Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What Makes A Good Leader: The Assertiveness Quotient

Date:
February 5, 2007
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Organizational leaders who come across as low or high in assertiveness tend to be seen as less effective, according to a study coming out in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association. Leaders in the middle may have an "optimal" level of assertiveness, but there is plenty of company on the extremes. The research suggests that being seen as under- or over-assertive may be the most common weakness among aspiring leaders.

Organizational leaders who come across as low or high in assertiveness tend to be seen as less effective, according to a study coming out in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Leaders in the middle may have an "optimal" level of assertiveness, but there is plenty of company on the extremes. The research suggests that being seen as under- or over-assertive may be the most common weakness among aspiring leaders.

Related Articles


In a series of studies, Daniel Ames, PhD, a professor at Columbia Business School, and Francis Flynn, PhD, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, asked workers for their views of colleagues' leadership strengths and weaknesses. The most common strengths reported included conventional leadership traits like intelligence, self-discipline, and charisma. But the most common weaknesses reported revealed a surprising picture that was not just the reverse of strengths. Across several samples of leaders and potential leaders, Ames and Flynn found that assertiveness was by far the most frequently-mentioned problem, sometimes more than charisma, intelligence, and self-discipline combined.

One reason for this finding is that unlike charisma, which is usually problematic only when it's lacking, potential leaders got assertiveness "wrong" in both directions. And in one of the studies examined, Ames and Flynn's research team coded nearly a thousand comments given by coworkers about colleagues' leadership behavior. The most common leadership adjective in the weakness comments was "assertive," twice as common as the runners-up such as "focused," "able," and "sure." Overall, more than half of the descriptions of weaknesses made clear references to assertiveness. Of these comments, 48 percent suggested too much assertiveness and the remainder described too little.

"Assertiveness dominated reports of leadership weaknesses, though it wasn't nearly as common in colleagues' comments about strengths. When leaders get assertiveness wrong, it's glaring and obvious, but when they get it right, it seems to disappear," said Ames. "We say it's like salt in a sauce: when there's too much or too little, it's hard to notice anything else, but when it's just right, you notice the other flavors. No one compliments a sauce for being perfectly salted, and it's just as unusual for a leader's perfect touch with assertiveness to attract much notice."

After finding that assertiveness was such a widespread challenge for leaders, Ames and Flynn sought to understand what was driving the effect at both extremes. The answer: different reasons for failure at each end. "Aspiring leaders who are low in assertiveness can't stand up for their interests, and they suffer by being ineffective at achieving goals and delivering results. On the other hand, people high in assertiveness are often insufferable. So, even though they may get their way, they're chocking off relationships with the people around them. As time goes by, the social costs add up and start to undermine the results," Ames notes. "Most effective leaders push hard enough to get their way but not so hard that they can't get along."

Ames and Flynn caution that their work does not suggest that the solution for leaders is to be moderately assertive all the time. Instead, they claim that leaders seen as moderately assertive may be better able to ratchet up their responses when called for and to tone down their behavior when necessary. Leaders stuck at the extremes of assertiveness may have a narrower repertoire of behavior.

While the idea that neither combative managers nor wallflowers make the best leaders may seem obvious, Ames and Flynn say many people are surprised when they learn that they're seen by others as off base. "We often find that students and executives are unaware of how other people see their behavior. One reason is because people typically don't get candid feedback on things like assertiveness," said Ames. "Who wants to tell the overbearing boss that he or she is a jerk?"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "What Makes A Good Leader: The Assertiveness Quotient." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205115220.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2007, February 5). What Makes A Good Leader: The Assertiveness Quotient. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205115220.htm
American Psychological Association. "What Makes A Good Leader: The Assertiveness Quotient." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205115220.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins