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Assessing the Importance of Building Self-efficacy to Impact Motivation, Performance Levels, and Team Effectiveness


As I have studied leadership in this course and compared and contrasted self-efficacy and self-confidence for an assignment in an earlier course, it seems obvious to me that leaders can impact follower levels of motivation, performance, and team effectiveness by building individual and group self-efficacy. Not wanting to place an overemphasis in regards to building self-efficacy, I am on a quest to learn more about this issue and discover research-based answers. In an attempt to recognize the essence of an increased self-efficacy, I will begin by searching for what self-efficacy really means. The focus will then turn to essential factors for increasing self-efficacy and attempt to identify ways to build a stronger sense of self-efficacy. It will then be determined if communication and feedback can improve follower self-efficacy and conclude by looking at authority dynamics to see if there is a certain style that works best to improve overall self-efficacy levels.


The purpose of this paper is to answer the following five questions concerning the impact that leaders may have when building self-efficacy among followers. It will further identify and explore reasons why building self-efficacy is essential.

  1. What is self-efficacy and why is it an important part of leadership?
  2. Does a high level of self-efficacy help to create increased motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness?
  3. Can a leader build a stronger sense of self-efficacy through understanding and capitalizing on individual differences, cognitive strategies, and situational approaches?
  4. Can communication and feedback improve levels of self-efficacy?
  5. In regards to authority dynamics, are there certain styles that may help to improve levels of self-efficacy in individuals or groups?

Audience or Significance

Discovering the importance of building self-efficacy is a crucial factor for anyone involved in a position of leadership. Coaches, teachers, parents, employers, employees, and co-workers, among others, will benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of why it is important to build self-efficacy among followers.

Review of Literature

Understanding Self-efficacy

When attempting to determine the impact that leaders may have when building self-efficacy among followers, one must first understand what the term self-efficacy really means. Self-efficacy has been defined by Bandura (1977b, 1982, 1986) as a situation-specific form of self-confidence or as the belief that one is competent to do whatever is necessary in a specific situation.

In earlier coursework at the United States Sports Academy, I was given the task of comparing and contrasting self-efficacy and self-confidence as applicable in sport and exercise settings. I found that the terms have distinctly different meanings, which I find essential to point out before answering questions I have posed for this course paper. Self-efficacy is a form of self-confidence. Self-confidence, as defined by Feltz (1988), is “the belief that one can successfully execute a specific activity rather than a global trait that accounts for overall optimism” (p. 423). Self-confidence is a more comprehensive and stable personality characteristic, whereas self-efficacy is rather unstable, changing and fluctuating rapidly depending on the circumstance. As self-efficacy builds, levels of self-perception build that, in turn, build self-confidence.

Levels of self-efficacy fluctuate rapidly, whereas levels of self-confidence fluctuate very little. To demonstrate this with a sports-related example, let’s take a look at the sport of volleyball. A team may feel confident with their collective abilities to beat the opposing team. Play ensues with the team making a lot of unforced passing errors. These errors cause self-efficacy levels to drop passing performance. These lowered self-efficacy levels may continue until the team pulls itself out of its funk and begins to pass well, causing self-efficacy passing performance levels to rise again. Even though the team felt a high level of overall self-confidence to perform well, temporarily their level of passing self-efficacy fluctuated. If this poor passing performance were to continue, it may play a factor in lowering overall self-confidence to win the set. The sport of volleyball clearly demonstrates the difference between the two terms because momentum shifts which exhibit rapidly fluctuating levels of performance play a major role in the game.

Understanding that self-efficacy is situation specific and can eventually affect overall levels of self-confidence, leaders can see the importance of building subordinate self-efficacy. Because raising feelings of competence in all areas of the game or situation helps to build overall self-confidence, leaders must determine strategies to aid in the development of positive self-efficacy in all areas.

Self-perceptions. When self-efficacy is high, an individual feels confident that the task can be performed. When self-efficacy is low, an individual feels that the task is beyond his or her ability. Individual perceptions of self are subjective, making it difficult to predict behavioral outcomes. Self-perceptions of self-efficacy can impact what type of challenges individuals undertake and to what degree tasks are performed. Researchers have observed that feelings of greater self-efficacy are associated with success at higher levels of academic performance (Pajares, 1996), improved performance in athletic competition (Kane, Marks, Zaccaro, & Blair, 1996), and improved levels of work-related performance (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Many factors, such as feelings, needs, and expectations, impact self-perceptions. These are areas in which leaders can make a difference as they strive to foster increased levels of self-efficacy.

