Monthly Archives: February 2010

Empowerment and Leadership

Hi Everyone,

In the research article “Using positivity, transformational leadership and empowerment to combat employee negativity” (see full reference at the end of this article), the authors explore the interplay between positive organisational behaviour and transformational leadership and the impact on employee performance. The authors are particularly interested in how empowerment might play a meditating role.

The helpful descriptions of empowerment, transformational leadership and positive organisational behaviour provide timely reminders for leaders, managers and employees. Summarised below are some key points from the article.

Empowerment

The authors refer to the work of Gretchen Spreitzer and describe empowerment as a multidimensional construct which comprises:

  1. Meaning: “value of a work goal or purpose, judged in relation to one’s own ideal or standards”
  2. Competence: “an individual’s belief in his or her capability to perform activities with skill”
  3. Self determination: a sense of having “a choice in initiating and regulating actions”
  4. Impact: “the degree to which an individual can influence strategic, administrative or operating outcomes at work”

Few of you would be surprised about the benefits of being empowerment. The research supports what we have all experienced: “empowerment has been found to be related to effectiveness, less job strain and more job satisfaction, less anger and frustration on the job and greater organisational attachment.” For those of you familiar with the Deci and Ryan’s Self Determination Theory and their concept of intrinsic motivation, you will see close similarities with Spreitzer’s work.

Psycap: Positive Organisational Behaviour

Positive Organisational Behaviour (POB) and Psychological Capital (Psycap) come from the work of Luthans, Youssef and colleagues. They describe one’s positive psychological state in terms of four components:

  1. Confidence / self efficacy: “the confidence to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks”
  2. Hope: “persevering toward goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals in order to succeed”
  3. Optimism: “making a [realistic] positive attribution about succeeding now and in the future”
  4. Resilience: “when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond to attain success”

Psycap is described as a ‘common root resource’ and is similar to the work of other researchers who reinforce the importance of self esteem, self efficacy, locus of control and emotional stability as essential personal psychological resources.

Confidence, hope and optimism are described as proactive resources; resilience is a reactive resource. People with high Psycap put more effort into a task, are tenacious, have a realistic expectation of future success, are motivated, adapt well to change, and perform better at work. They experience lower levels cynicism at work in the face of change and are more likely to positively embrace the challenge of change. They are less likely to quit. Not only is this personally beneficial to the employee, it has a positive impact on organisational performance.

Psycap and empowerment

Personal power and autonomy are more possible if employees have high levels of Psycap. “Psycap seems directly related to Spreitzer’s impact component of empowerment….they perceive themselves to have a greater impact on their organisation.”. They can solve problems without waiting for direction, they have a sense of control and autonomy, they have confidence in their abilities. People who feel empowered have lower levels of cynicism and less intention to quit.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders have qualities which include:

  • “showing how the goals and values of the group, followers, leader and organisation are in basic agreement”
  • inspiring commitment to a mission or goal
  • providing individual attention their employees
  • “inspiring people to look beyond their self interest for the good of the group”

People who have a transformational leader have a greater sense of empowerment, improved performance and job satisfaction, lower levels of cynicism at work and are less likely to quit. This results in higher levels of organisational attachment. A win-win for everyone.

Suggestions which can be drawn from the research include:

  1. Help  your employees to be able to directly influence their own levels of empowerment at work by helping them to increase their psychological capital
  2. Help leaders to become more transformational, so as to positively affect employees’ levels of empowerment and performance

Questions to ponder, as you settle into the start of a new working year:

  • What can you do to become more transformational?
  • What is the state of your ‘Psycap’? Where can you improve?
  • How can you help your teams and colleagues to enhance their transformational leadership and their Psycap?