Every business out-there, be it a corporate giant or a small shop, has it in its mind that it needs to employ highly original and market disruptive leaders in order to grow and prosper. A study that studied Chinese workplaces found that leaders don’t need to be transformational to lead a highly productive group. Instead, managers who are stable, reliable and closer to the team – as in part of the team, not someplace above it – have been found to help business become more successful.

Whenever inspiring business leaders are concerned, Steve Jobs’ name seems to pop-up. Indeed, in many aspects with Apple and Pixar, Jobs revolutionized business practices – this is why he was often called disruptive, shifting paradigms and changing the rules of the game. No doubt, Jobs was a fantastic business man, but his former employees might also recognize him as a draconian leader. If you got stuck with Steve in an elevator, boy were those three floors of hell!

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A boss that’s one of you

Ning Li, an University of Iowa professor of management and organizations, sought to find whether inspirational and charismatic leader make that much of an impact by examining 55 work groups, consisting of 196 employees and their leaders, at two Chinese firms.  He found that a transnational approach to business did little to improve workplace productivity and willingness to engage in the business, especially if the sense of a team was already among the employees.

Employees that were found to be self-motivated, as well as those with traditional views, experienced the least impact as a result of  disruptive leadership. These people, the authors note, already put their best for the company because they genuinely believe that’s what they’re being paid for, and consequently don’t require or care for inspiration. Also, the researchers note, that at times transformational leadership was actually counterproductive because it ended up getting in the way of a team that was already functioning at a high level.

Concluding, the authors write that employees who view their leaders as closer or part of the team are more willing to cooperate between themselves and take charge of their own actions. The authors caution firms that they need to understand transformational leaders like Jobs or Bill Gates aren’t the best role models in all situation, and instead appoint managers based on the strengths and personality of the team and its members.

“Leaders need to tailor their transformational actions accordingly, rather than use a one-size-fits-all, group- directed, transformational style,” wrote the study’s authors, which also include Texas A&M University’s Dan Chiaburu, North Carolina State University’s Bradley Kirkman and Zhitao Xie of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Findings appeared in the journal Personnel Psychology and the Academy of Management journal Perspectives.