Research on goal-based processing has shown that the goal or "mindset" with which a perceiver enters an interaction can significantly affect the manner in which information about a target is processed. Leaders and others in organizations might be particularly prone to these types of effects because they need to find ways to minimize the amount of information with which they must deal. Also, years of research on leadership style has demonstrated that different leadership styles differentially affect subordinates. This indicates that a critical link has gone unexamined: The effect of leadership style on the leader him/herself, and particularly on the way in which s/he processes information about subordinates. Leadership style, in its more specific form, can be viewed as a goal similar to many of those studied in the research on goal-based processing. It was proposed that leaders with a high-performance goal and those with a satisfied-worker goal would approach their subordinates differently and would process identical subordinate performance and behavior information in different ways.
Subjects played the role of leaders in this experiment. Subjects were instructed to approach the task and the worker with a particular leader goal, either high-performance or satisfied-worker. Leaders had a (fictional) worker with whom they worked throughout the task. The leader gave the worker instructions, and the leader received responses and comments from the worker for each trial. Workers either performed well or poorly, and expressed either satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the task. Thus, a 2 x 2 x 2 between-subjects design was used.
Following the task, subjects filled out several questionnaires. Dependent measures included amount and type of instructions given to the worker, incentives chosen for the worker, information seeking, attributions of worker performance, recall of various worker-relevant measures, worker performance ratings, and worker satisfaction ratings.
Results indicated that leader goal had a significant effect on several of the measures, such as attributions, performance ratings, and amount of instruction given. In some cases, leader goal interacted with performance level and/or satisfaction level. The effects of leader goal should be further examined in order to more fully describe the leadership process.