Leadership Influence to Drive Organizational Citizenship

Posted on May 26, 2013 by


Every day is an opportunity for potential risks due to ethical failures.  Leaders are the role models for their team in terms of the understanding and management of risk.  Through their actions, leaders are able to influence organizational citizenship behaviors by defining expectations, modeling compliance and holding everyone accountable for deviations.  “Effective leaders must have the ability to recognize when to use different tactics of influence as well as the skill necessary to effectively carry out these influence attempts” (Lian & Tui, 2012, p. 59).  In short, when understanding, assessing and managing the business for potential risks that may undermine the bottom line, leaders have a responsibility to utilize effective strategies to influence their teams to engage in behaviors that are ethical.

Lian and Tui (2012) suggest a model for downward influence tactics that leaders can use to help influence follower actions towards compliance to expected organizational citizenship behaviors.  The model suggests that leadership influence strategies are determined in part on perceived follower competency.  Tactics such as inspirational appeals, consultation, ingratiation, exchange, legitimating and pressure were identified in the study as strategies used based on leadership style (transactional versus transformational). “The typical manager who is a transactional leader tends to identify employees’ lower level needs by determining the goals that subordinates need to achieve and communicate to them on how successful execution of those tasks will lead to receiving desirable job rewards” (Lian & Tui, 2012, p. 61).  This style is effective for subordinates that require more structure in that they are either new or have performance opportunities that require a more authoritarian approach.  As such, tactics such as legitimizing, exchange and pressure tactics to influence subordinate behavior towards compliance to ethical norms.

Transformational leaders create an exchange between themselves and their subordinates in a manner that seeks to continually elevate attitude, morality and achievement of a higher purpose (Burns, 1978).  “This higher purpose is one in which the aims and aspirations of leaders and followers congeal into one” (Bryman, 1992, p. 95).  Lian and Tui(2012) posit that transformational leaders likely use tactics such as inspirational appeals, consultation, and ingratiation to encourage ethical and moral subordinate behaviors.  Further, because there is a greater level of trust inherent in the relationship between the transformational leader and subordinates, there is an increased likelihood of higher morality because subordinates trust the direction their leaders provide (Lian & Tui, 2012).

For leaders seeking strategies to influence organizational citizenship behaviors, it becomes critical to understand the tactics available to them based on their leadership style.  The leader must identify the best way to teach organizational citizenship through behavior and expectations.  For subordinates that require a more direct approach through transactional leadership, the leader must take a more authoritarian role to influence compliance.   For subordinates that are more self-directed, where transformational leadership is appropriate, the leader has the opportunity to create compliance to organizational citizenship behaviors through more cognitive efforts – inspirational appeals, consultation and ingratiation.  Further, the higher the competency level of the subordinate, the greater the use of consultative strategies to drive compliance.  Regardless of the strategies used, it is critical  for leaders to encourage compliance to organizational citizenship behaviors as a process for mitigating risks.

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row

Bryman, A. (1992).  Charisma and Leadership in Organizations. London: Tavistock.

Lian, L.K. and Tui, L.G. (2012).  Leadership styles and organizational citizenship behaviors:  The mediating effect of subordinates’ competence and downward influence tactics.  Journal of Applied Business and Economics, 13(2), 59-96.