| What Makes a Good Leader?
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Leaders who want to inspire
members of a group to cooperate would do well to appear willing
to sacrifice their own wants for the good of the group, new study
Alternatively, Dr. David De Cremer
of Maastricht University in the Netherlands and New York University
in New York and his co-author found that leaders can inspire cooperation
in group members if they simply treat everyone fairly, and give
group members a voice in decision making.
"These types of leader characteristics
are able to influence people's motives in such a way that they
no longer care only about their self-interests, but also the goals
of the group and the organization," a transition that is crucial
to the success of the entire group, de Cremer told Reuters Health.
The researcher added that this study
was designed to apply to small groups, teams or businesses, but
may also hold meaning for leaders of relatively large, international
De Cremer and his colleague Dr. Daan
van Knippenberg of the University of Amsterdam obtained their
findings from a series of experiments designed to determine which
leader characteristics inspired the most group cooperation.
In one experiment, 62 students were
told they were members of a group that had to make decisions about
how much of their own money to invest in an investment plan. If
the group as a whole contributed enough money, students were told
the money would double and become equally divided among them.
In this situation, the dilemma focuses on how much individual
group members are willing to contribute of their own money, knowing
that if they give more than another person but the group as a
whole gives enough, each person will receive the same amount in
The students were then told that they
had a leader, and received descriptions about that person. Some
were told the leader would spend a lot of his or her own time
on the project, while others learned their leader would likely
receive a promotion as a result of the project, and may withhold
money from the project to pay his or her expenses. Some students
learned the leader would ask them their opinion about decision
making, and others were told they would have no say in the process.
The investigators found that people
tended to contribute more money when they were told their leader
would ask their opinion when making decisions than when they were
offered no option to contribute. Participants also gave more money
when they learned the leader would be self-sacrificing, and may
not benefit personally from the project.
Interestingly, de Cremer told Reuters
Health in an interview that students did not contribute more money
when leaders exhibited both of the positive characteristics (self-sacrificing
and inclusive) than when the leaders had only one positive quality
and another negative quality. These findings suggest that both
characteristics encourage cooperation through the same process,
and that both are not needed to achieve the same result, the researcher
However, de Cremer noted that in real-life
situations, there may be instances where people will prefer a
leader who both is self-sacrificing and includes group members
in decision-making to one who does just one but not the other.
"I can imagine certain situations where both will be needed,"
De Cremer added that a leader who uses his or her personality to
instill people with a personal motivation to cooperate can be more
successful than one who relies on so-called "extrinsic" motivations,
such as denying them a promotion or raise if they don't work for
the group. In these situations, "they are just motivated to get
around all these negative things," de Cremer explained, and once
the penalties are lifted for not cooperating, people are often no
longer inspired to do so.
SOURCE: Journal of Applied Psychology
Reference Source 89