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Robert D.

Rossel
Required Labor Commitment, Organizational
Adaptation, and Leadership Orientation
Data are presented comparing the relative importance of required labor com-
mitment and organizational adaptation in explaining variations in the leadership
orientations of managers and supervisors in eight production organizations. In
a previous study (Rossel, 1970), separate impacts of organizational adaptation
arid required labor commitment were not specified, and the two variables were
combined in a single index. The present data suggest that organizational adapta-
tion rather than required labor commitment explains the distribution of leader-
ship orientations across positional groups.
This research note expands upon data
presented in Rossel (1970) concerning the
relationship between required labor com-
mitment and the leadership orientations of
managers and supervisors in production
organizations. The purpose of the original
investigation was to test Etzioni's (1965)
contention that the higher the required
labor commitment, the more formal leader-
ship roles tend to be expressive. Data on
managerial and supervisory leadership
orientations in eight production organiza-
tions were classified with regard to the
amount of labor commitment required, and
it was argued (Rossel, 1970: 306-307) that:
two levels of organizational phenomena deter-
mine the amount of commitment that produc-
tion organizations require for effective operation.
The first is technical arrangements that influence
the degree to which negative work attitudes can
adversely affect the final product. The greater
the worker's control over the quality and quan-
tity of the product and the more work done in
groups rather than individually, the higher the
required labor commitment. The second level is
the relationship of the organization to its en-
vironment. Under certain conditions the main-
tenance of high commitment is a crucial issue
for the organization. If the organization is hav-
ing a great deal of difficulty surviving in its
environment, its failure to maintain high com-
mitment on the part of the labor force can mean
the difference between survival and failure.
Thus organizational adaptation, the ability of an
organization to survive in its environment, is
another important determinant of required labor
commitment in production organizations.
Managers and supervisors were found to
respond differently to situations neces-
sitating high commitment on the part of
workers. The higher tbe required labor
commitment, tbe more instrumental were
the managers' leadership orientations, the
more expressive were the supervisors'
leadership orientations.
In this earlier study, measures of tecb-
nology and organizational adaptation were
combined into a single index of required
labor commitment so that organizations
could be compared along a single dimen-
sion. As the analysis progressed, however,
it became increasingly clear tbat the tech-
nology variables and organizational adapta-
tion were quite different and perhaps sbould
have been analyzed separately. In the pres-
ent research, organizational adaptation
and the measures of tecbnology are examined
separately through tbree-way analysis of
variance.
Table 1 (Rossel, 1970: 309) reproduces
the original organizational classification
through which organizations were rated on
required labor commitment. Organizational
scores on the sum of the three technological
variablescontrol over quality, control over
quantity, and group interaction^ranged
from 3 to 12. Tbis sum will subsequently
be referred to as required labor commit-
ment. Scores on the fourth variable, organi-
zational adaptation, ranged from 1 to 4.
Organizational adaptation will no longer be
316
Rossel: REQUIRED LABOR COMMITMENT
TABLE 1. REQUIRED LABOR COMMITMENT INDEX
317
Organizations
/ Control Control Group
I over over inter-
\ quality + quantity -H action
X
Organiza-
tional
adaptation
Index of
required
labor
commit-
ment
Job shops
Aircraft engines
Data-processing equipment
Electronic and electrical firms
Vacuum tubes
Electric motors,
Airconditioners
Automohile assemblies
New plant
Old plant
Seamless pipe mills
Nonautomated
Automated
(4
(4
(3
( 3
(2
(2
(4
(1
+
-1-
4-
4
-
4
-
4
-
-
I
-
4
4
3
3
1
1
4
1
4-
-f
-1-
4-
4
-
4
-
4
-
4
-
1)
1)
4)
4)
C
O

C
O
4)
1)
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
4
1
2
1
4
2
4
3
I
I

