Providing Feedback on Leadership Potential Affects Employee Performance
Little is known about how feedback regarding leadership potential can influence employee motivation. However, such insight would be helpful to leaders as they try to determine who are the best fits for future leaders of their organization. New research in The Leadership Quarterly conducted two studies in an attempt to understand this topic. The goal of the first study was to determine how feedback on leadership potential could impact employee leadership ambition and organizational commitment. The goal of the second study was to determine how such feedback could impact employee perception of procedural fairness and job performance.
For the first study, the researchers conducted an online experiment with 256 participants with work experience. Participants were assigned to three groups. In the first group, the participants read a scenario providing them with feedback that they have high leadership potential. In the second group, the participants read a scenario providing them with feedback that they have low leadership potential. And finally, the third group—the control group, were given no feedback at all about leadership potential. The results revealed that those who were told they have low leadership potential showed lower leadership ambition than the control group and those who were told they had high leadership potential.
For the second study, the researchers recruited 264 undergraduate students. The researchers conducted a multi-stage computerized experiment that entailed doing math and word completion tasks. Participants were first asked to perform the tasks individually and then in groups. For each group, leaders were chosen by a score calculated from their individualized performance score added to a random generated number. Participants were then assigned to one of three groups. The first group received feedback of low leadership potential. The second group received feedback of high leadership potential. And the third group received no feedback regarding leadership potential. The participants then were asked to complete a survey about their attitudes toward the leadership designation process. The results revealed that those in the high potential group had a slightly larger increase in performance than those in the control group. Participants that received feedback of high leadership viewed the process as fairer than those who received feedback of low leadership potential.
Steffens, N.K., Fonseca, M.A., Ryan, M.K., Rink, F.A., Stoker, J.I. & Pieterse, A.N. (2018). How feedback about leadership potential impacts ambition, organizational commitment and performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 29, 637-647.