Original Research

The effect of leadership behaviours on followers’ experiences and expectations in a safety-critical industry

Christiaan G. Joubert, Joseph A. Feldman
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 20, No 1 | a1510 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v20i1.1510 | © 2017 Christiaan G. Joubert, Joseph A. Feldman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 December 2015 | Published: 26 April 2017

About the author(s)

Christiaan G. Joubert, Air Traffic and Navigation Services, South Africa
Joseph A. Feldman, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Motivation for this study was found in concern expressed by civil aviation organisations that specialists in the air navigation services provider sector require appropriate and beneficial organisational leadership to encourage, enable and manage transformation within this highly structured setting. Also, academic research puts emphasis on a need for investigations of the roles, expectations and requirements of followers in the leadership–followership relationship. Followers’ experiences and expectations of leadership behaviours in an air navigation service provider (ANSP) organisation were investigated and served as orientation and setting applicable to this study.

Aim: The aim of the research was to identify and understand how follower experiences and expectations of leadership behaviours in a safety-critical commercial environment can affect leadership training and growth. The above-mentioned motivated this investigation of leadership traits and behaviours within an explicit context and from a follower’s viewpoint.

Setting: The setting for the study was twenty two Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company sites where followers’ experiences and expectations of leadership behaviours in an air navigation service provider (ANSP) organisation were investigated and served as orientation and setting applicable to this study.

Methods: An ethnographic case study research style was adopted and followed because it allowed for an all-inclusive, holistic narrative report and interpretation. The samples for the quantitative and qualitative components of this study were parallel and methods employed addressed different aspects of the phenomenon, which allowed for a mixed methods research design. A one-way causality in the research design was observed because traits of followers that might influence leaders’ behaviours were excluded. Data were collected by means of a Leader Trait and Behaviour Questionnaire completed by participants, individual interviews and focus group consultations.

Results: Research findings dispensed a deeper appreciation of followers’ epistemological and ontological views, within a specified context, which were supported by a common need to achieve organisational safety objectives. A practical managerial benefit was found in the insights presented by followers of leadership, which can possibly benefit leadership development and training needs, along with training and advancement of followers.

Conclusions: Research findings potentially add to enhancing understanding of leadership development theory, synonymous with a safety-critical commercial setting. A critical insight into the ‘unexplored’ leadership behaviour qualities found within a safety-critical milieu is subsequently offered.


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