An exploratory study of prevailing leadership styles of kazakhstan students majoring in management and students majoring in accounting

It is not a secret that there are former accountants among senior executives of many big companies: accounting provides a superb training held for executives because it cuts across all facets of the organization including planning, control, and decision-making (Horngren et al.2000). For instance, the percentage of Fortune 5001 CEOs who spent the

first few years of their careers developing a strong foundation in finance was about 30% in 2011 (http://www.forbes.com); whereas the percentage of FTSE 1002 CEOs with financial background is even higher – it increased from 31% in 2008 to 49% in 2011 and 52% in 2012 (http://www.roberthalf.co.uk). It means that those students who study accounting today have high chances of being promoted to the positions of top managers tomorrow.

However, it is also known that managers deal not only with numbers and papers, but also with people. Fred Luthans (1988) – after studying more than 450 managers – concluded that all managers [without exclusion] are engaged in the following four activities:

  • traditional management;
  • communication;
  • human resource management; and
  • networking.

Moreover, Luthans found out that effective managers – defined in terms of quantity and quality of their performance and the satisfaction and commitment of employees – devote most of their time (44%) to communication.

Robbins and Judge (2011) state that people in same occupation or categories tend to hold similar values. If it is true, then students majoring in accounting should have val-

1 Fortune 500 is Fortunes magazine’s annual list of the top 500 U.S. companies, ranked by revenues.

2 FTSE 100 Index (also called FTSE 100) is a share index of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization.

ues that are different from values of students majoring in management since they chose to have different occupations. Therefore, this paper raises an important question of whether students majoring in accounting are less people(or relationship-) oriented, but rather are more numbers(or task-) oriented than students majoring in management. This question is important because if it holds to be true, then it could mean that students majoring in accounting – after being promoted to top managerial positions – may face a problem dealing with “human” factor and therefore may need to develop their human skills now – while they are at school – in order to become effective executives in future.

Methodology

In order to answer this question, B.Sc. students enrolled in four different courses were asked to complete the LPC questionnaire (Fiedler and Chemers, 1984). Students enrolled in Performance Management, Management Accounting I, and Intermediate Financial Accounting I were asked to fill-in the questionnaire outside of class time on a voluntary basis, while students enrolled in Leadership and Motivation were given the opportunity to complete it during class time because this activity served as an introduction to discussion of contingency leadership theory – one of the course topics. As a result, out of one hundred and eighty four students registered to all four courses, one hundred students took part in the survey – 42 students majoring in management and 58 students majoring in accounting. All of them were students of a business college of a university located in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Their age was between 19 and 21.

Students were asked to think of the one person with whom he or she could work least well in job or in student project, in other words the person with whom he or she had the most difficulty getting a job done and with whom he or she would least want to work. Then a student had to describe this person as

this person appears to him or her by circling the appropriate number from 1 to 8 for each of 18 items, where 8 points indicates the most favorable rating. The items in the LPC scale are: (1) pleasant/unpleasant, (2) friendly/ unfriendly, (3) rejecting/ accepting, (4) tense/relaxed, (5) distant/ close, (6) cold/ warm, (7) supportive/hostile, (8) boring/ interesting, (9) quarrelsome/ harmonious, (10) gloomy/ cheerful, (11) open/ guarded, (12) backbiting/ loyal,

untrustworthy/ trustworthy, (14) considerate/ inconsiderate, (15) nasty/ nice, (16) agreeable/ disagreeable, (17) insincere/ sincere, and (18) kind/unkind.

Student’s LPC score was calculated by adding all numbers he or she circled on the 18 scales. If his or her score was 64 or below, he

or she is a low LPC – a “task oriented” leader; if his or her score was 73 or above, this student is a high LPC or a “relationship-oriented” leader; if, however, a student’s score was between 65 and 72, he or she is a mixture of both, meaning that it is up to this student to determine which leadership style is his or her.

Findings and Discussion

All students returned back useable questionnaires. Thus, a response rate of 100 per cent was achieved. The survey was conducted anonymously. All students participating in the survey were in their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year of study, majoring either in management or accounting; the majority of respondents in each category were females:

Table 1. Demographic data – students majoring in management

 

B.Sc. 2

B.Sc. 3

B.Sc. 4

Total

Female

5%

19%

50%

74%

Male

0%

12%

14%

26%

Total

5%

31%

64%

100%

Table 2. Demographic data – students majoring in accounting

 

B.Sc. 2

B.Sc. 3

B.Sc. 4

Total

Female

2%

36%

22%

60%

Male

5%

21%

14%

40%

Total

7%

57%

36%

100%

The research findings revealed that:

On average, students majoring in management are “relationship-oriented” leaders: mean = 79.76 (SD = 24.01); whereas students majoring in accounting – on average – are a mixture of both “relationship-oriented” and “task-oriented” leaders: mean = 70.00 (SD = 20.52).

