, a summary of modern leadership definitions is presented by Bass and Bass (2008), outlining key aspects as initiation of structure, reinforcement, goal achievement, role differentiation, persuasion and influence as key aspects. Bass and Bass (2008) further this by emphasising leaders as agents of change that influence the competence and motivation of members of the group, identify problems, and offer solutions. The ability to influence others is often seen as the most important aspect of leadership, as it underlies the defining attribute of a leader, their ability to persuade people to form a cohesive team and willingly subserve to a common goal over their own (Hogan et al., 1994; Northouse, 2019). The effectiveness of a leader has been shown to depend on their success at managing relationships, a group’s interpersonal concerns, and aiding task performance, with these actions being impacted by the leader’s behaviours and traits (Derue et al., 2011).

What are the traits and behaviours of good leaders?[edit | edit source]

Good leadership is based on a number of personality, behaviour, and character traits and skills that can be broadly grouped into two categories; task competence and interpersonal attributes. The components of task competence are; conscientiousness, intelligence, openness, emotional stability, self-efficacy and technical knowledge; and the interpersonal attributes are agreeableness, communication skills, extraversion, emotional intelligence and political skills (Derue et al., 2011). Bass and Bass (2008) proposed including a number of character traits and virtues required by leaders such as honesty, wisdom, altruism, trustworthiness, integrity, fairness, moral reasoning, resilience and courage. Additionally, numerous behaviours such as clarifying, problem solving, planning, organising, motivating, informing, supporting, monitoring, consulting, conflict management, networking, team building, mentoring, developing, and rewarding and delegating are seen in good leaders (Yukl et al., 1990, as cited in Hogan et al., 1994).

What are the traits and behaviours of bad leaders?[edit | edit source]

Bad leaders are defined by a number of negative personality and character traits and vices, referred to by Hogan et al. (1994) as ‘dark side’ characteristics, which dissatisfy subordinates and thwart team formation. Inability to form a team is one of four themes of failed leaders, which also include transitional issues after promotion, poor interpersonal skills, and inability to accomplish work goals (Leslie and Van Velsor, 1996). Underlying these themes are personality and character traits including narcissism, arrogance, anxiety, neuroticism, untrustworthiness and poor self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy (Bass & Bass, 2008). Amplifying these traits are vices including cruelty, greed, dishonesty and deception leading to unethical practices and poor behaviours including inconsistency, intimidation, angry outbursts, shifting blame for mistakes, hypocrisy and self-serving actions (Bass & Bass, 2008). The extreme of this behaviour is abusiveness, involving verbal and physical aggression which cause the most severe harm to subordinates, resulting in extreme dissatisfaction and intentions to quit (Ashforth, 1994).

Leadership theories[edit | edit source]

Leadership has been studied across many cultures, over many decades, and there are various different ways to lead which are based on the leader’s traits and behaviours, their interactions with followers, and the environment they create (Horner, 1997). The following three theories are the most prevalent.

Contingency model of leadership[edit | edit source]

The contingency model of leadership suggests that the effectiveness of a leader is dependent on the social and organisational context of the environment and the team’s characteristics (Fiedler, 1964; Van Kleef et al., 2010). This implies that different situations may require different leadership approaches, and a contingent leader will select different skills depending on situational requirements (Warrick, 1981). Leader effectiveness is based on whether the leader is task or relational oriented, and their situational control (Ayman et al., 1995). Task oriented leaders define roles, coordinate actions, determine standards, closely supervise and punish mistakes, while relational leaders are approachable and friendly, show concern, accept input and provide support (Derue et al., 2011).

Transactional leadership[edit | edit source]

Transactional leadership highlights the exchange between leaders and followers. The requirements to meet a desired objective are directed by the leader, or reached through mutual discussion (Bass & Bass, 2008). The achievement of these objectives and good performance are met with clearly specified rewards, whereas poor performance incurs corrective action (Hargis et al., 2011). Transactional leadership has three dimensions; contingent reward and management by exception – passive, or active. Contingent reward is the clarification of expectations, and an exchange of financial or non-financial rewards for meeting them (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Management by exception is the extent to which a leader enacts corrective action, with active leaders observing behaviour and taking action before a problem arises, and passive leaders acting after a problem arises (Howell and Avolio, 1993).

Transformational leadership[edit | edit source]

Transformational leaders are charismatic, inspiring, motivating, fair, collaborative and attract trust and respect from subordinates and colleagues. These effects stem from the four dimensions of transformational leadership:

  1. Idealised influence - whereby leaders hold strong values and abide by them
  2. Inspirational motivation - leaders have clear communication, and convey an inspirational vision that others follow
  3. Intellectual stimulation - followers are encouraged to think in novel and unique ways to solve problems
  4. Individual consideration – subordinates are encouraged and individually supported (Arnold & Connelly, 2013; Erskine & Georgiou, 2017).

