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(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Far Reach of Supportive Senior Managers

Because of the disproportionate influence of senior leaders, support from the highest levels of the company hierarchy should be clearly reflected in organizational policies and initiatives, the authors say. “Although enhancing the support offered by leaders at all levels is important, companies wishing to promote employee motivation and retention may need to devote special attention to leaders at senior management levels,” the authors write. “Developing strategies to ensure that senior leaders demonstrate support and stressing that it must be effectively communicated from the top down may be especially important in increasing valued follower behaviors.”

This finding should be welcomed by companies, the authors write, because developing a supportive upper-echelon leadership culture is often easier, given the relatively small number of senior managers, than ensuring that all supervisors receive training. Also, if the highest-level managers at a firm show more support, that behavior may naturally spill over to lower-level supervisors, who often model their actions on those at the top.

Regardless, because support from different levels of management was shown to have independent positive effects on employees, companies should tailor training and resources to help both levels of leaders engage with their subordinates, the authors write, and not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. “Leadership is not inherently monolithic,” they conclude, “and examining it by levels can be more helpful in providing evidence for which behaviors will, in the end, lead to greater leadership success.”

Bottom Line:
Supportive leaders at various levels of a company have independent and significant effects on their employees’ motivation and their desire to stay at the firm. A helpful attitude from top-level management, however, has more influence on employee morale, suggesting that workers who are in conflict with their immediate bosses still feel they can work out their problems if the overarching culture is supportive.

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