Over the past ten years, our business has focused primarily on providing training and assistance to companies implementing behavioral safety processes. We used to do extensive supervisory and leadership training in performance management as part of performance and quality improvement efforts. Our interest in leadership was resurrected by our experiences in behavioral safety. Our observation was that some companies were simply more successful at implementing behavioral safety than others. Some organizations seemed to struggle, taking longer to implement and having greater difficulty getting their employees involved in peer observations. When we looked over our assessment data from these organizations, we found fairly clear and significant differences. In general, the organizations that struggled with behavioral safety often had lower morale, more conflict, and greater distrust between the employees and their management. Their cultures were very different. As we examined these differences more closely, and struggled to define them in operational terms, we became convinced that the primary differences between these organizations were in their leadership practices. Our first step to assist clients in addressing this need was to offer performance management training and education to those clients that seemed to have leadership challenges, but we wanted to do more. Furthermore, most of the performance management concepts that we were teaching are now over a decade old, and we wanted to ensure that we were promoting concepts that are aligned with current research and technology. That led us back to the research literature.

The first thing that we found as we began to examine the research literature was the enormous volume that has been written on the topic of leadership and management. In fact, so much has been written, that our first task was to narrow the field. We began by focusing on empirical research based studies that directly examined performance. This eliminated all of the biographical studies such as biographies of Henry Ford and Lee Iococa. We also eliminated qualitative studies that examined characteristics of successful organizations, such as the work of Peters and Waterman. Finally, we restricted our initial review to those studies that directly examined or measured both the behavior of managers and performance, thus eliminating a large body of survey research that attempts to identify leadership practices and characteristics through paper and pencil surveys.

The Research

The result was a much more reasonable field of research. In short, we found 19 field and experimental studies, many of which were conducted by Judy Komaki. one of the principle researchers whose work was instrumental in establishing the field of behavioral safety in the early and mid 70's. These studies examined the differences between effective and mediocre leadership. The research showed that effective leaders have followers who perform better and have more positive attitudes toward both their leaders and their organizations. Most importantly, the research shows what managers should do, when they should do it, and what they should avoid doing.

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