Impact of Leadership and Gender on Civil Servants' Resilience in the Romanian State's Public Administration.

AuthorProfiroiu, Alina G.
  1. Introduction

    The concept of leadership still represents a subject of interest for researchers in different fields of study and research conducted so far revealed that leadership has been studied predominantly in private organizations or regarding the political environment (see Luthans and Avolio, 2003; Sutcliffe and Vogus, 2003; Bass and Bass, 2008) and less in public institutions. The approach of leadership related to public administration and other public institutions should be considered more because the development of a nation, region, or community is based not only on political leaders, but also on the public administration apparatus. It is well known that public administration influences significantly the economic and social development, exerting great impact on the successful implementation of administrative reforms. For the aforementioned reasons, the study of leadership phenomena in public administration, from the perspective of nonpolitical leaders, is necessary.

    Beside leadership, this paper addresses the concept of resilience related to leadership. When facing shocks and stressors, public institutions should immediately find answers, adapt and successfully manage crises, or prevent the negative impact of certain shocks, especially the economic ones, meaning that they should develop and strengthen their resilience. In this context, leadership could be a factor of impact on strengthening institutions and human resources' resilience.

    Another topic approached by the present research is the issue of gender with regard to leadership. Introducing the gender variable in the study of leadership in public institutions is also important due to the fact that 67% of the civil servants in the Romanian public administration are women (The National Agency of Civil Servants, 2020), occupying 60% of the existing leadership positions. This situation leads to the necessity of studying their leadership behaviors to observe if they lead differently or in the same manner as men do, if they are perceived positively by their subordinates and if they have the necessary abilities for developing and strengthening civil servants' resilience.

    The originality of this study stems from the fact that it addresses the relation between three different concepts (leadership, gender and resilience) within the same research in a field where no such research has been conducted so far. First of all, the paper seeks to capture two topical problems of public administration: leadership, a subject closely related to organizational performance and resilience, as well as to civil servants' resilience. In addition to these two topics, the introduction of the gender variable contributes to the originality of the paper because the gender issue is not approached in regard with discrimination as in many previous studies, rather, it addresses female leaders' characteristics and behaviors in order to observe if women lead differently, what behaviors they exhibit, what abilities or skills they have, and what is the relationship with their subordinates.

  2. Resilience and leadership--are they related?

    Resilience is a system's ability to absorb a shock and implement changes while maintaining its core functions and structure (Gunderson, 2010). As Bruneckiene et al. (2018) stated, resilience is a complex concept that cannot be analyzed from just one perspective. It is also a variable feature because even if a system regains its original balance or evolves to a new state of equilibrium, it will go through a process of change. The system will absorb the shock and adapt to new circumstances by implementing more or less substantial changes. All components of the system and the way they respond to these changes will impact its resilience. This information opens the path for exploring the relationship between resilience and leadership, as certain leadership styles, such as the transformational one, include the idea of embracing change (Bass, 1998).

    Characteristics of a resilient system (Bene et al., 2014) such as: promoting and encouraging diversity, flexibility, inclusion and participation, recognition of social values, acceptance of change and uncertainty, lifelong learning, community involvement, economic and social equity, cross-cutting perspectives on events and the governance process' efficiency lead to the potential existence of a link between leadership and resilience and, especially, to the impact of the transformational leadership style on human resources' resilience (Bene et al., 2014).

    Most studies regarding these two concepts have been conducted from a theoretical perspective. Some authors have noticed that resilience and leadership have not been sufficiently addressed as the leading process might have a significant impact on the adaptive capacity of organizations and human resources in times of crisis (Luthans and Avolio, 2003; Sutcliffe and Vogus, 2003). These authors state that resilience is an essential factor for the development of leadership and for increasing organizational efficiency.

    Most of the authors did not find a direct relationship between these two concepts, but some of them considered that the practiced leadership could influence institutional resilience (Rodrfguez-Sanchez and Perea, 2015; Ledesma, 2014). Moreover, leadership will have a dual role in developing resilience because it will influence human resources and also institutional resilience. This opinion is based on research regarding transformational leadership, which considers that transformational leaders inspire, motivate, help their subordinates to understand and accept the organizational culture, develop professionally, encourage them to participate in the process of change, develop their self-esteem, focus on organizational performance, leaving aside self-interest (Bass, 1998; Bass and Bass, 2008).

    Other studies emphasized managers' role in developing human resources' resilience, such as planning and implementing practices that should encourage employees' participation in the decision-making process, creating a mechanism where employees would offer feedback constantly, focusing on subordinates' well-being and on developing interpersonal relationships with them as well as offering them support to better integrate into the organization and autonomy regarding tasks' accomplishments and decision making (Bohlander and Snell, 2009; Dessler, 2002; Dietz, Wilkinson and Redman, 2010; Muckinsky, 2004; Siqueira, 2008).

    Additionally, according to some authors, resilience means 'increasing or adapting to disturbances, rather than returning to a system's original state' (Richardson, 2002). Moreover, resilience 'includes the ability to turn challenges into opportunities' meaning 'more than returning to the initial state before the shock but going further to achieve even greater success than before' (Lengnick-Hall and Beck, 2003, p. 8). Considering these points of view, a potential relationship between leadership and resilience might exist, due to the fact that transformational leaders usually implement the management of change, and resilience includes the concept of organizational change.

    Other studies concerning subordinates' resilience and leadership (Harland et al., 2005; Dumdum, Lowe and Avolio, 2002) showed a positive relationship between transformational leadership dimensions (inspirational motivation, charisma, idealized influence, individual consideration, and intellectual stimulation), transactional behaviors (contingent reward) and subordinates' resilience and a negative relationship between resilience and passive management (transactional dimension) and laissez-faire style. The research also revealed that subordinates whose leaders exhibit effective leadership behaviors are more resilient than those whose leaders engage in passive behaviors (Harland et al., 2005).

    Bass (1990) also conducted a study on transformational leadership and subordinates' behavior under stress that showed that transformational leaders have managed to turn crises into opportunities for subordinates' development, presenting them as situations that can be surpassed and providing subordinates with the necessary support. Moreover, the way in which Bernard Bass conceptualized transformational leadership as a process that goes beyond simply achieving the pursued goals, giving it greater purpose and meaning (Antonakis and House, 2013) is closely related to resilience and adaptability definitions, being based on the idea of development and growth (Harland et al., 2005).

    A more recent study (Valero, Jung and Andrew, 2014) conducted in several types of institutions in South Korea that sought to investigate if transformational leadership influences institutional resilience showed that employees believed that transformational leaders have a positive impact on the development of institutional resilience. Respondents who considered their leaders as exhibiting transformational behaviors also perceived their organizations as being very resilient.

    In Romania's case, the literature revealed many important studies that investigated leadership in public administration, especially the transformational and transactional styles (Ticlau, 2012; Mora and Ticlau, 2013; Hintea, 2015; Androniceanu, 2013; Nicdao, 2019; Ticlau and Hintea, 2016). Also, resilience was analyzed in the Romanian literature, from different perspectives, such as: theoretical approach (Moldovan, 2019), related to civil servants from rural areas (Cotoranu and Moldovan, 2020), the process of governing (Ticlau, Hintea and Andrianu, 2020), public institutions (Farca and Dragos, 2020), labor market (Hakansson and Bejakovic, 2020), regions (Wojtowicz, 2020; Dentinho and Serbanica, 2020) or organizational culture (Andrianu, 2020). The review of the Romanian literature shows a lack of studies investigating resilience and leadership together, in a way that could determine the relation between the two concepts.

  3. Resilience and gender--are they...

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