Leadership and Assertiveness Costs
Assertiveness DefinedAssertiveness is defined as speaking up for oneself and acting in one’s own interests (i.e., values, goals, and preferences). Assertiveness is thought of in terms of a continuum, ranging from being submissive to hostile. It is a relatively unique characteristic in that assertiveness can be a problem if it is too high or too low; other characteristics (such as intelligence or charisma) are usually only considered problematic if they are too low.
Aspects of LeadershipThe research examined how perceptions of managerial assertiveness affected ratings of four leadership aspects:
- Social Influence
- Managing Conflict
- Team Work
Assertiveness Costs: The Buddy and the BossThe differences in leadership ratings may be based on different social and instrumental costs associated with varying degrees of assertiveness. When managers exhibit low levels of assertiveness, they may be more well-liked but be perceived as weak and not able to get the job done; this weakness can be thought of as the instrumental cost of being too passive or submissive. On the other hand, managers who are extremely aggressive may be thought of as highly effective in terms of getting work accomplished but suffer a social cost in that they are not well accepted as leaders because they are personally disliked.
Implications for PracticeManagers with a generally moderate level of assertiveness may be viewed more positively as a leader compared to low or high assertiveness managers. Moderate managers have the ability to accomplish the instrumental tasks at work without being socially abrasive. Some suggestions for encouraging managers to be moderately assertive include:
- Using skills training and coaching to teach managers how to be more (or less) assertive
- Regularly emphasizing the importance of moderate assertiveness to help ensure managerial behavior doesn’t revert back to previous unsatisfactory levels
- Changing managers’ norms about what is considered acceptable assertiveness
DeGarmo GroupThis was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Ames, D. R., & Flynn, F. J. (2007). What breaks a leader: The curvilinear relation between assertiveness and leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 307-324.