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Creating a Transformative Organization through Flexible Leadership

Changing the approach leaders should take depending on the direct reports' accountability

Today, with the speed of innovation accelerating, the business environment is changing rapidly and becoming more complex. In order to maintain and improve our competitiveness, we need to respond quickly to changes in the external environment while also changing the existing organizational routines. Leaders are also expected to have flexible leadership in creating such a transformative organization.

One of the characteristics of a workplace that is essential for change is that employees are able to openly express their thoughts and cooperate with one another. When faced with changes in the business environment, does your direct report take a positive view of the current situation by saying, "This is an opportunity!"? Or are they confused and think, "What if I can't keep doing what I used to do?". Might they be reluctant and feel, "Why can't it be done the usual way?"

There is no such leadership in which its effect can be maximized, no matter what the condition of the organization is, or what type of direct reports you have. Only when leaders flexibly change the approach after assessing the condition of the organization and direct reports in each moment, can they begin to accelerate changes in the organization.

The chart below focuses on the accountability of the members which make up the organization, divided into two cases - "members' accountability level: LOW" and "members' accountability level: HIGH". The result of the research shows for each case, what type of leadership members seek in their leaders to create a transformative organization. In this context, "members' accountability level: HIGH" refers to a situation in which members are proactively engaged in their work, such as being proactive in setting their own goals and actively engaged in problem solving.

Figure: Creating a Transformative Organization
When members' accountability level is low, the key effective leadership is Interpersonal Communication, while members' accountability is high, Directional Clarity

Members' Accountability Level: LOW*1

The Leadership Score Gap (Direct Reports' View) Between Leaders of Transformative Organization*2 (325 leaders) and Leaders of Non-transformative Organization (99 leaders)

All items indicated statistical significance (p<.01)

Members' Accountability Level: HIGH※1

The Leadership Score Gap (Direct Reports' View) Between Leaders of Transformative Organization*2 (343 leaders) and Leaders of Non-transformative Organization (87 leaders)

All items indicated statistical significance (p<.01)

*1 "Members' accountability": A situation in which members are proactively engaged in their work, such as being proactive in setting their own goals and actively engaged in problem solving. "High level (Low level) of members' accountability" is defined based on the direct reports' score of selected questions from LA "Condition of Individuals"; High(Low) = middle level in the group whose score is above (below) the average.

2 "Transformative organization": the state where members openly express their thoughts and cooperate with one another. Transformative / Non-transformative organization are defined by whether the direct reports' score of selected questions from LA "Condition of workplace" is above (below) the average.

Figure: Creating a Transformative Organization
When members' accountability level is low, the key effective leadership is Communication, while members' accountability is high, Directional Clarity

The results show that in cases where members have a low level of accountability, to create a transformative workplace, "interpersonal communication" between you and your direct reports needs to be reevaluated first to rebuild relationships (see results on the left). The mindset that leaders should never forget when communicating with direct reports is to thoroughly "listen and try to understand" the details of the conversation and values of the direct reports. If the leader communicates the vision and goals of organizational change to his or her direct reports without showing this attitude, this will not resonate well with them. To ensure that your leadership does not go wasted, leaders need to change their leadership approach, with intent, by looking at their direct report's conditions.

On the other hand, what about cases where members have a high level of accountability? This is a case where direct reports have a high level of accountability, but the synergy effect is not realized as an organization, and the workplace is not as capable of bringing about change. In such situations, it is effective for leaders to first convey the direction of the organization, such as the organization's vision and goals, and then have a dialogue with direct reports about it (see results on the right). If the vision and goals of your organization can be shared as a future vision for you and your direct reports, then the thoughts openly expressed by your direct reports, as well as cooperation and collaboration between departments, will take the future into consideration, which will then lead to an accelerated change in the organization.

Coaching time

"I would like to motivate direct reports with a high level of accountability and encourage them to take actions for change." Here is one evidence which can help such leaders interact with their direct reports.

Below is the result of a research on what interactions from coaches (superiors) are effective in encouraging direct reports with high self-efficacy to change.

Direct reports' self-efficacy is high*1
and members are cooperating*2

n=46

Direct reports' self-efficacy is high*1
but members are NOT cooperating*2

n=38

Improvement of Coaching Score

Superiors of Cooperating Direct Reports n=46
Superiors of not-Cooperating Direct Reports n=38

Statistically significant(p<.05) 

*1 Self-efficacy: direct reports' self-report about their own performance such as clarification of own vision, originality and ingenuity in work, and adopting new perspectives. Direct reports whose average scores of assessment items are above M+0.2SD are analysed.

*2 Cooperation: Interaction among superiors and direct reports, defined by active proposal to superiors and peers, and proactive interaction to achieve goals. "Cooperating (Not-cooperating)" is defined by whether the average score of the assessment items are above (below) M±0.2SD.

For direct reports who have a high level of accountability and self-efficacy, providing guidance and advice are not the main roles which coaches (superiors) are expected to play. The most important thing is to notice the changes and growth of your direct reports in the direction you want to go and telling them what you have noticed. Furthermore, by receiving feedback from your direct reports, the coach and the members together create the future. This collaborative relationship between coaches and your direct reports help encourage the direct reports to take actions for change.

Research Overview

Creating a Transformative Organization

Participants: 9,117 Direct reports under 854 Leaders
Survey Tool: Leadership Assessment (LA)
Period: Sep 2012 - Feb 2018

COACHING TIME

Participants: Participants of Coach A original program DCD
Survey Tool: D-meter1&2
Period: Apr 2015 - Jan 2020

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