Leadership and Organizational Cul...
Leadership and Organizational Culture: Linking CEO Characteristics to Cultural Values Tomas R. Giberson �� Christian J. Resick �� Marcus W. Dickson �� Jacqueline K. Mitchelson �� Kenneth R. Randall �� Malissa A. Clark Published online: 26 April 2009 �� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 Abstract Purpose The purpose of this study was to empirically examine organizational culture theorists��� assertions about the linkages between leadership and the cultures that emerge in the organizations they lead. Specific hypotheses were developed and tested regarding relationships between chief executiveofficers��� (CEO���s) personality traits,andthecultural values that are shared among their organization���s members. Design/Methodology/Approach Thirty-two CEOs com- pleted measures of the Big-Five personality traits and personal values. A total of 467 employees across the 32 organizations completed a competing values measure of organizational culture. Findings Results indicate support for several hypothe- sized relationships between CEO personality and cultural values. Exploratory analyses indicated that several CEO personal values were related to culture values. Implications Organizations need to seriously consider the ������fit������ between the current or desired organizational culture and CEO characteristics. Organizations attempting to change fundamental aspects of its functioning may need significant behavioral���or personnel���changes at the top of the organization in order to achieve those changes. Originality/Value This is the first empirical study to establish a link between specific CEO characteristics and the cultural values of their organizations. This study pro- vides evidence that CEO characteristics are felt throughout the organization by impacting the norms that sanction or discourage member behavior and decision making, and the patterns of behavior and interaction among members. Keywords CEO characteristics Organizational culture Leadership ASA theory Multi-level research Introduction Organizational culture is a topic of considerable interest to organizational researchers, management consultants, and corporate executives alike. For example, organizational culture has been described as a management tool (Trice and Beyer 1993), credited with creating a competitive advan- tage (Bennis and Nanus 1985), as the reason behind merger and acquisition failure (Donahue 2001), and for providing the basis for success (Denison 1990). An organization���s culture is also thought to be intricately related to its lead- ership, particularly its upper echelon leaders (e.g., Bennis 1986 Davis 1984 Quinn and McGrath 1984 Schein 2004 Trice and Beyer 1993). Yet, as Schneider and Smith (2004) noted, there is plenty of theory suggesting that leaders have an effect in their organizations, but little empirical study of the linkages between leaders��� individual differences and organizational characteristics and success. Received and reviewed by former editor, George Neuman. T. R. Giberson (&) Oakland University, 495 C Pawley Hall, Rochester, MI 48309, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org C. J. Resick Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA M. W. Dickson M. A. Clark Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA J. K. Mitchelson Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA K. R. Randall Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA 123 J Bus Psychol (2009) 24:123���137 DOI 10.1007/s10869-009-9109-1
The dearth of empirical research linking leader charac- teristics and organizational phenomena, particularly orga- nizational culture, may be due in part to the difficulties in obtaining measures of psychological characteristics such as personality traits from upper echelon leaders. At the same time, explanation may also lie in the focus of the phenomena studied by different disciplines. In 1968, L.K. Williams observed that micro-level characteristics such as personality and macro-level characteristics such as culture are the divergent interests of different disciplines (psychology and cultural anthropology, respectively). Yet Williams went on to note that ������the simultaneous consideration of personality and the structure and functioning of the [organiza- tional] system������ are critical to understanding organizational behavior (p. 155). The present study addresses the paucity of research by examining relationships between CEOs��� per- sonality traits and the cultural values of the organizations they lead. Understanding these relationships will advance theory and practice regarding organizational culture, par- ticularly as it relates to organizational change and development. Organizational Culture and the Competing Values Model While the concept of culture as a construct for under- standing organizational life is in the early stages of evo- lution (Reichers and Schneider 1990 Rousseau 1990), societal culture has been studied for decades. Societal culture explains what things