Need theories. Endeavoring to thoroughly understand self-efficacy, one must determine if self-efficacy appears as one of the basic needs that all people share. Kanfer (1990) refers to needs as internal states of tension or arousal or as uncomfortable states of deficiency that people are motivated to change. This definition of needs ties directly into the definition of self-efficacy because both are referring to internal states where people may be deficient in certain areas or where they may have already satisfied a specific need, causing them to believe that their ability is acceptable.

Because self-efficacy is a basic need, it is imperative to consider two major need theories, Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs and Alderfer’s (1969) existence-relatedness-growth (ERG) theory. Both theories reason that leaders can motivate by correctly identifying and attending to follower needs. Maslow theorizes that there is a hierarchy of needs: lower level needs must be conquered in order to move to a higher level of need. Maslow’s highest level focuses on self-actualization needs. Alderfer theorizes that individuals can work at satisfying more than one need at a time. Then individuals ultimately focus on growth needs, the highest level where one masters new skills and applies them to new situations. In comparison, both need theories address the fact that fundamental needs should be met in order for subordinates to find behavioral success. With both theories, self-efficacy is a higher level need, which indicates that there are lower areas of need in which leaders can help make a difference in follower growth. Appreciating that lower level needs must be satisfied to build self-efficacy and assuming an individual or team reaches a high level of self-efficacy, we need to determine the impact of increased levels of self-efficacy on motivation, performance, and team effectiveness.

Essential Factors for Increasing Self-efficacy

As mentioned earlier, researchers have shown that observed feelings of greater self-efficacy are associated with improved performances in academic performance, athletic competition, and work-related performance. Self-efficacy theory is a cognitive theory of motivation. This cognitive theory emphasizes an individual’s central beliefs that he or she can successfully perform a given task (Bandura & Locke, 2003). When an individual feels confident that the task at hand can be performed successfully, positive self-efficacy is observed. When an individual feels encumbered to perform the task at hand successfully, negative self-efficacy is observed. Often, individuals who exhibit positive self-efficacy tend to persist and complete the present task; however, those who exhibit negative self-efficacy have a propensity to give up when the task becomes too challenging.

Assuming that positive self-efficacy leads to higher levels of satisfaction on the job - with the term “job” referring to whatever the follower’s situation may be, such as an academic, athletic, or a work related milieu - there are three theories of job satisfaction to review. The first theory, affectivity, refers to an individual’s tendency to react to stimuli in a consistent emotional manner (Judge & Hulin, 1993; Judge & Locke, 1993; Ilies & Judge, 2003). Those individuals who react positively are typically happy with their current situation and maintain a positive outlook amidst challenges. The opposite is true for those reacting negatively. Consequently, affectivity and self-efficacy go hand in hand. As followers reach higher levels of positive self-efficacy and maintain a disposition for positive affectivity, they may handle difficult situations with ease. Those who feel a deep level of uneasiness may struggle with low overall self-confidence, lending them to have a strong desire to get out of their current life situation and, thus, have a low level of job satisfaction. Because leaders have little control over follower affectivity, it is of the utmost importance to recruit followers wisely.

The second theory of job satisfaction is Herzberg’s (1964, 1966, 2003) two-factor theory. The two factors are hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors are those things that lead to dissatisfaction with jobs, and motivators are things that lead to satisfaction with jobs. This theory basically states that leaders cannot increase levels of motivation and satisfaction by making efforts to improve hygiene factors such as working conditions, co-workers/teammates, and pay. However, it is important to increase levels of motivation and satisfaction by providing motivators such as recognition, responsibility, and advancement. Many of these motivators tie directly into self-efficacy theory: motivators satisfy follower needs and tend to build higher self-efficacy levels.

The third theory of job satisfaction is organizational justice. This theory is based on the premise that followers have a sense of perceived fairness on the job. Followers who perceive that they are being treated with dignity and respect and fairly attain rewards or receive punishment commensurate with performance levels show higher levels of job satisfaction. Such follower perceptions affect self-efficacy because they are critical for higher levels of successful performance.

Motivation. Motivation, as defined by Kanfer (1990), is anything that provides direction, intensity, and persistence to behavior. As noted previously, individuals with observed higher levels of self-efficacy tend to persist when faced with challenges and obstacles. Much can be said about the importance of motivation in relation to performance levels and team effectiveness, yet in relation to self-efficacy, we need to take a closer look at motivation through the lens of self-expectations.

