A Multilevel Systems Model of Leadership

Angelo J. Kinicki, Arizona State University, Katherine J.L. Jacobson, University of New Mexico,  Benjamin M. Galvin, University of Washington Bothell, and Gregory E. Prussia, Seattle University, collaborated on “A Multilevel Systems Model of Leadership,” published in Online First in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Professor Kinicki kindly shared his thoughts about the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

The primary target audience is academics interested in the study of leadership. We also feel that our work has practical implications for managers. At senior levels, our macro systems model outlines a process by which a TMT’s vision and strategic goals are cascaded throughout an organization. At unit and dyadic levels, our micro systems model proposes a sequential process that managers can use to manage unit members and individual employees in the pursuit of goal accomplishment.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

My interest in the study of leadership was fueled by my consulting experiences. Having worked with thousands of managers around the world I have come to believe that effective leadership involves a multi-level, dynamic process that has not been practically developed in the literature. Leadership is not linear, and we need practical models or theories to help managers figure out the process by which leader behavior traverses throughout an organization. In other words, leader behavior has ripple effects that impact others across organizational levels and we wanted to articulate how this happens.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Our work is a theoretical contribution so there were no surprising results.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We hope that our work motivates researchers to move away from bi-variate linear studies of the effects of leader behavior. Rather, we would like see others conduct multi-level examinations of the effects of leader behavior based on our models. We also hope to see studies of the additive and multiplicative effects of leadership on organizational, unit, and individual performance.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

Interestingly, my first two publications in graduate school focused on leadership. I moved away from this work and am now returning to it because of the practical value associated with understanding leadership. This work also is consistent with several multi-level or organizational-level studies I have coauthored. My recent work on leadership and organizational culture has convinced me that we need to develop a much deeper understanding about the dynamic relationship between leadership and organizational culture. I am currently working on several projects within this content domain.

How did your paper change during the review process?

The paper was accepted after the first submission and it did not go through any significant changes.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

Nothing. The paper reflects our combined thinking and efforts.

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