Embedded leadership: How do a leader's superiors impact middle-management performance?

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Embedded leadership: How do a leader's superiors impact middle-management performance?
The Leadership Quarterly

This study uses a low-fidelity simulation to test the effect superiors can have on the leadership style and cognition of their subordinates who also are leaders. These leaders within the organization often referred to as middle managers occupy an important albeit overlooked position within an organization. In order to emphasize the leadership that occurs at the middle levels of management the term ‘embedded leader’ is used. Using a sample of 224 undergraduates three variables were manipulated to examine their effects on participant sensemaking confidence and participative leadership. The variables manipulated were the severity of individual level consequences (high vs. low) the severity of organizational consequences (high vs. low) and the superior's motivational strategy (coercive vs. supportive vs. passive style). It was found that a leader's superior can influence their leadership behaviors in a complex manner.  Participant sensemaking was higher when their superior emphasized low levels of individual (or personal) consequences. Participative leadership was higher when the supervisor framed organizational level consequences as being high. Findings for participant confidence were complex but generally suggest that one's superiors can promote or hinder confidence in a variety of situations.

Citation: 
The Leadership Quarterly Volume 23, Issue 3, June 2012, Pages 342–353

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