Self-efficacy, being a situation-specific form of self-confidence, is enhanced when the perception of self is increased. A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when expectations cause behaviors that support the original expectations. Anytime expectations are fulfilled, individuals gain a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishments lead to enhanced feelings of self-worth, building on situation specific self-efficacy. This cycle ultimately fosters motivation for the individual as he or she strives to feel that same level of feel-good, self-affirming beliefs.

Positive internal expectations lead to intrinsic motivation, the performance of a task for personal satisfaction and increased feelings of self-competence. There are many areas of the self that can affect self-efficacy in either positive or negative ways. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the qualities of a positive attitude which impacts levels of motivation, including positive self-expectancy, self-image, self-control, self-esteem, and self-awareness. A positive self-expectancy occurs when an individual usually gets what he or she expects. A positive self-image occurs when an imagined success becomes an actual success; in such a situation, positive self-talk has an enormous impact. Positive self-control is when an individual is capable of accepting responsibility for outcomes. Positive self-esteem allows individuals to respect themselves as they are able to recognize personal unique talents in an effort to achieve more. Finally, a positive self-awareness breeds a sense of strength because individuals know themselves as well as where they are going. Waitley (1978) confirms the importance of positive expectations as a quality that describes the thoughts of a champion. To summarize, positive self-expectations increase motivational levels.

Performance levels. Performance may be defined as the behaviors an individual or group may exhibit to accomplish goals. Performance and motivation differ in that performance is a broader concept pertaining to numerous variables that can affect followers’ levels of accomplishment. Variables such as abilities, skills, and the availability of resources may play into performance levels. Performance levels can be increased through the use of motivational theories, which can greatly attribute to behaviors that result in accomplishment of goals.

When looking at the impact high levels of self-efficacy have on performance levels, let’s consider factors affecting peak performance. Peak performance in athletics is defined by Ravizza (1984) as “a state of altered consciousness” (p. 453). During this state of altered consciousness, an athlete’s mind is completely absorbed by the task at hand. The athlete is focused and peak performance results for that particular situation. The feelings the athlete encounters are quite pleasant as the individual experiences a sense of fulfillment. During this time, individual fears, insecurities, or inhibitions begin to fade away. Brewer, Van Raalte, Linder &Van Raalte (1991) note that focused attention and feelings of confidence were most noticeable during times of peak performance. These observations support the theory that higher levels of self-efficacy are present with increased performance levels.

Many athletes refer to peak performance as an emotional high where they are in the “flow.” Jackson & Marsh (1996) note that athletes experience this state whenever they are “totally involved in an activity and experience a number of positive feelings, including freedom from self-consciousness and a great enjoyment of the process” (p. 18). Any time an individual experiences positive feelings and enjoys the fruits of labor, a higher level of self-efficacy will be present. As leaders, we cannot expect a high level of peak performance at all times, yet it seems reasonable to believe that if high levels of self-efficacy are present, then performance levels should match the intensity level.

Team effectiveness. Effectiveness differs from performance in that judgments are made as to whether the individual or group’s behavior is adequate to meet set goals. Self-efficacy of groups parallels self-efficacy of individuals. Self-efficacy is situation specific when concerned with an individual, separate individuals, or a group of individuals functioning as one entity.

Team effectiveness starts at the top, with successful leadership. Helping a group to achieve success is a true test of leadership ability. Building team self-efficacy plays a key role in overall team success. Teams are able to come together when a leader has created a climate where mental, emotional, and social needs are met. Team climate is described by James, Hartman, Stebbins, & Jones (1977) as a psychosocial construct, an internal representation of how a person perceives the conditions and interrelationships among group members. The main point of this definition, in regards to self-efficacy, is that the perceptions are made from the team members’ point of view. This means that team members perceive the overall climate of the group and make a conscious decision as to whether they are individually satisfied as a participating member of the team.

Ginnett (1993, 1996) suggests that there are four components that are essential for a team to work effectively: task structure, group boundaries, norms, and authority. Task structure is present when the team comprehends the task at hand and has the ability to perform the work. Group boundaries refer to the manner in which the task will be divided and accomplished by the workers. Norms refer to team strategy and the ability for all members to understand tactics. Lastly, authority is the climate that the leader fashions for members to feel empowered with the competence to achieve set goals. Leaders can increase team self-efficacy by attending to each of the four areas, thus providing guidance for team members while striving for team effectiveness. Once the leader has created a climate to build a successful team, Ginnett’s Team Effectiveness Leadership Model (TELM) can be used as a tool in helping to guide behavior.