are, how they got that way, and how they ought to be (Kluckhohn 1942). The answers to these questions amount to the assumptions and ideolo- gies that define the content of a particular society���s culture (Trice and Beyer 1993). The content, consciously or unconsciously, defines what is and is not acceptable behavior, and provides guidance and behavioral norms for members to ensure that the needs of individuals and the needs of society can coexist (Apter 1964). In organizations, culture serves a similar function by addressing shared meaning and interpretation of organiza- tional events (Louis 1980 Rentsch 1990 Schein 2004). Organizational culture is a collective phenomenon emerging from members��� beliefs and social interactions (Schneider 1987 Trice and Beyer 1993), containing shared values, mutual understandings, patterns of beliefs, and behavioral expectations (Rousseau 1990) that tie individuals in an organization together over time (Schein 2004). The beliefs that are passed down through the organization and taught to new members are those that have proven effective over time (Schein), and thus become part of the shared history of the organization. As such, culture is an integrating mechanism that guides organizational behavior. There appears to be a general consensus among organi- zational researchers that culture manifests in different layers within an organization along a continuum of accessibility, ranging from easily observable artifacts to shared values to deeply held ideologies and assumptions that are difficult to access (e.g., Rousseau 1990 Schein 2004 Trice and Beyer 1993). While Schein (2004) contended that fundamental assumptions are the essence of an organization���s culture, Rousseau (1990) noted that values are perhaps the deepest layer of culture that can be examined and compared empirically. Shared values have been a primary focus of organizational culture research (see O���Reilly and Chatman 1996), as they are believed to facilitate efficient interac- tions between members, enabling integration and survival (Meglino and Ravlin 1998). In the current study, we examine organizational culture through the values shared among members. A number of models of cultural values have been pre- sented in the organizational literature, each offering a dif- ferent set of values believed to represent organizational culture (e.g., OCI, Cooke and Lafferty 1987 OCP, O���Reilly et al. 1991). Moreover, organizational culture theorists argue that organizations embody a relatively narrow set of values (Kluckhohn 1951 Schein 2004), and suggest that specific values are most helpful in understanding organi- zational processes (Meglino and Ravlin 1998). The com- peting values model (CVM) of organizational culture originally presented by Quinn and Kimberly (1984) and further developed by Cameron et al. (2007) provides a taxonomy of cultural values that reflect preferred structural characteristics and desired modes of operation. The CVM of culture posits that organizations experience competing tensions along two dimensions: the demands for flexibility versus stability and control, and a focus on internal main- tenance versus external competitive positioning (Cameron et al. 2007). These two dimensions combine to create four sets of values associated with one of four types of organi- zational culture, specifically Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy, and Market cultures. Clan cultures, also referred to as group cultures, combine a focus on flexibility and internal maintenance. Adhocracy cultures, also referred to as developmental cultures, com- bine a focus on flexibility with an emphasis on competitive positioning. Market cultures, also referred to as rational cultures, combine an emphasis on stability and control with competitive market positioning. Finally, hierarchical cul- tures emphasize stability and internal maintenance (Cam- eron et al. 2007 Denison and Spreitzer 1991 Quinn and Kimberly 1984 Zammuto and O���Connor 1992). Cameron and colleagues went on to note that decisions of upper echelon leaders regarding internal integration mechanisms and strategic organizational direction shape the content of an organization���s culture toward one of the sets of values. 124 J Bus Psychol (2009) 24:123���137 123
The CVM has been rated as one of the 40 most important management theoretical models (Ten Have et al. 2003) and is used extensively in both practical (see Cam- eron et al. 2007), and scientific studies of organizational culture and fit (e.g., Van Vianen 2000). Because the CVM has been used extensively in organizational research and allows for a succinct evaluation of culture within and between organizations, we rely on the CVM to study organizational culture in the current study. Organizational Culture and Upper Echelon Leadership Organizational culture and leadership are thought to be highly related aspects of organizational life, because they serve similar functions (Schein 2004), operate in similar ways (Hanges et al. 2000), and have reciprocal