Clarkson U School of Business prof's research in Wall Street Journal
Friday, April 1, 2011 - 6:23 am

POTSDAM – Research on team leadership by a Clarkson faculty member has been featured in the Wall Street Journal.

Stephen J. Sauer, an assistant professor at Clarkson University's School of Business, has been exploring leadership style and the perceived status of a leader and how those things will affect a team’s acceptance of a new leader.

In two experimental studies, Sauer found that when the new leader has high status –is older and more experienced, for instance -- subordinates view the leader more favorably if he or she uses a participative leadership style, asking for their input on decisions and work assignments, rather than a directive style, telling them what to do.

But for low status leaders, asking for input from subordinates is seen as displaying a lack of self-confidence, and team members prefer someone who isn't afraid to boss them around.

The study was featured in the Feb. 26-27 weekend edition of the business and finance newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.

Sauer’s research indicated that teams whose leader was viewed more favorably because of his or her status and leadership style performed as much as 20 percent better on a complex group task.

"For new managers, this implies that one needs to match one's leadership style to people's perceptions of one's status," says Sauer. "If a new leader has high status, he or she can be more participative and people will follow; but if the new leader lacks status or credibility, he or she must exert some control right from the outset.

Sauer says that this runs counter to a number of today's popular management textbooks that advise using a participative style in all contexts. "For some new leaders, being too participative is simply an invitation for people to not bother following their lead, and can be detrimental for team performance," he says.

The research is from "Taking the Reins: The Effects of New Leader Status and Leadership Style on Team Performance," by Stephen J. Sauer, to appear in the Journal of Applied Psychology.