Furthering these themes, transformational leaders emphasise values, emotions, equality between themselves and group members, and focus on the welfare and interests of the group (Derue et al., 2011).

Styles of leadership[edit | edit source]

Leadership styles refer to the pattern of behaviour, mannerisms, attitude and personality of a leader, and their emphasis on people and their performance, (Warrick, 1981). While many have been proposed, Table 1 contrasts the most supported styles of leadership.

Table 1.

Descriptions of the leadership styles (Bass & Bass, 2008; Warrick, 1981).

Behaviours Autocratic Democratic Laissez-Faire
Emphasis People – low

Performance - high

People – high

Performance - high

People – low

Performance - low

Organisation Centralised planning and initiation of structure. Rules and procedures are defined. Flexible and decentralised structure with clear and defined objectives and responsibilities in a participative and open environment. Avoid organisational duties, do not set goals or boundaries and relinquish responsibility, though can provide information. Use structure that they are provided with.
Control Rules and directions are enforced. Obedience and adherence to roles and jobs is expected. Distributed and shared between the leader and subordinates. Do not control group members, who have freedom in what they do and how.
Power/Authority Belongs to leader and is not shared. Centralised and used to ensure compliance and order. Believes that authority and power must be earned, and that it can be shared. Abdicate power and authority to any other who rises to get a task done.
Decision making Take sole responsibility for decisions. Input from the group is limited. Can make decisive decisions alone, but also use consultative and collaborative processes. Avoids decision making and taking action.
Communication Usually unilateral and downward. Orders are issued formally and impersonally. Open, trusting and honest two-way communication. Ideas and opinions from subordinates are encouraged. Avoid interactions with subordinates, and communication is superficial and non-committal.

What is the relationship between leadership and morale?[edit | edit source]

Morale is an important component of the wellbeing of employees and subordinates, and underlies their attitudes and organisational commitment, affecting organisational performance and efficiency (Noor & Ampornstira, 2019). Morale can be measured at an individual or collective group level, and the consequences of high morale are desirable (Cotton & Hart, 2003). Benefits of high morale pertain to militaries, sports teams, schools and work groups, and include buffering against trauma and stress, increased courage, motivation, task achievement, perseverance and resilience, especially during challenging times (Peterson et al., 2008). Due to the numerous and positive effects of morale, it is clear that fostering high morale should be of primary concern for leaders. This is all the more important due to the strong relationship between leadership, a leader’s styles and behaviours, and morale (Evans, 1999). To understand this relationship however, the concept of morale itself must be defined.

What is morale?

Hart et al. (2000) describe morale as the enthusiasm, pride, energy and team spirit that employees or group members experience. Knight et al. (2002) further explain that morale is how positive a member of an organisation feels about the environment they work in, and the total level of satisfaction and personal fulfilment they achieve. Knight et al. (2002) go on to suggest that morale encompasses job satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, organisational commitment, work meaningfulness, and pride in one’s work. Furthering these concepts, morale can also be considered a measure of group well-being, and is a cognitive, emotional and motivational attitude towards the tasks and goals held by a group, which includes optimism, confidence, loyalty and common purpose (Peterson et al., 2008). These aspects are part of a group of multidimensional relative components of morale which also include; belief in the organisation’s capabilities; resilience to adversity; leadership; mutual respect and trust; social cohesion and devotion between group members; sacrifice; group history; and concern for the group’s honour and sense of morality (Peterson et al., 2008). The components are states that exist on a continuum and are context dependent, depending on the group, its tasks, and the point in time. As such, levels of morale vary according to a variety of aspects a leader can affect, such as work satisfaction, job engagement and work pride, which affects collective efficacy, task cohesion and teamwork (Peterson et al., 2008).

What organisational factors affect morale?[edit | edit source]

Having overarching control of an organisation results in a leader having the influence over a number of broad scale aspects that can affect morale. These aspects underpin group experiences and can be referred to as the organisational climate of a workplace, which entails leadership practices, organisational processes, and structures including style of decision-making, role clarity, and recognition processes (Cotton & Hart, 2003). Additional aspects included in organisational climate that affect morale include safety, job security, advancement opportunities, good benefits and salary, status and social value of the work and adequate resources for task completion (Hart & Cooper, 2001). These broad scale factors have been observed in the educational system, where faculty members’ morale has been shown to be dependent on their professional priorities being attended to, their relationship with the administration, their perceived support, and quality of their benefits (Johnsrud & Rosser, 2002). It was also found by Hart et al. (2000) that teacher morale was improved by a reasonable workload, role clarity, professional growth opportunities, a clear curriculum, effective discipline policies, and participative decision-making. The endorsement and pursuit by leaders of these features that enhance morale in subordinates result in organisations which are characterised by open and flexible structures, an openness to innovative ideas, and increased autonomy (Zeitz, 1983). This type of work environment is often the product of a democratic leadership style. In contrast, organisations that have autocratic leaders and rigid, hierarchical structures based on procedures and rules with minimal participative decision-making often stifle autonomy, which reduces satisfaction and morale (Zeitz, 1983). As the experience of low morale is largely blamed on supervisors and management and their leadership competencies, it is of great importance that those in leadership positions create an organisational climate that enhances morale, and avoid structures that reduce it (Noor & Ampornstira, 2019).