Building a Stronger Sense of Self-efficacy

When one understands that building self-efficacy helps with motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness, it is clear that leaders can and should develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy among followers. The leader has direct control over helping followers meet their psychological needs as well as fostering the mental skills of each. Building a successful environment is a complex skill. To make sure that every follower finds satisfaction with contributions made to the team and to ensure that desirable behaviors are envisioned and accomplished is not easy, yet effective leaders find a way to achieve these tasks as they seek to understand follower individual differences in motivation, cognitive theories of motivation, and situational approaches. Leadership practitioners must learn to recognize follower characteristics and understand when different types of theories should be applied.

Individual differences. Leaders need to take into consideration individual needs and differences as followers vary in culture, gender, and ethnicity. The uniqueness of each individual should not detract from group goals. By understanding the importance of follower self-efficacy, leaders can strive to help everyone, regardless of individual differences. Followers bring to the group previous personal experiences and needs that leaders should try to understand while endeavoring to be sensitive to individual differences.

Each individual is wired with a tendency toward task accomplishment regarding motives to achieve success. Many leaders have an achievement orientation (Atkinson, 1957) where they are driven by the need to meet great levels of success. These people, thriving on a sense of accomplishment, are likely to make terrific leaders as they typically do very well in everything they set their minds to achieve. When dealing with followers that are achievement orientated, it is important to provide them with clear goals and communicate with them to ensure that they have what they need to succeed. On the other hand, it may be difficult to work with followers who do not possess a high level of achievement orientation. As a leader, one must determine how to make the most of the strengths these individuals do possess and find a role where these people can contribute to team goals.

Another essential individual variable centers on personal values of followers. Followers may be intrinsically motivated to work hard in areas where they find relevance to their personal values. The key is for leaders to get to know their followers and to make an effort to identify their values and understand what really drives them to perform. Values develop early in life, making it extremely difficult for leaders to significantly change follower values. As stated earlier, in regards to achievement oriented individuals, a leader must redistribute work in order to more closely match individuals whose values extremely differ from the values that drive the group toward success. If this isn’t possible, a leader may have to make the difficult decision to remove the follower from the group or organization. This is an example that demonstrates the importance of understanding the values of interested individuals before hiring or recruiting them to be a part of the team.

In terms of self-efficacy in relation to individual values, it stands to reason that those people whose job performance matches their personal values find great satisfaction with their work. If at all possible, leaders need to identify what their followers value and increase opportunities for them to perform similar duties. For example, the head college football coach must assign duties to his staff members. If he were to randomly assign duties without assessing staff values, he may unknowingly create a poor working environment. He may have an individual who values working with recruiting student-athletes and helping the students and their parents make the transition from high school to collegiate life. Another staff member may feel that his strengths lie in scouting and breaking down film to recognize opposition tendencies. Imagine that the head coach neglected to give the right job to the right subordinate. There would be less job satisfaction and lower self-efficacy among the work performed by the staff. This situation easily could be resolved if the head coach would have taken some time to understand the values of each individual staff member.

Another individual difference that leaders must consider is intrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivation is defined by Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy (2006) as “behavior seemingly motivated for its own sake, for the personal satisfaction and increased feelings of competence or control one gets from doing it” (p. 257). The two main reasons that people engage in any type of activity are personal pleasure and the enjoyment they obtain from participating.

Researching self-efficacy in regards to intrinsic motivation, we need to take a look at Deci’s (1975) cognitive evaluation theory. This theory is based on two reasons that individuals apply energy toward goal-directed behavior. The first is to feel competent, and the second is to be self-determining in coping and interacting with one’s environment. Individuals who feel competent in regards to skill and ability will perceive themselves as successful and will also find pleasure while performing the activity. Perceptions of achievement aid in building self-efficacy, causing individuals to participate more fully in the activity. Intrinsically motivated individuals are more persistent, enjoy the process, and have higher images of self.

Cognitive strategies. Self-efficacy theory finds its home under the umbrella of cognitive strategies. As a concept that is associated with confidence building, the focus is centered on the changing or building up of one’s inner beliefs. The theory supports the belief that leadership practitioners will enable followers to achieve more by helping them change their thought processes. Leaders can motivate by reinforcing beliefs regarding task accomplishment through the science of goal setting and through appreciating the importance of cognitive theories.