I
I
C
O

0
3
20
= 10
24
12
48
= 9
considered a part of required labor commit-
ment, and will be dealt with separately.
Table 2 shows the distribution of eight
TABLE 2. ORGANIZATIONAL RATINGS ON
REQUIRED LABOR COMMI TMENT AND
ORGANIZATIONAL ADAPTATION
Organization
Automated pipe
mill
New auto assembly
Old auto assembly
Data processing
equipment plant
Aircraft engine
company
Nonautomated pipe
mill
Vacuum tubes
plant
Electric motors
company
Required
labor
commitment
Class
Low
Low
Low
Low
High
High
High
High
Rating
3
6
6
9
9
12
10
10
Organiza-
tional
adaptation
Class
Low
Low
High
High
Low
Low
High
High
Rating
3
4
2
1
4
4
2
1
organizations on these two indices. The
organizations are arranged so that the
numerical basis of a four-fold classification
on these two indices can easily be seen.
Since there are two organizations in each
combination of required labor commitment
and organizational adaptation, a three-way
analysis of variance can be used to examine
the sepaiate and combined effects of the
two variables on the distribution of leader-
ship orientations across organizational posi-
tions. The results of this three-way
classification are presented in Table 3.
DISCUSSION
Table 3 allows a total of seven com-
parisons to be made among the variables.
Two of the main comparisons, position and
adaptation, yield clearly significant differ-
ences in leadership orientations. And three
of the interactions^position and adapta-
tion, labor commitment and adaptation, and
position and labor commitment and adapta-
tionare significant.
The single most important finding is that
control for labor commitment has not
basically altered the relationship between
adaptation and leadership orientation dis-
cussed in Rossel (1970). T'hat is, regardless
of controls for labor commitment, the
success of an organization in adapting to
its environment significantly affects the
distribution of leadership orientations across
positional groups. Evidently, organizational
adaptation is a more important variable for
explaining leadership orientations than is
required labor commitment.
Although this finding suggests that greater
stress should be placed on organizational
adaptation as an explanatory variable, the
importance of required labor commitment
318 ADMINISTRATIVE SCIENCE QUARTERLY
TABLE 3. LEADERSHIP ORIENTATIONS OF RESPONDENTS CLASSIFIED BY POSITION,
REQUIRED LABOR COMMITMENT, AND ORGANIZATIONAL ADAPTATION
High required labor commitment Low required labor commitment
High Low Both High Low Both
adaptation adaptation adaptations adaptation adaptation adaptations
Hierarchical position Mean N Mean N Mean N Mean N Mean N Mean N
Top management
Middle management
Top supervision
Lower supervision
All positions
.38
.26
.09
.27
.07
4
23
15
24
66
2.92
.18
.08
.07
.81
3 1.27
18 - . 04
13 .09
20
54
.17
.37
7
41
28
44
120
.22
- . 28
- . 24
.45
.04
15
30
56
.42
.07
.08
.31
-.01
6
9
14
34
63
.32
- . 18
- . 16
.07
.01
8
18
29
64
119
F-ratio
Degrees of
freedom
Significance
level
Position
Required labor commitment
Adaptation
Position and required labor commitment
Position and adaptation
Required labor commitment and adaptation
Position, required labor commitment, and adaptation
4.87
3.61
5.01
1.12
6.41
6.19
3.92
3
1
1
3
3
1
3
p< 10
P<M
p > .10
p < .001
p<. 0 5
p<. 1 0
in determining leadership orientations
should not be discounted entirely. Ap-
parently when an organization is having
difficulty surviving in its environment, high
required labor commitment heightens the
tendency of all positional groups to respond
in an instrumental way. This can be seen by
comparing the solid lines in Figure 1, which
graph the positional distributions of leader-
ship orientations while contiolling for re-
quired labor commitment and organizational
adaptation. The finding is contrary to
Etzioni's (1965: 695) suggestion that the
higher the required labor commitment,
the more formal leadership tends to be
expressive. It is also contrary to the sug-
gestion in Rossel (1970: 314) that when
required labor commitment is high, an
organizational problem of adaptation forces
lower supervisors into increasingly expres-
sive leadership orientations. The results sug-
gest that supervisors are more inclined to
respond expressively to an adaptive problem
when required labor commitment is low
than when it is high. It was also suggested
in Rossel (1970: 314) that the problem of
adaptation places the lower supervisor in a
dilemma: the less adaptive the organiza-
tion, the greater the pressme for results
from above, and the more the lower super-
visor is torn between the opposing inclina-
tions to get tough and to try expressive
modes of leadership. The fact that super-
visors in plants that combine low adaptation
and high required labor commitment do not
show strong tendencies toward either instiu-
mental or expressive leadership may reflect
this dilemma.
CONCLUSIONS
An additional refinement in analysis has
made it possible to compare the relative
explanatory importance of required labor
commitment and organizational adaptation
in explaining leadership orientations. Tests
of significance suggest that adaptation is a
more important variable than required labor
commitment in explaining such variance.
Regardless of controls for requh'ed labor
commitment, when adaptation is low, man-
agers tend to be more instrumental than
supervisors; and when adaptation is high,
managers tend to be more expressive than
supervisors. Howevei", required labor com-
mitment should not be entirely discounted
as a determinant of leadership orientations.
Although control for required labor com-
mitment does not greatly alter the relation-
ship between adaptation and leadership,
high required labor commitment tends to
cause all positions to respond more instru-
mentally when adaptation is low.
The findings, though tentative and based
on a dangerously small number of observa-
a,
I
13
a
Rossel: REQUIRED LABOR COMMITMENT 319
High required labor commitment Low required labor commitment
I 2-^
I 2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
.5
0
.5
>
S 1.0
w
^ 3.0
1
2 2.5
c
-H
' 2.0
1.5
1.0
.5
0
" .5
>
1.0
+ 2.92
*
\
\
\
\
\
\
YK18^
x"
. - - ' - . 2 6
-. 38
High
adaptation
+ 27
+. 09_, ;
'+.08 +.07
Low
adaptation
_+.42
j _ oo >
SV-O7_
-. 28 -
.08 ,
><-
-.24
High
adaptation
+ .45

