Regulatory Mode Theory
Regulatory mode theory distinguishes two motivational orientations, namely locomotion and assessment (Higgins et al., 2003; Kruglanski et al., 2000). Locomotion orientation implies the desire to change one's current state, to move from one task to the next quickly, simply in order to change without regard for whether it is the correct thing to do in the context or task. Although movement is the core concern when locomotion tendencies are strong, it is psychological, experiential movement, and primarily directed at moving away from one's current state. That is, the intent is simply to do something else, anything other than the same thing; and a goal or end state is secondary to the desire to experience movement and change (because it creates a sense of flow; Pierro, Pica, Mauro, Kruglanski, & Higgins, 2012).
Because they want to switch to the next task, while in a locomotion mode, people tend to quickly choose means, to initiate action, and to complete tasks (Klem, Higgins, & Kruglanski, 1996; Kruglanski et al., 2000). In contrast, an assessment orientation implies the desire to critically evaluate one's current state, to make comparisons among all alternative goals and means even at the expense of initiating goal-directed action. As a consequence, assessors also tend to procrastinate (Pierro, Giacomantonio, Pica, Kruglanski, & Higgins, 2011). Because they want to make sure they do the right thing, while in an assessment mode, people tend to generate more potential means, to evaluate relevant information, and to complete tasks accurately (Klem et al., 1996; Kruglanski et al., 2000).
Although these examples indicate that locomotion and assessment imply self-regulatory strategies engaged in for their own sake, most task performance would benefit from combining them (Kruglanski et al., 2000; Mauro, Pierro, Mannetti, Higgins, & Kruglanski, 2009). Indeed, Kruglanski and colleagues (2000) found that academic and military successes depended on the interaction of regulatory modes; locomotion and assessment positively predicted achievement when both were high but not when one or both were low. Moreover, Pierro, Pica et al., (2012) recently found that self-reported and managers' ratings of work performance were predicted by the interaction of regulatory modes. Thus, our first aim is to replicate this basic outcome of regulatory modes to objective job performance.
Moreover, it is not always the case that individuals decide by themselves on the manner in which they carry out tasks. Although locomotors versus assessors may be motivated to engage in one particular strategic aspect of a task or job, situational influences on self-regulation are certainly important (Pierro, Pica et al., 2012), and individuals are not consumed by their regulatory modes to the extent that situational or social factors are unable to focus individuals' attention and efforts elsewhere. Particularly in the work place, social influences on self-regulation are abundant. Given the aim of leadership, specifically, to influence follower motivation and goal attainment (Stogdill, 1950), we propose that different types of power leaders that are able to exert may complement the performance of locomotion-oriented and assessment-oriented employees.
Power That Complements Regulatory Modes
We focus on two specific types of power that, as we discuss next, hold the strongest complementary potential with regard to regulatory modes: coercive power and expert power (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1993). Coercive power moves followers on the basis of the threat of negative consequences; it arises when followers perceive their leader as having the ability to administer undesirable consequences or limit desirable consequences. In contrast, expert power implies the ability to influence followers through expertise and superior knowledge—to influence another person by administering information (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 1989). We suggest that these two types of power may be associated with encouraging different action tendencies.
Coercive power is likely to motivate individuals to move away from what they are doing; the threat of negative consequences may signal that a current activity will lead to punishment, heightening the motivation to do something else (Kruglanski, Pierro, & Higgins, 2007). That is, punishment (or the threat of) is a signal that what one is currently doing is wrong, and in order to avoid this potential punishment, individuals may be motivated to do anything other than what they were doing. That is, any movement away from that which might lead to the punishment is a better alternative than what one was doing, even if this goes against one's natural action tendency (cf. Scholer, Zou, Fujita, Stroessner, & Higgins, 2010). Hence, the threat of negative consequences may encourage a locomotion tendency.
Locomotors already engage in this particular type of movement naturally. Yet, assessors are primarily concerned with contemplating what the right course of action is and tend to remain in this state of evaluation. Strongly focusing on assessment may inhibit the tendency to actually initiate change away from evaluation and, accordingly, may not be sufficient to perform well on the overall task (Pierro, Presaghi, Higgins, Klein, & Kruglanski, 2012). Indeed, assessors tend to procrastinate (Pierro et al., 2011). Thus, when it comes to actual successful self-regulation, coercive power may give assessors the push needed to actually initiate change away from their highly evaluative state, to stop assessment and, instead, to initiate goal-directed action.
Expert power is likely to motivate individuals to critically evaluate what they are doing. Informing individuals more deeply about tasks and offering suggestions for alternative courses of action may force the individual to evaluate and compare their task approach with alternatives (Kruglanski et al., 2007). That is, when a leader has the ability to influence someone because this leader has great expertise, the fact that this information is coming from an individual in a formal position of authority may make subordinates consider more information seriously. The ability to provide information on how to best perform a task and what alternative courses of action are, in a sense, forces this information to be considered, also by people who might not normally tend to do so.
Assessors already engage in this particular type of evaluation naturally. Yet, locomotors are primarily concerned with changing and moving from task to task and tend to remain in this state of movement. Strongly focusing on this locomotion aspect of tasks may inhibit a critical evaluation of whether the individual is pursuing the best course of action and, accordingly, may not be sufficient to perform well on the overall task (cf. Pierro, Pica et al., 2012). That is, locomotors do not normally consider many different alternatives (Klem et al., 1996; Kruglanski et al., 2000). Thus, when it comes to actual successful self-regulation, expert power may make locomotors stop and evaluate what they are doing, to discontinue simply moving and, instead, to critically assess courses of action.
As discussed earlier (Pierro, Pica et al., 2012), situational cues may lead individuals to focus on assessment or locomotion, and these situational or social cues may be particularly important when it comes to overall task performance that requires focusing on several strategic aspects. That is, individuals who are highly motivated to engage in one aspect of a task may benefit from situational cues (in this case leaders' type of power), focusing their attention to also consider other aspects of the task.
Several previous studies are relevant to these hypotheses. When asked explicitly, employees tend to prefer behaviors that ‘fit’ (i.e., are similar to) their regulatory modes (Kruglanski et al., 2007): locomotors prefer coercive power, whereas assessors prefer expert power. This previous work indicates that coercive power implies locomotion, whereas expert power implies assessment. Yet, research outside the leadership domain indicates that performance is heightened when collaborating with others who have a complementary (i.e., dissimilar) regulatory mode (Mauro et al., 2009; Pierro, Presaghi et al., 2012). Although the former studies focused on subjective value attached to leaders, these did not study performance; although the latter studies investigated performance, these did not study leadership. Integrating previous work, we suggest that when it comes to actual self-regulation of performance, locomotors may benefit from a leader who complements their orientation and is able to influence them to also focus on assessment. Analogously, assessors may benefit from a leader who complements their orientation and is able to influence them to also focus on locomotion. Complementarity, in this case, refers to the boosting or improving of overall job performance of individuals who are already highly focused on one strategic aspect of their task; and this boosting, we suggest, occurs when leaders have a type of power that has the potential to make subordinates also focus on the other strategic aspect of their task.
First, we hypothesized that employees' assessment and locomotion orientations interact to predict job performance. Second, we expected that locomotors' job performance is complemented by their leader's expert power. Third, we expected that assessors' job performance is complemented by their leader's coercive power. We tested these hypotheses in a customer service call center.