Cognitive theories suggest that followers will put forth more effort when the expectations for performance are clear. There are three cognitive theories for practitioners use: expectancy theory, equity theory, and self-efficacy theory. Having already discussed self-efficacy theory, let’s focus on the other two rational approaches. Expectancy theory centers on the belief that leaders can motivate if they can uncover certain behaviors that will lead to valued rewards. Expectancy theory considers the probabilities of behaviors occurring if effort is present, if there are rewards for a desired level of performance, and if the follower values the reward. Equity theory centers on the belief that followers will value fairness from current leadership. This theory maintains that what is most important is the relationship between follower inputs and outputs based on a comparison of a reference group’s inputs and outputs. Equity theory, like its name suggests, is concerned with follower perceived fairness.

The science of goal setting seems to take center stage as a cognitive strategy as it, like the other three theories, focuses on follower effort. Burton (1992) defines goal setting as an aspect of motivation aimed at focusing the performer’s effort and providing a means to monitor progress or success. This definition is all encompassing because it makes reference to providing accountability for follower progress or success. Often, practitioners take the time to set goals but then file them away without monitoring progress. When goals are set, there needs to be some sort of accountability put in place in order that these goals can be reviewed, discussed, and examined in terms of effectiveness.

Proper goal setting requires leaders and followers to use accurate guidelines. Goals must be specific and challenging, yet realistic. Because goals are the most powerful determinants of task behaviors (Locke & Latham, 1990; 2002), it is vital that followers participate in setting goals to ensure goal commitment. And, as already mentioned, goals need to be reviewed through some form of monitoring system where followers’ goals receive generous amounts of feedback.

In determining the effectiveness of goal setting, Kyllo and Landers (1995) used meta-analysis to review thirty-six scientific studies regarding goal setting. The results of their research showed that follower performance was optimal when goals were set in observable terms, set in the short term as well as the long term, set with follower participation, and were made public.

One important element from their study is that leaders need to express confidence that their followers can achieve their goals as well as provide support that followers may need. This is an area where bolstering self-efficacy can be achieved with leader support, encouragement, and expectations. The Pygmalion Effect, when expectations alone transfer into higher performance levels, occurs when leaders demonstrate faith in their followers by communicating great expectations. When followers feel a sense of worth and confidence exuding from their leaders, they may begin to internalize this faith into their inner belief system, which leads to a positive and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Situational approaches. The question as to whether we can build a stronger sense of self-efficacy through the use of situational approaches is a very good one. Saying yes to this question means that we believe we can change the environment and make a difference with follower motivation levels. We already know that building self-efficacy is a key ingredient to increasing motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness; yet can leaders really make that much of a difference simply by changing situational factors? The answer is yes! There are two situational approaches to motivation, the operant approach and empowerment. Both approaches believe that by changing the situation, leaders have an opportunity to make a huge impact with follower motivation.

The operant approach centers on the use of rewards and punishments to motivate followers. There are six principles that leaders can rely on when incorporating the operant approach. First of all, motivation and performance levels can be enhanced when leaders clearly specify expectations. Leaders need to clearly explain directives, never assuming that expected behaviors are understood. This means that leader patience is essential when providing expectations as time needs to be set aside to ensure follower comprehension. Secondly, leaders need to make sure that these clearly stated expectations have effective consequences. Third, leaders need to assess what type of rewards and punishments followers find effective. Many times a leader assumes that she understands the heart and pulse of what method works with subordinates. Yet if a leader didn’t take the time to delve deeper and actually get to know and appreciate follower differences, he or she may apply consequences that have dire negative effects. Fourth, when consequences vary according to situational factors, leaders must keep a watchful eye on follower perceptions of inequities. Keeping everyone abreast of the reasoning behind the decision-making can help alleviate or head off some of the feelings of inequality. Fifth, leaders need to be creative when designing rewards and punishments. Lastly, leaders must administer consequences in a reliable fashion.

When building self-efficacy levels, followers must be confident that they can meet leader expectations. If leadership behavior is unstable, such as providing unclear and less specific directions, followers may become frustrated as they have to devote precious time attempting to figure out expectations. Instead of building up job-related self-confidence levels, followers struggle with feelings of uncertainty in relation to performance levels. The same is true in regards to the other principles of the operant approach. When leaders design distinct strategies and clearly define expectations, both leaders and followers can concentrate on performance outcomes.

