Toward an Adlerian Leadership Model II: Results and Discussion

Toward an Adlerian Leadership Model II: Results and Discussion


6.1 Limitations & Recommendations

It is important to acknowledge there are limitations associated with this study. Although a small sample size in qualitative research is adequate, findings generated are not statistically significant and it is challenging to conclude the themes that have emerged from this study in a larger population. For more accurate findings, the following suggestions are recommended:

• This study would benefit from a larger sample of participants.

• The participants of this study were all limited to a small geographical area in Canada, namely the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Ontario. To obtain a more accurate representation of the Canadian business population, participants from other provinces should also be considered.

• It should be noted that all the participants were male, and that it was challenging for the investigator of this study to recruit female leaders. Possible reasons for this barrier may be due to a smaller number of female CEOs in Canada (compared to the male counterparts).

• Triangulation efforts (i.e. using a variety of methods to collect data) were not utilized.

• Furthermore, no other variables or interpretation (other than the investigator’s) were examined or considered.

• In addition, the participants’ responses were taken at face value and their responses were not cross-validated or corroborated by others who work in their organizations.

6.2 Discussion of Results and Implications

Consistent with the literature review, none of the participants in the results described an authoritarian style of leadership. Results from this research study suggests the following Adlerian constructs are demonstrated by Canadian leaders today. Many of the themes identified in this study coincide with the Adlerian concepts of social interest and embeddedness, purposive behaviour and encouragement. These leaders foster trust and empathy which allow each member in the organization to have a sense of belonging and inclusion.

6.2.1 Social Interest and Embeddedness

This study found all participants were aware and able to describe the culture of their organizations. All participants, in their own words, described a culture of openness, engagement, trust, and empowerment. These participants are not only self-aware, but they are also aware of the needs of the employee. Employees are listened to, heard and responded to (e.g. advice, direction, support), giving them the personal, undivided attention. Ultimately providing employees with the feeling of importance. Employees feel they are seen, heard and want to be a part of the organization and be part of the direction of the organization’s goals.
The participants are also aware they are being evaluated by employees and accept this as part of their role. Thus, they are cognizant in the decisions they make in business and personally (e.g. the car they drive or even the shirt they wear).

Participants also spoke about and provided examples of the importance of social interest and inclusion to create a sense of organizational citizenship with employees. Once employees see their value, know they are seen and heard by management (and peers), feel a sense of belongingness and embeddedness with the team, they then have the genuine innate desire and motivation to move in the direction of the shared goals of the organization.

Leadership viewed from the lens of Adlerian principles and constructs can help leaders increase awareness of their leadership styles, develop more effective leadership skills, and as a result, create more productive workforces as well as recruit and train talent to become more effective leaders in future (Preiss & Molina-Ray, 2007).

6.2.2 Purposive Behaviour

Making decisions can be difficult. Leaders often face challenging situations and difficult decisions, including layoffs and job terminations. The participants in this study agree that it can be challenging but that they set aside their personal bias and decide for the greater good of the organization. Because as mentioned above, leaders are being watched and how leaders handle difficult situations and decisions also sends a message to the rest of the employees. If employees see leaders as fair, forthcoming, communicative, that leaders set realistic goals and if the employee is not able to achieve these within a reasonable period of time then it is not a good fit. This sends other employees the message that you have to be good to survive working there and management is watching, whether it is to promote up or exit out.

6.2.3 Encouragement

Participants of this study describe the various monetary and non-monetary incentives of encouraging engagement and performance from employees. Tactics ranged from individual performance bonus, company performance profit sharing, open communication and open door policies, verbal expressions of appreciation and kudos, company-paid dinners for employees to have gourmet dinners with family, as well as scheduled and non-scheduled group celebrations/events. Finally, the participants in this study collectively agreed one of, if not the most important, was individual attention to assure the employee they are valued.

6.3 Implications of this research

Findings from this study will 1) become the basis for developing a new Adlerian leadership model for the investigator, 2) help identify qualities of effective leaders of Canadian small to business organizations today, and 3) help organizations further refine talent management strategies in recruiting, hiring and developing leadership training programs.

Insights extracted from this study could help organizations identify qualities of effective leaders that are relevant to modern times and applicable to the Canadian workplace. These can be used in recruitment practices, training for future leaders or even the development programs for new and existing leaders. More generally, consideration of these findings can lead to effective change in promoting leaders with an Adlerian perspective.

According to the Adlerian theory, individuals have the capability to change unproductive behaviour patterns. “Once these individuals understood their own movement through life, they could decide to change their attitudes and behaviour with renewed respect for themselves and on another” (Sweeney, 1989, p. 34). Based on this theory, leaders have the capacity to learn new patterns of behaviour and enhance their interpersonal effectiveness and leadership skills.

Further, leaders can develop more awareness of own leadership style and approaches to become more effective. Training programs that integrate Adlerian principles may help enhance leadership potential by promoting a cognitive awareness and develop more effective social behaviours. The application of the Adlerian theory into collaborative and motivational practices of leaders can help foster a culture of mutual respect, employee engagement and empowering leadership (Preiss & Molina-Ray, 2007).

6.4 Future Research

In the future, more data collected from participants (e.g. cultural background, family dynamics and constellation) may provide more insights and identify effective leadership traits.

Findings from this study can also be a foundation in the design of a more robust leadership questionnaire to assess Adlerian leadership traits of individuals currently in leadership roles or used for development training for leaders of tomorrow. This assessment will help identify areas that the individual is strong in and areas for further training. This may be beneficial, especially during times of stress. As many of the participants have noted that the leadership qualities discussed are even more important during times of hardship and they need to ensure they are focussed on being socially aware, ensure they are making difficult discussions for the greater good, and are encouraging others, to help get the organization through tough times.

Lastly, this interview was designed to focus on the three Adlerian constructs and questions were kept to a minimum to respect the participant’s time and increase the probability of participation. To sufficiently further examine and explore leadership behaviour and traits using other Adlerian principles (i.e. birth order and family constellation), more data would need to be collected. As a preliminary research, this study found five out of the six leaders interviewed were firstborn. According to Adlerian psychology, birth-order position influences a range of personal characteristics, including a need for power, intellectual development and achievement motivation (Carette, Anseel, & Van Yperen, 2011; Andeweg & Van Den Verg, 2003). A study conducted by Andeweg & Van Den Berg (2003) was consistent with other research in observing the overrepresentation of first-born in leadership positions, including the attainment of political office as the country’s political leader and suggested this may be due to 1) their relationship with their parents and 2) their interactions with other siblings. Parents have high expectations for firstborns, who have enjoyed a bigger share of parental resources than younger siblings, and are thus held to meet high standards of performance, competence and achievement; thereby developing power, command and authority (Andeweg & Van Den Verg, 2003; Phillips & Rejai, 2000). This additional attention and interaction endowed first-born children with the intellect and verbal skills necessary for leadership. These firstborn also have the opportunity to practice their leadership skills, through watching over, tutoring and caring for, the younger siblings during upbringing (Andeweg & Van Den Berg, 2003).

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About the Author

Joyce LaiJoyce Lai is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in clinical and organizational psychology at The Professional School of Psychology. She also holds a masters degree in clinical and counseling psychology from the Adler Graduate Professional School and completed the core Co-Active program from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI). Leveraging her corporate background and experience, Joyce supports executives and professionals in transition build greater confidence, navigate through their careers, develop stronger leadership and interpersonal skills within the workplace and social communities.

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