'"-v..,-.31
Low
adaptation
Top Middle Top Lower
manage- manage- super- super-
ment ment vision vision
Position
Top Middle Top Lower
manage- manage- super- super-
ment ment vision vision
Position
FIGURE 1. LEADERSHIP ORIENTATION AS A FUNCTION OF POSITION, ORGANIZATIONAL ADAPT.\TION,
AND REQXJIKED LABOR COMMITMENT
tions in some cells, warrant further con-
sideration and examination, first, because
they show the importance of general factors
in the organization's situation, like adapta-
tion, in shaping the kinds of role images
regarding leadership held by organizational
participants. It is important in the future
that systematic consideration be given to
organizational adaptation as a determinant
of a broad range of phenomena internal to
the organization.. Second, the findings sug-
gest that Etzioni's (1965) theoretical treat-
ment of the relationship between required
labor commitment and leadership is in-
adequate because it does not specify the
differential impact of required labor com-
mitment, or organizational adaptation, in
shaping the leadership conceptions of
different positional groups within a given
type of organization. The data show the
need for greater theoretical specification
of the range of organizational variables
affecting required labor eommitment and
the range of positions considered than was
done by Etzioni (1965). Finally, the findings
suggest that those who study organizational
leadership might well give more considera-
tion to structural characteristics of organi-
zations and situational factors that affect
leadership orientations and behavior than
has been done in the past. Too much
attention has been given to pyschological
traits or the interpersonal relations of
effective leaders exclusive of situational
factors that impinge on leadership attitudes
and behavior.
Robert D. Rossel is an associate professor
in the department of sociology at Southern
Illinois University.
320 ADMINISTRATIVE SCIENCE QUARTERLY
REFERENCES Rossel, Robert D.
Et Am'ta' 1970 "Instrumental and expressive leader-
" % ''' complex organizations" Ad
t Amta
1965 "Dual leadership in complex organiza- " % ''' complex organizations." Ad-
tions." American Sociological Review, ministrative Science Quarterly, 15:
30: 688-698. 306-316.