A closer examination confirmed that the majority of students majoring in management are “relationship-oriented; it, however, also revealed that the majority of students majoring in accounting are “task-oriented” leaders rather than a mixture of both types:

Table 3. Frequency distribution of leader types among students majoring in management and accounting

Students majoring in:

“Relationship oriented” leaders

“Taskoriented” leaders

Mixture of both types of leaders

Management

52.4%

35.7%

11.9%

Accounting

36.2%

41.4%

22.4%

LPC’s portrait of an average student majoring in management is more kind (less unkind), more pleasant (less unpleasant), more agreeable (less disagreeable), more open (less guarded), more trustworthy (less untrustworthy), more sincere (less insincere), more interesting (less boring), more accepting (less rejecting), more close (less distant), more warm (less cold), more considerate (less inconsiderate), and less relaxed (more tense) rather than LPC’s portrait of an average student majoring in accounting.

At the same time, LPC’s portrait of an average student majoring in management and LPC’s portrait of an average student majoring in accounting have little difference in terms of how loyal (backbiting), friendly (unfriendly), supportive (hostile), harmonious (quarrelsome), cheerful (gloomy), and nice (nasty) he or she is:

Table 4. Differences in mean values of students majoring in management and students majoring in accounting presented in the descending order

Dif

Management mean

Accounting mean

Items

1,07

5,12

4,05

Kind (8) vs. Unkind (1)

0,92

4,52

3,60

Pleasant (8) vs. Unpleasant (1)

0,87

4,67

3,79

Agreeable (8) vs. Disagreeable (1)

0,86

4,57

3,71

Open (8) vs. Guarded (1)

0,85

4,33

3,48

Untrustworthy (1) vs. Trustworthy (8)

0,72

4,50

3,78

Insincere (1) vs. Sincere (8)

0,68

4,40

3,72

Boring (1) vs. Interesting (8)

0,67

4,36

3,69

Rejecting (1) vs. Accepting (8)

0,66

4,26

3,60

Distant (1) vs. Close (8)

0,63

4,17

3,53

Cold (1) vs. Warm (8)

0,59

4,21

3,62

Considerate (8) vs. Inconsiderate (1)

0,49

4,48

3,98

Backbiting (1) vs. Loyal (8)

0,44

4,86

4,41

Friendly (8) vs. Unfriendly (1)

0,41

4,05

3,64

Supportive (8) vs. Hostile (1)

0,24

4,05

3,81

Quarrelsome (1) vs. Harmonious (8)

0,21

4,26

4,05

Gloomy (1) vs. Cheerful (8)

0,17

4,17

4,00

Nasty (1) vs. Nice (8)

(0,73)

4,79

5,52

Tense (1) vs. Relaxed (8)

The most frequently used positive characteristic to describe their LPC by students majoring in management was “kind”: 21% gave maximum of 8 points to describe their LPC as kind; the most frequently used negative characteristics to describe their LPC by students majoring in management were “boring” and “nasty”: 17% gave minimum –

1 point – to describe their LPC as boring and nasty:

Table 5. Frequency distribution of answers given by students majoring in management

#

Item:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1

Pleasant (8)/ Unpleasant (1)

2%

5%

24%

29%

10%

17%

7%

7%

2

Friendly (8)/ Unfriendly (1)

7%

2%

12%

26%

17%

12%

12%

12%

3

Rejecting (1)/ Accepting (8)

12%

7%

10%

24%

14%

24%

5%

5%

4

Tense (1)/ Relaxed (8)

7%

7%

14%

14%

17%

19%

12%

10%

5

Distant (1)/ Close (8)

10%

17%

14%

17%

17%

5%

10%

12%

6

Cold (1)/ Warm (8)

10%

12%

17%

21%

14%

12%

10%

5%

7

Supportive (8)/ Hostile (1)

5%

19%

21%

19%

12%

7%

14%

2%

8

Boring (1)/ Interesting (8)

17%

19%

10%

2%

7%

19%

12%

14%

9

Quarrelsome (1)/ Harmonious (8)

5%

19%

14%

26%

17%

7%

7%

5%

10

Gloomy (1)/ Cheerful (8)

12%

12%

14%

17%

14%

12%

14%

5%

11

Open (8)/ Guarded (1)

