Review of Literature
Early studies of personality and leadership effectiveness relied upon simplified models and designs to explore the correlation of personality with leadership effectiveness. These studies demonstrated the relationships between personality traits and leadership but offered little insight into how such relationships emerged. Leadership strategies and skills mediate the relationship between personality and outcomes, and they account for significantly more variance in leadership effectiveness than personality variables. This study builds on prior work and tests conflict management styles to see if they mediate the relationship between personality and positive outcomes. Different scholars emphasized the role of managers in resolving conflicts between subordinates and found that effective leaders spent 26 percent of their time on human resources management and that the most successful managers addressed 60 percent more conflicts than those addressed by less successful managers. This study tests both direct and mediating effects of personality, conflict management style, and leader effectiveness within a single research design.
Conflict management styles are the strategies employed in response to perceived incompatibilities in social entities. The most widely used framework for conflict strategy is the five-factor conflict management style model. This approach describes conflict styles based on an individual’s concern for self and others, combining the possible levels of concern for self with the potential levels of concern for others produced five conflict management styles: integrating, avoiding, obliging, compromising, and dominating.
The integrating problem-solving approach features deep concern for both self and others. The goal of the integrating style is to reduce organizational conflict through collaboration. The dominating approach to conflict management features great concern for self and low concern for others. Individuals using this style try to get others to concede and thereby raise their status. The compromising approach features a moderate concern for both self and others. Compromising is considered the middle ground for mutual concessions. The avoiding style is characterized by low concern for self and others. Avoiding has been related to ineffectiveness and counter-productivity. An obliging style is an indirect approach to conflict management characterized by high concern for others and low concern for self. Leaders using the obliging style resolve conflicts by yielding or reducing their own aspirations and benefits.
The current study focuses primarily on dispositional antecedents of conflict management styles, more specifically on personality. This study tests the relationships between conflict management styles and the five dimensions of personality: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experiences, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Neuroticism describes emotional instability and negative affectivity. Individuals high in neuroticism are less able to control their emotions in social interactions. Agreeableness is most closely related to positive affectivity and is characterized by preferences for cooperation rather than competition. Extroversion is an interpersonal orientation in which individuals like working with people in groups, may express assertiveness and dominance, and tend to be more forceful in communicating their opinions. Openness is related to imagination, non-conformity, unconventional, and autonomy and may lead to a direct, confrontational attitude toward conflict, which can be constructive in conflict resolution. Conscientiousness is related to the intellectual dimension of personality; individuals with high conscientiousness may be more achievement-oriented, self-motivated, and task-oriented.
- H1: Integrating style will positively relate to leadership effectiveness. (supported)
- H2: Dominating style will positively relate to leadership effectiveness. (not supported)
- H3: Compromising style will positively relate to leadership effectiveness. (not supported)
- H4: Avoiding style will negatively relate to leadership effectiveness. (not supported)
- H5: Obliging style will positively relate to leadership effectiveness. (not supported)
Data for the research were collected from 126 leaders and 624 employees in a Midwestern state in the USA. 67 percent of the leaders were women, while 69 percent of the employees were women. 70 percent of the employees were at least 36 years of age or older, and their average tenure of employment was 9.1 years. Nearly 55 percent of the leaders had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, while 42 percent of the employees had earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Participants were self-selected by their decision to enroll in leadership workshops in several cities in the Midwest.
The Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality was measured using a revised version of the Neuroticism Extroversion Openness Personality Inventory (NEO-PI), in which five subscales are each measured with 12 items (60 total) rated on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 5 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). The five subscales include neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Conflict management styles were measured using Rahim’s Organizational Conflict Inventory-II (ROCI-II). The five conflict management styles include integrating, compromising, avoiding, dominating, and obliging.
Leadership effectiveness was measured using the effectiveness subscale from the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The subscale consists of four items to measure leadership effectiveness, rated on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 4 (frequently, if not always) to 0 (not at all). Structural equation modeling was performed to analyze the proposed model, estimating relationships between endogenous variables and exogenous variables. A covariance matrix was used as the input, and maximal likelihood was used as the estimation method.
The analysis revealed several significant relationships that fit a structural path model and indicated that conflict management styles mediate the relationship between personality and effectiveness. Two of the five personality variables tested – agreeableness and openness – directly affected the integrating conflict management style. The other reported relationships in this study between personality and conflict included agreeableness with avoiding style. Other significant relationships within the structural model depict the interconnectedness of personality, conflict management style, and effectiveness.
Among the five styles of conflict management (integrating, compromising, avoiding, dominating, and obliging), only the integrating style was significantly related to leader effectiveness. Conscientiousness was statistically related to obliging and avoiding conflict styles, and it was the only personality variable with a direct relationship with effectiveness. Avoiding was not significantly correlated with leadership effectiveness and was negatively correlated with the integrating conflict management style. One of the most significant contributions of this study is demonstrating that conflict management style mediates the relationship between personality and leader effectiveness.
A preference for cooperation over competition characterizes agreeableness, and openness to experience is concerned with imagination, non-conformity, and autonomy, suggesting that leaders may be predisposed to an integrating conflict management style. Conscientiousness’s direct relationship with effectiveness indicates that leaders predisposed to concern for the social needs of others will be perceived as more effective by followers. Leaders with a habitual integrating conflict management style are likely to acquire information, respond to the changing environment in resourceful ways, and formulate and implement adaptive strategies to meet the various challenges. It stands to reason that these people are more likely to be perceived as effective leaders by their peers and themselves.
My Opinion of the Study
The study was chosen because it was the first to test the direct and mediating effects of personality, conflict management style, and leader effectiveness within a single research design. The study results were surprising, as I expected most conflict management styles to be related to leadership effectiveness. At the same time, the conclusion that conscientious individuals tend to be most effective in organizations was unsurprising. Overall, I believe that the research done by the authors of the study was significant, as it shed light on previously unexplored connections.
Citation: Barbuto Jr, J.E., Phipps, K.A., & Xu, Y. (2010). Testing relationships between personality, conflict styles and effectiveness. International Journal of Conflict Management, 21(4), 434-447.