What is the effect of bad leadership on morale?[edit | edit source]

While the effects of different leadership styles can differ due to situation, it has often been found that autocratic and laissez-faire leaders and their behaviours negatively affect workplace engagement, wellbeing and other aspects that directly affect the components of morale (Bass & Bass, 2008). Evidence shows that effectiveness, group climate, stability and happy and content feelings are influenced negatively by autocratic leaders, and that they create unhealthy work environments hindered by harassment, group conflict and communication problems which harm morale (Peterson et al., 2008; Van Vugt et al., 2004). The centralised and inflexible control and decision-making structures of autocratic leaders causes the alienation and estrangement of subordinates, and leads to a reduction in loyalty and dedication among the leader and the group which harms relationships (Erskine & Georgiou, 2017). Further harm is caused to morale by abusiveness behaviour, which creates fear and distrust, increases burnout and stress, and reduces job satisfaction and commitment (Tepper, 2000). This loss of job satisfaction and organisational commitment is also caused by laissez-faire leadership, as well as other consequences that harm morale, such as role conflict and ambiguity, intragroup conflict and bullying, and reduced mutual respect and trust (Buch et al., 2015; Judge & Piccolo, 2004)

Case study (Bass & Bass, 2008)

In the context of military commands, the negative consequences of laissez-faire leadership are profound and exemplified by Lord Raglan during the Crimean War. Raglan was regarded as an incompetent, inactive, extremely introverted leader and avoided having any contact with the men under him. He was loathe to issue orders, and those offered were unclear, with this ambiguity resulting in disaster at Balaclava during the charge of the light brigade which resulted in severe casualties. Raglan cared not for his troops’ welfare and morale, making no plans to house his troops during the winter, and his army lost 35% of its strength due to disease and exposure, severely damaging his troop’s morale.

What is the effect of good leadership on morale?[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Model showing the relationship between job satisfaction and individual and work group morale, which affects wellbeing (Hart & Cooper, 2001).

While task-oriented leadership styles such as autocratic often stifle morale, it is found that more relational styles and their related behaviours enhance morale, with relational styles being more common in democratic and transformational leaders (Bass & Bass, 2008). Relational leaders are more effective communicators, are more empathetic and sensitive to their subordinates needs, and show more concern for other’s emotions, which creates a strong interpersonal relationship between and among leaders and followers which is conducive to high morale (Derue et al., 2011). Such leaders also often exhibit the extraversion and agreeableness traits which results in a leader being more approachable and friendly, creating mutual trust and respect, and who inspires enthusiasm and belief in the common purpose by speaking enthusiastically about the group’s goals (Derue et al., 2011. This type of leader develops the strengths of followers, creating confidence, and nurtures loyalty and devotion by seeking and accepting input from the group (Derue et al., 2011). Relational traits and behaviours in leaders have also been shown to reduce the stress of subordinates, and increase their self-efficacy, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and organisational commitment, thereby further increasing individual and collective morale (see Figure 2; Erskine & Georgiou, 2017; Keegan & Den Hartog, 2004).

Of particular note is self-sacrificing behaviour. De Cremer and van Knippenberg (2004) showed self-sacrifice has an influential effect on follower’s motivations, emotion, hopes and spirits, indicates dedication to the group’s vision and goals, inspires both intrinsic and collective motivation in followers, and heightens social cohesion and morale. Summarising these aspects, democratic and transformational leaders allow group members to influence the organisation and share in decision-making, and experience freedom and autonomy in how they do their tasks, while feeling like they are individually supported, which results in high satisfaction and morale (Zeitz, 1983).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Leadership is a pervasive theme due to its prevalence in many aspects of our lives and its prominence in most organisations we belong to. Whether membership in these organisations is for work, sport, hobbies or recreation, leadership is an important determinant for the success of all of them. While there have been many theories of leadership and leadership styles over the years, the modern theories largely agree that leadership is based on the building of teams, and the influencing of members in these teams to pursue a common goal. These different theories and styles are based on a leader’s interactions with their followers, and their behaviours, attitudes and personalities which can encompass positive or negative leadership traits. The relationship between these styles and their respective traits and the morale of subordinates is prominent. As such, a firm understanding of this relationship, and the effects that certain leader behaviours have on the individual and collective morale of those being led is of great importance. This information can be used to develop more enlightened organisation level personnel practices and leadership behaviours to secure more positive outcomes for followers, leaders, organisations and society as a whole.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Arnold, K., & Connelly, C. (2013). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: Effects on followers and leaders. In R. Lewis, S. Leonard, & A. Freedman (Eds.), J. Passmore (Series Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Leadership, Change, and Organizational Development (pp. 175-194). Wiley Blackwell.

