How your boss’s personality affects your work team’s performance

March 12, 2020 - Liz Schondelmayer

When it comes to fostering a healthy, productive work environment, how much does leadership actually play a role? According to new research from social scientists Jason Huang and Chenwei Liao of the Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, your boss’s personality has a significant impact on your work team’s commitment and quality of work. 

Dr. Huang and Dr. Liao found that bosses with proactive personalities best complement work teams with a higher need for approval. However, when employees are less reliant on their bosses for direction and feedback, a more hands-off leadership personality is best.

Based on a review of the literature, a typical proactive boss has qualities such as: understanding their team’s dynamic, guiding team projects, anticipating future events, helping their employees set and achieve goals and creating a positive work environment. 

Individuals with a high need for approval tend to be sensitive to social cues and expectations, and tend to be influenced by those around them. 

Pairing these two personalities is a match made in productivity heaven. “The structure and feedback a proactive boss gives creates the perfect environment for individuals who respond positively to external validation and praise,” explains Dr. Huang.

The result of matching a team of individuals with a higher need for approval and a proactive leadership style is significant: teams share a stronger emotional bond, and thus perform their job tasks better. 

The researchers hope that future work is done on leadership expectations and understanding the motive behind employee approval-seeking. In the meantime, companies and organizations can utilize this research to make better-informed hiring and placement decisions.

When new employees are hired, it’s important that they’ll be the right fit, not just for the job, but for the work team itself,” says Dr. Huang. “Organizations should try to recruit leaders and employees who complement each other, because the environment and the work output will be significantly more positive if they do.

See the research team’s full article here.