It is essential for leaders to understand how to ensure strategic decisions are effectively implemented throughout their organizations. In this respect, leader effectiveness in the aggregate across different levels, as opposed to individual leadership actions, has the most significant effect. This Idea looks at the importance of leadership alignment in implementing strategy.
Through their research, the authors set out to examine the effects that leaders at different levels in an organization have on each other. To do so, they investigated the relation between leadership alignment and strategy implementation in a large health care organization of more than 3,000 physicians, who work in 19 large medical centres or clinics. 313 physicians participated in the study by completing surveys.
At the time they collected the data for this study, a new CEO had been elected and the organization was undergoing substantial change in its market strategy.
In their first hypothesis the authors proposed that the more a department perceives that its leader supports a new strategic initiative, the higher the likelihood that the new strategy would be implemented in that department. In their second hypothesis they proposed that the more department members perceive that leaders aggregated across hierarchical levels support a new strategy, the higher the likelihood that the new strategy will be implemented.
Consistent with the second hypothesis, the authors found that implementing change is a phenomenon involving multiple levels of an organization. Their findings help understand how and when leaders are more or less likely to influence employees to achieve organizational objectives.
If applied to businesses in general the authors’ findings suggest that, when introducing change, leaders at all levels need to all be ‘on board’ first in order to successfully introduce the changes in the rest of the organization. Moreover, the more senior leaders (such as CEOs) are seen to be effective, the more support they will find; however, it is not the effectiveness of a leader in isolation that affects organizational performance, but the alignment of leaders across hierarchical levels that is associated with the successful implementation of a strategic change.
Their findings also suggest that in order to get employees to achieve certain objectives - for example, in this case, patient satisfaction - leaders in the organization must be seen as united in supporting the strategy.
How Leadership Matters: The Effects of Leaders’ Alignment on Strategy Implementation. Charles A. O’Reilly, David F. Caldwell, Jennifer A. Chatman, Margaret Lapiz, William Self. The Leadership Quarterly (January 2010). DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.10.008
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