Over the past 50 years leadership research has focused on the relationship between supervisors and subordinates only at the group level of analysis. However, leadership is a phenomenon that appears in a whole organization. Therefore, research focusing ...
Over the past 50 years leadership research has focused on the relationship between supervisors and subordinates only at the group level of analysis. However, leadership is a phenomenon that appears in a whole organization. Therefore, research focusing on the relationship between supervisors and subordinates only at the group level of analysis may fail to understand and predict influence processes that occur in an organization. An organization consists of a number of departments (functional or divisional) and a department consists of a numerous work groups. A department head (e.g., boss) affects work group leaders (supervisors) and a work group leader affects work group members (subordinates) and thus a department head affects subordinates through the influence of the supervisor. Accordingly, without considering the relationships among bosses, supervisors, and subordinates simultaneously, we cannot understand leadership phenomena that occur in a whole organization.
In addition, departments differ in communication, decision making, and influence processes, depending on which function a department conducts. For instances, members in a production department usually conduct their own roles established by a rule or plan, whereas members in a research development department conduct their own jobs through members’ creative ideas. Therefore, the head of the production department should focus on developing a rule or plan of production and showing appropriate leadership toward supervisors (work group leaders) in order for them to help subordinates to follow the rule or plan, whereas the head of the R&D department should show leadership toward supervisors in order for them to encourage members’ creative ideas. In other words, a department head should show different leadership toward supervisors in order for them to influence subordinates.
From a boss’ perspective, a boss behaves toward supervisors on the basis of one of the following three types. A boss may have a differential (in- and out-group) relationship with supervisors in the same department (e.g., Graen et al., 1977). However, a boss may also have a whole group relationship with supervisors (e.g., Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975). For example, a boss may behave toward supervisors in the same department on the basis of his or her own style (people- or task-oriented). In this case supervisors are homogeneously affected by the boss’ own style. A boss may also have an individualized and independent relationship with a supervisor (e.g., Dansereau et al., 1995). For example, a boss behaves toward each supervisor on the basis of what he or she receives from each supervisor.
When a boss has one of these three relationships with supervisors, which type of relationships does a supervisor have with his or her subordinates This study is going to answer for this question. To answer for this question, the first step is to explain the relationships between bosses and supervisors and between supervisors and subordinates. The second step is to explain the relationships among bosses, supervisors, and subordinates in a hierarchical structure.