Leadership through the subordinates' eye: perceptions of leader behaviors in relation to age and gender
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionLeadership & Organization Development Journal. 2022, . 10.1108/LODJ-07-2021-0333
Purpose The study represents a theory-based leadership approach in exploring the subordinate's perceptions of leadership behaviors in relation to age, gender and type of work environment. The aim was (1) to compare subordinates' ratings of their respective leaders' leadership behaviors based on of the leaders' age and gender, controlling for type of work environment and (2) to analyze the relationship between the subordinates' ratings of their leaders' leadership behaviors and their ratings of the outcome of these leadership behaviors. Design/methodology/approach Data were collected using the Developmental Leadership Questionnaire (DLQ) from a sample of Swedish leadership course participants (n = 10,869) and their respective subordinates (n = 97,943). The DLQ measures leadership behaviors designed to reflect the following leadership styles: developmental leadership, conventional-positive leadership, conventional-negative leadership and destructive leadership. Findings Results showed that older leaders (51 years or older) were rated less favorably than younger (29 years or younger) and mid-aged leaders. Female leaders received more positive ratings than male leaders. A 3-way analysis-of-variance showed strong main effects for age, gender, and type of work environment and no significant interaction effects. A significant model with high equivalents of R2 coefficients (Cox and Snell, 1989; Nagelkerke, 1991) was obtained in a logistic regression analysis. Developmental leadership and conventional-positive leadership made significant positive contributions to the subordinates' ratings of the outcome of their leaders' leadership behaviors. Destructive leadership behaviors contributed negatively to the outcome ratings. Research limitations/implications Weaknesses include the cross-sectional study design. The large sample size is a strength, and the results have novel implications for leadership theory related to subordinates' view on leadership. Practical implications Counter-stereotype age and gender findings may have implications for organizational decisions and processes regarding selection of managers. Development programs are suggested for all categories but for older, male leaders with a focus on reducing their use of leadership behaviors perceived negatively by their subordinates, whereas younger female leaders should be encouraged to continue to develop their positive leadership behaviors. Originality/value The theory-based approach on subordinates' perceptions of leadership behaviors with a simultaneous focus on age, gender and type of work environment, based on a large-scale data set, is new.