Ashforth, B. (1994). Petty tyranny in organizations. Human Relations, 47, 755–778. Ayman, R., Chemers, M.M., & Fiedler, F. (1995). The contingency model of leadership effectiveness: Its levels of analysis. Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 147-167.

Bass, B.M., & Bass, R. (2008). The Bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (4th ed.). Free Press.

Buch, R., Martinsen, O.L., & Kuvaas, B. (2015). Destructiveness of laissez-faire leadership behavior: The mediating role of economic leader–member exchange relationships. Journal of Leadership and Organisational Studies, 22(1), 115-124.

Cotton, P., & Hart, P.M. (2003). Occupational wellbeing and performance: A review of organisational health research. Australian Psychologist, 38(2), 118-127.

De Cremer, D., & van Knippenberg, D. (2004). Leader self-sacrifice and leadership effectiveness: The moderating role of leader self-confidence. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 95(2), 140-155.

Derue, D.S., Nahrgang, J.D., Wellman, N., & Humphrey. S.E. (2011). Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64, 7-52.

Erskine, J.A.K., & Georgiou, G.J. (2017). Leadership styles: Employee stress, well-being, productivity, turnover and absenteeism. Understanding Stress at Work, 28-40

Evans, L. (1999). Delving deeper into morale, job satisfaction and motivation among education professionals re-examining the leadership dimension. Educational Management & Administration, 29(3), 291-306.

Fiedler, F.E. (1964). A contingency model of leadership effectiveness. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 1., pp. 149-190). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Hargis, M.B., Watt, J.D., & Piotrowski, C. (2011). Developing leaders: Examining the role of transactional and transformational leadership across business contexts. Organization Development Journal, 29(3), 51-66

Hart, P.M., & Cooper, C.L. (2001). Occupational Stress: Toward a More Integrated network In N. Anderson, D.S. Ones, H.K. Sinangil, & C. Viswesvaran (Eds), Handbook of Industrial, Work and Organizational Psychology (Vol 2: Personnel Psychology). London: Sage.

Hart, P.M., Wearing, A.J., Conn, M., Carter, N.L., & Dingle, R.K. (2000). Development of the school organisational health questionnaire: A measure for assessing teacher morale and school organisational climate. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 211-228. Hogan, R., Curphy, G.J., & Hogan, J. (1994). What we know about leadership: Effectiveness and personality. American Psychologist, 49(6), 493-504.

Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R.B. (2005). What we know about leadership, Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 169-180.

Horner, M. (1997). Leadership theory: past, present and future. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 3(4), 270-287.

Howell, J.M., & Avolio, B.J. (1993). Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, locus of control, and support for innovation: Key predictors of consolidated-business-unit performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(6), 891-902.

Johnsrud, L.K., & Rosser, V.J. (2002). Faculty members' morale and their intention to leave: A multilevel explanation. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(4), 518-542.

Judge, T.A., & Piccolo, R.F. (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(5), 755-768.

Keegan, A.E., & 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, 609-617.

Leslie, J., & Van Velsor, E. (1996). A look at derailment today: North America and Europe. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

McKnight, D.H., Ahmad, S., & Schroeder, R.G. (2001). When do feedback, incentive control, and autonomy improve morale? The importance of employee-management relationship closeness. Journal of Managerial Issues, 13(4), 466-482

Northouse, P.G. (2019). Leadership: Theory and practice (8th ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Peterson, C., Park, N., & Sweeney, P.J. (2008). Well-being: Morale from a positive psychology perspective. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 57, 19-36.

Tepper, B.J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178-190.

Van Kleef, G.A., Homan, A.C., Beersma, B., & van Knippenberg, D. (2010). On angry leaders and agreeable followers: How leaders' emotions and followers' personalities shape motivation and team performance, Psychological Science, 21(12), 1827-1834.

Van Vugt, M., Jepson, A., Hart, C., & De Cremer, D. (2004). Autocratic leadership in social dilemmas: A threat to group stability. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 1-13.

Warrick, D.D. (1981). Leadership styles and their consequences. Journal of Experiential Learning and Simulation, 3(4), 155-172

Zeitz, G. (1983). Structural and individual determinants of organization morale and satisfaction. Social Forces, 61(4), 1088-1108.

External links[edit | edit source]