Perception of Leadership Ability and its Effect on Career Advancement: An Australian Middle Management Context

Researcher: Jia Lin Ang

Supervisor: Dr Graeme Ditchburn

Date: June, 2010

Leadership is quintessential to any organizations and the value of good leadership cannot be emphasized enough. Good leadership needs to permeate through all levels of the organization. Transformational leadership, which is often heralded as integral to good leadership, is necessary within middle management considering that the actual implementation of strategies developed by upper managers is executed by middle management.

Leadership, while found to influence performance and effectiveness of work unit, may also influence employees’ career pathway. Depending on the managerial position and organizational culture, factors important for career advancement (the actual attainment of promotion) may vary. Quite commonly, career advancement of an employee is tied with manager’s perception of the employee’s capability and potential. However, does the leadership ability of the manager influence what factors employees perceive to be important for career advancement?

The aim of this study therefore, was to explore the relationship between middle managers’ perception of transformational leadership and factors deemed important for career advancement.

Participants completed an online survey which collected information on their demographic details (e.g. age, gender, hours of work etc), and were assessed on how they rate their own and their direct managers’ transformational leadership ability. Further to that, participants were also examined on the factors which they perceive as important for their last promotion and for the attainment of future promotions.

Our exploratory results suggest that employees may attribute greater importance to factors which might have been seen as their own strength. For instance, an employee who perceives one to be visionary rather than an innovative thinker may perceive specific skills rather than innovation as being more important a factor for promotion. In addition, our findings also seem to suggest that employees may model, or take cues, from their direct manager as a point of reference on factors which may be important either for earlier or for future promotions. Hence, a perception of one’s manager as a supportive leader may be associated with a perception of factors parallel to this perception (e.g. popularity). Discrepancy in employees’ perception of their own leadership abilities versus their direct managers’ leadership abilities were additionally found to be associated with different factors perceived important for promotion- depending on how employees rated themselves relative to how they rated their managers. For example, employees who rated themselves as lower than their managers in Intellectual Stimulation were more likely to deem anticipation of organizational needs as important for achieving future promotion, more so than employees who rated themselves higher than their managers on Intellectual Stimulation

In closing, our study have found interesting insights into how certain aspects of leadership might have an effect on the way in which employees perceive factors which are important for promotion. Investigation of employees’ perception of promotion requirements may also allow us to better comprehend certain promotion seeking behaviour. Conceivably, this is beneficial towards the implementation of effective strategies for employees’ professional development, career advancement, and performance within Australian middle management.