Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)




Franklin S. Williams

Committee Member

James Dunn

Second Committee Member

Dale Level


First-line supervisors, leadership behavior, small manufacturers, self-perception


The first-line supervisor appears to be caught in a dilemma between the demands of his superior and the needs of his subordinates. This study focuses on the dilemma by describing and analyzing the leadership behavior of most and least effective first-line supervisors as perceived by superiors, subordinates, and by the supervisors themselves.

Two basic dimensions of leadership behavior, power-structure and consideration-sensitivity, were investigated by using a leadership rating questionnaire. Participating plants, listed in the Directory of Arkansas Industries, were twenty-three small manufacturers employing five or more production supervisors and 100 to 500 production workers. Participants in each plant were the plant manager, three first-line supervisors, and a random sample of five employees reporting to each participating supervisor. Nonparametric statistical techniques, consisting of chi square and the Goodman-Kruskal measures of association, were used.

The results of this study indicate that there were significant differences in the leadership behavior of most and least effective supervisors. The most effective supervisors were consistently perceived more favorably by both superiors and subordinates than were the supervisors designated as least effective. Compared to the perceptions of the most effective supervisors, there was considerably greater distortion between the way the least effective supervisors perceived themselves and the way they were perceived by their superiors and subordinates. Most effective supervisors tended to perceive themselves in close agreement with how they were perceived by both their plant manager and their subordinates. This finding indicates that accurate self-insight may be significantly related to effective leadership. There also tended to be more consistent association between the self-perceptions of plant managers and their most effective supervisors than between the self-perceptions of the plant managers and their least effective supervisors.

The most effective supervisors were characterized by a perceived balance of emphasis on both of the primary dimensions of leadership behavior, power-structure and consideration-sensitivity. The least effective supervisors perceived themselves as much more oriented toward consideration-sensitivity, although their plant managers and subordinates perceived them as more oriented toward power-structure. Thus, the most effective supervisors were characterized by balanced and successful leadership behavior, while the least effective supervisors were characterized by unbalanced and less successful leadership behavior.

The study confirms previous findings on the existence of measurable differences in the behavior of more and less effective supervisors. It analyzes such differences on dimensions which parallel the initiation of structure and consideration classifications used in the early Ohio State studies. It suggests the use of the reported perceptions of superiors and subordinates to focus on possible leadership problems in the industrial setting.

The implications of this study would seem to suggest the need for organizations to consider modifying their present rating systems to include perceptions of performance from above and below as well as self-ratings. The perceptions of the supervisor from three perspectives might provide the supervisor with a more comprehensive understanding of his total performance on the job. This multi-level rating system could help reduce conflict situations and lead to better management practice. This study, although limited to the first-line supervisory level in manufacturing plants, would also seem to have implications for other levels of management and other types of organizations.