Leadership Styles and Organisational Structure

Renier Steyn


Background: In the call for papers to the 18th International Studying Leadership Conference, the organisers present an argument that leadership is place-bound, and ask a very specific question: “Why does leadership style vary from place-to-place?” This article presents a response to the assumption implicit in this question and also answers the following question: “Does leadership style differ from place-to-place?” Theoretical underpinning: The link between leadership styles and organisational structure is implicit, given general systems theory (Von Bertalanffy, 1968). Leadership styles are presented in terms of Pearce, Sims Jr, Cox, Ball, Schnell, Smith and Treviño’s (2003) typology of leadership styles and organisational structure typology, as specified by Mintzberg’s (1992, 2009). Aim: The aim of this article is to present empirical information on the relationship between leadership styles and the organisational structures within which they manifest. This will provide an answer to the question, “Does leadership style differ from place-to-place?” Ultimately, this may contribute to aligning leaders to organisations. Setting: Data was collected from nine medium-to-large sized organisations operating within an urban environment in South Africa. Method: A cross-sectional survey design was used to collect quantitative data on leadership styles. Data on organisational structure was collected by subject matter experts. Analyses of variance were performed to test hypotheses that leadership styles are equal across organisational structures. Results: The measures of leadership styles showed acceptable levels of reliability and evidence of factorial validity. Statistically significant differences between the leadership styles were detected for transformational, transactional, and directive leadership, but not for empowering leadership. Only for directive leadership were these differences practically significant. These results were linked to organisational structure data. Discussion: Although it is not difficult to create hypotheses linking leadership styles with organisational structure, it was difficult to find these differences in the data and to find cases where these hypotheses held across all the organisations. Practical significant differences occurred for directive leadership only. Conclusion: Before asking, “Why does leadership style vary from place-to-place?” this research asked, “Does leadership style differ from place-to-place?” Given this particular sample, and the manner in which place was defined, place does not seem to dictate the leadership style present in a particular environment.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijhrs.v10i3.17295

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