influences on each other (Schein 2004 Schneider 1987 Trice and Beyer 1993). Furthermore, upper echelon leaders are believed to be the primary influence on the creation and development of organizational culture (e.g., Bennis and Nanus 1985 Davis 1984 Kotter and Heskitt 1992 Schein 2004 Schneider 1987 Selznick 1957 Trice and Beyer 1993). For example, Miller and colleagues (1986, 1982) found relationships between specific leader personality characteristics (e.g., nAch, Locus of Control) and indica- tors of their firm���s structural characteristics (e.g., central- ization, formalization, etc.). Likewise, Tsui et al. (2006) found that CEO���s performance building behaviors (e.g., vision, visibility) and institution building behaviors (e.g., what they pay attention to, delegation) lead to the creation of organizational processes and structural characteristics that strengthen organizational cultures. Schein���s (2004) theory of culture and leadership, and Schneider���s (1987) Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) theory provide similar perspectives on the role of leaders in establishing, maintaining, and changing the content of an organization���s culture. Both suggest that content formation begins with the decisions made by organizational leaders. A key point made by Schein (2004) is that ������Organizations do not form spontaneously. Instead they are goal oriented and have a specific purpose������ (p. 212). In turn, Schneider, Goldstein, and Smith (1995) suggested that the organiza- tion���s goals are an operationalization of the top leader���s personality broadly defined. Thus upper echelon leaders, and in particular founders, embed their personal charac- teristics into their organizations by establishing the orga- nization���s goals, which then attract people who have similar personal characteristics as top leaders (Schneider 1987). Schein (2004) theorized that CEOs further con- sciously and unconsciously embed their tendencies and preferences into their organizations through a variety of mechanisms, such as what leaders pay attention to, criteria used to allocate rewards, and criteria used for personnel decisions. Culture forms as this initial cadre interacts with each other and the CEO trying to determine how best to achieve the organization���s goals and make sense of how the organization will operate. CEOs further reinforce cultural content through six secondary articulation or reinforcement mechanisms, including organizational design decisions, stories and myths, and formal statements. Thus, the content of an organization���s culture does not form randomly rather it forms through the CEO���s key strategic and operational decisions which in turn are a reflection of the CEO���s characteristics. These decisions form the basis for the shared values and assumptions that become the organization���s culture. Therefore, a relation- ship should exist between CEO personal characteristics and the cultures that emerge in their respective organizations. The personality traits of leaders are likely to be a partic- ularly useful set of personal characteristics for under- standing the linkages between the CEO and the culture of their firms. Personality refers to the set of characteristics that define a person and exemplify how he or she interacts with others (Allport 1961). Traits are one approach to understanding personality that refer to long-term, stable dispositions associated with a tendency to behave in a certain manner (McCrae and Costa 1996), and guide a person���s behavior in a given situation (Cattell 1943). The five-factor model (FFM), or Big Five model has become a generally accepted taxonomy of personality traits (Mount and Barrick 1995). Goldberg (1990) suggests that nearly all personality characteristics can be categorized into one of the five broad traits. The Big Five traits include agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, emotional stability or neuroticism, and openness to experience (Costa and McCrae 1992 Goldberg 1990). Moreover, the Big Five model has been shown to be robust across situations and cultures (Barrick and Mount 1991) and stable over time (Judge et al. 1999). Finally, Judge and Cable (1997) found that several Big Five personality traits were related to applicant���s preferences for organizational cultures. The linkages established by Judge & Cable between applicant personality and culture preferences also provide some indication of the CEO personality traits that may be related to culture values. Next, we propose linkages between lea- der personality traits and each of the four culture values in the CVM. Clan Culture Values and CEO Personality Clan cultural values have an orientation toward collabo- ration and combine an emphasis on flexibility and internal maintenance (Cameron et al. 2007 Zammuto and O���Con- nor 1992). Organizational practices in Clan cultures focus on strengthening the sociotechnical systems, developing human capital, and building cohesion and commitment. J Bus Psychol (2009) 24:123���137 125 123