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Thinking and behavioral styles as described by self versus others: a replication and extension with male and female managers

Abstract

The Life Styles Inventory (LSI) is among the first and most widely used 360 feedback surveys for management and leadership development. The LSI measures 12 thinking and behavioral styles reflecting three, more general, personal orientations that are related to managerial effectiveness. Previous studies demonstrated the reliability and validity of an early version of the LSI, which was completed by both self and others using paper-based surveys. The current study replicates the original reliability and validity analyses with data on a recent sample of 6899 male and female managers and their respondents using the current, online version of the survey. Analyses on these data were conducted for the total sample and for male and female managers separately. The results of the current study confirm the three-factor structure—Constructive, Passive/Defensive, and Aggressive/Defensive—identified by previous studies. In addition, the current version of the LSI scales demonstrates levels of internal consistency reliability, inter-rater reliability, consensual validity (between and self and others), and criterion-related validity that are as strong or slightly stronger than those reported in earlier studies. The results show that Constructive ways of thinking and behaving are positively related to the effectiveness of both male and female managers and that Aggressive/Defensive thinking and behavior detracts from their effectiveness. The results for Passive/Defensive thinking and behavioral styles and effectiveness are more complex and somewhat different for males versus females. The strengths and limitations of the study are discussed along with the implications for using the LSI in management development and in future research on gender and leadership.

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Code availability

Not applicable.

Data availability

The data for this project are proprietary but may be obtained with Data Use Agreements with Human Synergistics. Researchers interested in access to the data may contact the corresponding author. It can take some months to negotiate data use agreements and gain access to the data. The author will assist with any reasonable replication attempts.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data assembly and analysis were performed by Janet L. Szumal, Cheryl A. Boglarsky, and Robert A. Cooke. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Janet L. Szumal and all authors commented on subsequent versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cheryl A. Boglarsky.

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Conflicts of interest

The authors report affiliation or involvement in an organization with a financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript. Specifically, Janet L. Szumal and Cheryl A. Boglarsky have affiliation with the publisher of the materials discussed and examined in the manuscript as employees of Human Synergistics, Inc., the publisher and distributor of the Life Styles Inventory®. Robert A. Cooke is owner and CEO of Human Synergistics.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Life styles inventory ™ (LSI) style descriptions (sample items in Italics)

Constructive

The Humanistic-Encouraging style reflects an interest in the growth and development of people, a high positive regard for them, and sensitivity to their needs. People with this style devote energy to counseling and coaching others, interact with others in a thoughtful and considerate way, and provide them with support and encouragement. (encourages others, willing to take time with people).

The Affiliative style reflects an interest in developing and sustaining pleasant relationships with others. People with this style share their thoughts and feelings with others, are friendly and cooperative, and make others feel like they are part of the team. (cooperative, likes to include others in activities).

The Achievement style is based on the need to attain high quality results on challenging projects, the belief that outcomes are linked to one’s effort rather than chance, and the tendency to personally set challenging yet realistic goals. People exhibiting this style think ahead and plan, explore alternatives before acting, and learn from their mistakes. (enjoys a challenge, sets own goals).

The Self-Actualizing style is based on needs for personal growth, self-fulfillment, and the realization of one’s potential. People exhibiting this style demonstrate a strong desire to learn and experience things, creative yet realistic thinking, and a balanced concern for people and tasks. (optimistic & realistic, high personal integrity).

Passive/Defensive

The Approval style reflects a need to be accepted and a tendency to tie one’s self-worth to being liked by others. People with this style try very hard to please others, make a good impression, and be agreeable or obedient. (generous to a fault, agrees with everyone).

The Conventional style reflects a preoccupation with conforming and “blending in” with the environment to avoid calling attention to oneself. People with this style tend to rely on established routines and procedures, prefer to maintain the status quo, and desire a secure and predictable work environment. (thinks rules more important than ideas, conforming).

The Dependent style reflects a need for self-protection coupled with the belief that one has little direct or personal control over important events. People who exhibit this style (possibly as a result of recent changes in their personal or work lives) allow others to make decisions for them, depend on others for help, and willingly obey orders. (obeys too willingly, very respectful to superiors).

The Avoidance style reflects apprehension, a strong need for self-protection, and a propensity to withdraw from threatening situations. People with this style “play it safe” and minimize risks, shy away from group activities and conversations, and react to situations in an indecisive or non-committal way. (evasive, leaves decisions to others).

Aggressive/Defensive

The Oppositional style reflects a need for security that manifests itself in a questioning, critical and even cynical manner. Though people exhibiting this style ask tough questions that can lead to better ideas, they might also emphasize even minor flaws, use criticism to gain attention, and blame others for their own mistakes. (slow to forgive a wrong, opposes new ideas).

The Power style reflects needs for prestige and influence and the tendency to equate self-worth with controlling others. People with strong tendencies along this style dictate (rather than guide) the actions of others, try to run everything themselves, and treat others in aggressive and forceful ways—which, ironically, limits their true influence. (runs things by self, abrupt).

The Competitive style is based on a need to protect one’s status by comparing oneself to others, outperforming them, and never appearing to lose. People with this style seek recognition and praise from others, view even non-competitive situations as a contest or challenge to “prove” themselves, and try to maintain a sense of superiority. (overestimates ability, gets upset over losing).

The Perfectionistic style is based on the need to attain flawless results and avoid failure, and involves the tendency to equate self-worth with the attainment of unreasonably high standards. People who exhibit this style are preoccupied with details, place excessive demands on themselves and others, and tend to show impatience, frustration, and indifference to the needs of others. (de-emphasizes feelings, impatient with own errors).

Research and Development by: Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. and J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D. Style names, descriptions and items are copyrighted © and used by permission. From J. C. Lafferty (1986), Life Styles Inventory Self-Development Guide, Plymouth MI USA: Human Synergistics. All Rights Reserved.

Appendix 2

See Table

Table 13 Correlations between LSI 1/LSI 2 (in Italics) and effectiveness items

13.

Appendix 3

See Table

Table 14 Passive/defensive styles (LSI 1) of most effective (Top 10%) versus least effective (Bottom 10%) managers: current sample results based on scales with all items versus without changed items

14.

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Szumal, J.L., Boglarsky, C.A. & Cooke, R.A. Thinking and behavioral styles as described by self versus others: a replication and extension with male and female managers. Manag Rev Q (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11301-021-00210-3

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Keywords

  • Life styles inventory
  • 360 feedback
  • Gender differences
  • Managerial effectiveness
  • Leadership development