Mieczyslaw Morawski and Lidia Jablonowska-Luba from Warsaw University of Technology used the Reiss Motivation Profile® (RMP) to assess ten leaders of a major Polish bank that was implementing significant changes in its Risk Management Division for approximately 600 employees. The study spanned seven years from 2013 to 2019.
The authors hypothesized that a positive leadership style – defined in the research literature as respect for employees, mutual trust, open communication, listening to employees’ opinions before making decisions, discussing errors frankly, and appreciating input – was critical for effective implementation of the crucial changes.
Observations of the ten leaders during the course of the study revealed they all engaged in specific actions associated with positive leadership. For example, they stressed the importance of communication by offering constructive feedback at least twice a year, holding annual meetings, and sending regular emails to announce major developments. Further, they supported staff development by allowing employees to move within the division, and they increased engagement by recognizing achievements, holding employee breakfasts with board members, and scheduling introductory meetings for new hires.
The authors also hypothesized that leaders who successfully managed the planned changes would share some common intrinsic motives. As measured by the RMP, the motives considered to be most desirable were a strong need for Power, a strong need for Idealism, a weak need for Vengeance, and a moderately weak need for Tranquility.
All of the bank’s employees participated in surveys designed to assess their engagement level, and all ten leaders of the Risk Management Division completed the RMP for Business.
Over the course of the study, the Risk Management Division showed an increase of 27 percent in the engagement level of its employees (44% to 71%), whereas the engagement level for all bank employees remained relatively stable at an average of 54 percent. It should be noted that the level of engagement achieved in the Risk Management Division is comparable to that found among workers in the best organizations in Poland (77%). These results demonstrated support for the authors’ hypothesis that positive leadership is important for supporting employees during a period of radical change.
Although the leaders showed diverse motivational profiles on the RMP, they shared five common intrinsic motives:
- A very strong need for Power, defined as the desire for influence of will: On average, the leaders scored 1.5 to 2.0 standard deviations above the norm on this scale. Individuals with a strong need for Power typically work harder in challenging situations, which is necessary when significant changes must be implemented.
- A very strong need for Idealism, defined as the desire for social justice: On average, the leaders scored 1.0 to 2.0 standard deviations above the norm on this scale. People with this need generally value fairness and treat others with compassion, behaviors that are likely to increase employees’ engagement.
- An average to weak need for Status, defined as the desire for respect based on social standing: On average, the leaders scored -0.5 to -1.5 standard deviations below the norm on this scale. Such scores are characteristic of humble individuals who are likely to view others as equals whose opinions are worthy of respect.
- A weak need for Vengeance, defined as the desire to confront those who frustrate or offend us: On average, the leaders scored -0.8 to -1.5 standard deviations below the norm on this scale. People with a weak need for Vengeance typically value cooperation and avoid confrontation, traits that lead to harmonious relationships.
- An average to weak need for Tranquility, defined as the desire to avoid experiencing anxiety and pain: On average, the leaders scored -0.5 to -1.0 standard deviation below the norm on this scale. Such scores are characteristic of individuals who remain calm during times of stressful change.
These results provided evidence for the authors’ hypothesis that successful leaders persevere in the face of challenges, treat employees fairly, minimize confrontation, and remain calm when difficulties arise.
The study demonstrated support for the utility of the Reiss Motivation Profile® in identifying the intrinsic motives associated with positive leadership, a management style that fosters employee engagement during periods of significant organizational change.
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Morawski, M, & Jablonowska-Luba, L. (2021). The importance of positive leadership in the process of change on the example of the banking sector. Foundations of Management, 13, 85-102.