The second situational approach to motivation is empowerment. The verb “empower” means to give authority or power, or to enable another. When I think of building levels of self-efficacy, I envision leaders empowering or championing for their subordinates. This means that leaders don’t actually do the work for their subordinates. However, it does mean that leaders provide them with a tool belt to carry with them the necessary tools, or skills, to enable followers to achieve their mission. Leaders need to invest the time to create the standards or goals with subordinates to help them accomplish their dreams, big or small. With such a tool belt, leaders can equip followers with the four micro components of empowerment: self-determination, meaning, competence, and influence (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997; Spreitzer, 1995; Wagner, Parker, & Christiansen, 2003). In all four of these areas, followers are building muscle, self-efficacy and self-confidence, as they determine what they want to do and how they should proceed. They find importance in their work because they had a say input into its development. They feel a high level of competence to accomplish set goals, and they believe that in doing so, they can make a difference. Thus, empowerment ensues as followers feel a sense of accomplishment. Successes are then reinforced as each individual has some control and input in helping the team to reach its mission.

Communication and Feedback

Effective communication does not happen automatically. Communication is an art and a science whereby techniques must be learned; which for some leaders, the techniques of communication may come naturally. Effective leader communication can help followers acquire skills, raise their self-image, and also assist leadership practitioners in earning follower respect.

Communication can be given in verbal, nonverbal, and written forms. Teaching required skills; presenting clear rules, policies, and strategies; developing consequences; and using nonverbal techniques, such as a simple smile to acknowledge follower performance, are examples of positive communication techniques. Providing positive and helpful feedback is vital to follower development and performance. Karl, O’Leary-Kelly, & Martocchio (2006) studied the impact of feedback and self-efficacy on performance training in a speed reading classroom. They concluded that the more positive performance feedback received, the greater the increase in individual self-efficacy. Positive feedback of this sort would also be applicable to areas other than the academic classroom. One could apply such feedback to the business world or the sports milieu. Providing positive feedback builds situation specific self-efficacy by letting the follower know whether or not he or she is performing at an acceptable level.

Appreciating that effective communication skills are a necessity, Anshel (1987b) has formulated the “ten commandments” that he believes separates a skilled leader from an inarticulate one. Anshel wants leaders to be honest, not defensive, to be consistent and empathetic, to avoid sarcasm, to praise and criticize behavior rather than personality, to respect the integrity of others, to use positive nonverbal cues, to teach skills, and to interact consistently with all members. By following these ten directives, leaders can have a positive effect on followers’ attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. All of these directives will lead to self-efficacy and, ultimately self-confidence.

Authority Dynamics

Authority dynamics refers to the manner in which followers respond to authority. There are many different styles of authority, ranging from complete democratic approaches to complete autocratic approaches. Because of ever-changing situational factors, leaders and followers can seldom operate under one fixed type of authority. Leaders need to be flexible as followers and situations are constantly changing, requiring leadership to have the ability to modify and adjust. Ginnett’s (1993) research supports this concept of leader flexibility. He found that highly effective leaders used a variety of authority dynamics when beginning to form a team. By doing so, the leader established legitimate authority while at the same time showed team members that he or she can be flexible and apply an appropriate style of authority whenever the situation warranted it.

As a leader establishes a flexible style of authority, there is the creation of a high level of leader competence with followers, verifying that they can expect shifting authority approaches to match the demands of the situation. The leader is actually creating a positive climate, providing a feeling of empowerment among followers as they are assembling confidence in their leader, knowing that he or she will be able to “do the right thing” at the right time. Leaders try to build an optimistic climate that is trusting, supportive, and sensitive. As followers perceive their climate as one that is constructive and one with an effective leader sitting at the helm, levels of individual and group self-efficacy can soar. With confidence in the leader, followers are free to make the most of their time by building up the skills required for peak performance.

Summary and Conclusions

Restatement of the Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to answer the following five questions concerning the impact that leaders may have when building self-efficacy among followers. It will further identify and explore reasons why building self-efficacy is essential.

  1. What is self-efficacy and why is it an important part of leadership?
  2. Does a high level of self-efficacy help to create increased motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness?
  3. Can a leader build a stronger sense of self-efficacy through understanding and capitalizing on individual differences, cognitive strategies, and situational approaches?
  4. Can communication and feedback improve levels of self-efficacy?
  5. In regards to authority dynamics, are there certain styles that may help to improve levels of self-efficacy in individuals or groups?

Understanding Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is a situation specific form of self-confidence that is rather unstable, changing and fluctuating rapidly depending on the circumstance. As levels of self-efficacy and self-perceptions build, so too does overall self-confidence. Increased self-perceptions of self-efficacy impact what type of challenges followers undertake and to what degree they engage and persist with obligations. Research has shown that observed feelings of greater self-efficacy is associated with higher levels of performance, therefore supporting the notion that leaders can make a difference by increasing levels of self-efficacy.

Essential Factors for Increasing Self-efficacy

Determining that self-efficacy is a basic need that all people share in common, leaders must ensure that lower level follower needs are satisfied as they strive to reach higher levels of need which includes self-efficacy. Because observed feelings of greater self-efficacy are tied to higher performance levels, there are three motivation theories to support reasons for increasing self-efficacy. The first is a cognitive theory, which centers on an individual’s central belief system in regards to performing a given task. Those followers exhibiting positive self-efficacy tend to persist and complete set tasks. The second theory, Herzberg’s (1964, 1966, 2003) two-factor theory, is based on job satisfaction. This theory states that it is important to increase levels of motivation and satisfaction by providing motivators that satisfy follower needs. The third theory, organizational justice, contends that followers will find job satisfaction, provided they have a perceived sense of fairness in evaluating performance.

Building higher levels of self-efficacy can help to create increased motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness. In regards to motivation, a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when expectations are set and accomplished at a high level. With accomplishment, feelings of self-worth are enhanced, thus building situation specific self-efficacy. This cycle of constructive cognitive thinking leads to increased motivational levels. Performance is different than motivation in that performance pertains to variables that influence accomplishment levels. Variables such as abilities, skills, and the availability of resources may shape performance levels. Any time followers feel a high degree of self-confidence, similar to times of peak performance, self-efficacy is present along with an equally intense performance level. Team effectiveness starts with successful leadership. Leadership practitioners must create a climate where mental, emotional, and social needs of followers are met. Leaders can create a positive climate by following Ginnett’s (1993, 1996) four components: task structure, group boundaries, norms, and authority; Ginnett believes these to be vital for team effectiveness. Once a leader has built a positive environment, he or she can utilize Ginnett’s Team Effectiveness Leadership Model (TELM) as a tool to continually guide effective behaviors.

Building a Stronger Sense of Self-efficacy

After concluding that a strong sense of self-efficacy helps with motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness, leaders need to understand ways in which to build self-efficacy. A leader can begin by gaining a full appreciation of follower individual differences such as achievement orientation levels, personal values, and intrinsic motivators. Understanding cognitive strategies is critical because leaders can utilize all three cognitive theories, expectancy, equity, and self-efficacy theory, as well as appreciate and undertake the science of goal setting. Lastly, leaders can incorporate situational approaches because they have an opportunity to make a difference by changing the situation.

The two situational approaches that leaders can utilize are the operant approach and empowerment. With the operant approach, leaders can enhance the situation by giving clear directives and expectations, provide effective consequences, assess effective rewards and punishments, maintain perceptional equality, creatively design consequences, and administer consequences in a reliable fashion. The second approach, empowerment, provides followers with a sense of accomplishment by providing individual perceived ownership, which in turn creates internal motivation to succeed.

Communication and Feedback

Effective communication can help followers acquire skills and raise their self image, while also gleaning leader practitioner respect. Leaders can communicate by providing verbal, non-verbal, and written feedback. Providing positive feedback builds situation specific self-efficacy by letting the follower know that he or she has value. Such a belief ultimately builds self-confidence.

Authority Dynamics

Authority dynamics refer to the manner in which followers respond to authority. There are many different styles of authority, but the leader needs to be flexible by using a different style depending on the situation. Realizing that a leader can shift authority styles as needed, followers perceive a climate that is constructive because it is perceived that a quality leader is in control. With confidence in the leader, followers are free to focus on performance measures.

Concluding Statements

In conclusion, it is essential to build self-efficacy to impact motivation, performance levels, and team effectiveness. Increasing self-efficacy builds positive perceptions of self, which builds overall self-confidence, creating positive dynamics in all areas of follower motivation, performance, and team effectiveness. Leadership practitioners should set priority goals to build self-efficacy among their followers, as research clearly demonstrates the overall significance of the essence of increased self-efficacy.


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