7%

12%

19%

12%

12%

10%

24%

5%

12

Backbiting (1)/ Loyal (8)

5%

12%

26%

10%

14%

14%

7%

12%

13

Untrustworthy (1)/ Trustworthy (8)

14%

7%

26%

0%

14%

21%

7%

10%

14

Considerate (8)/ Inconsiderate (1)

10%

10%

14%

19%

26%

10%

10%

2%

15

Nasty (1)/ Nice (8)

17%

10%

12%

17%

19%

7%

12%

7%

16

Agreeable (8)/ Disagreeable (1)

7%

12%

12%

14%

12%

24%

12%

7%

17

Insincere (1)/ Sincere (8)

2%

19%

19%

5%

19%

19%

10%

7%

18

Kind (8)/ Unkind (1)

2%

5%

19%

14%

21%

10%

7%

21%

The most frequently used positive characteristic to describe their LPC by students majoring in accounting was “relaxed”: 24% gave maximum of 8 points to describe their LPC as relaxed; the most frequently used negative characteristic to describe their LPC by students majoring in accounting was “unpleasant”: 19% gave minimum – i.e. 1 point – to describe their LPC as unpleasant:

Table 6. Frequency distribution of answers given by students majoring in accounting

#

Item:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1

Pleasant (8)/ Unpleasant (1)

19%

12%

21%

16%

14%

10%

7%

2%

2

Friendly (8)/ Unfriendly (1)

3%

14%

17%

21%

16%

16%

5%

9%

3

Rejecting (1)/ Accepting (8)

9%

21%

19%

14%

26%

7%

5%

0%

4

Tense (1)/ Relaxed (8)

3%

7%

7%

19%

12%

9%

19%

24%

5

Distant (1)/ Close (8)

16%

12%

26%

19%

9%

10%

7%

2%

6

Cold (1)/ Warm (8)

17%

12%

22%

16%

21%

7%

3%

2%

7

Supportive (8)/ Hostile (1)

12%

21%

21%

17%

10%

7%

10%

2%

8

Boring (1)/ Interesting (8)

17%

14%

16%

14%

24%

7%

5%

3%

9

Quarrelsome (1)/ Harmonious (8)

12%

7%

22%

28%

16%

10%

3%

2%

10

Gloomy (1)/ Cheerful (8)

9%

16%

21%

12%

19%

12%

9%

3%

11

Open (8)/ Guarded (1)

14%

24%

14%

16%

10%

7%

12%

3%

12

Backbiting (1)/ Loyal (8)

10%

10%

19%

24%

17%

9%

7%

3%

13

Untrustworthy (1)/ Trustworthy (8)

17%

16%

22%

14%

14%

14%

2%

2%

14

Considerate (8)/ Inconsiderate (1)

10%

14%

26%

22%

17%

5%

2%

3%

15

Nasty (1)/ Nice (8)

5%

12%

19%

24%

28%

7%

3%

2%

16

Agreeable (8)/ Disagreeable (1)

17%

17%

16%

16%

14%

3%

9%

9%

17

Insincere (1)/ Sincere (8)

14%

16%

21%

9%

24%

9%

5%

3%

18

Kind (8)/ Unkind (1)

7%

14%

17%

26%

14%

14%

5%

3%

The study conducted for this paper provided a valuable insight into the prevailing leadership style of business students studying management and business students studying accounting. In general, the results of the study suggest that the majority of students majoring in management have a tendency of being “relationship-oriented” leaders or managers in future. The majority of students majoring in accounting, however, exhibited an inclination of being “task-oriented” leaders or managers in future. Taking into consideration that many of the current executives have strong financial or accounting background – due to the need to understand the numbers behind the business (http: //www. roberthalf. co. uk) – it is logical to assume that this tendency will continue and those who study accounting today, will take managerial positions tomorrow. Since there are many students with “task-oriented” leadership style among those who study accounting, they will be inclined to deal primarily with a “technical” side of a question and may even have problems dealing with “human” side of a question when/if they are promoted to executive positions. This may lead to serious problems not only for them, but also for their subordinates and their organizations as a whole. In order to avoid this unfortunate scenario, however, students who are currently majoring in accounting should be advised not to disregard an opportunity to take courses in management and take training in developing interpersonal skills necessary for being an effective manager. They must be taught to take a responsibility for managing their own careers.

Limitations and Conclusion

The main limitation of this study is that it is based on answers given by business students of one university only. In spite of this, it is still possible to conclude that the study gave an important understanding of the dominant leadership styles of Kazakhstan students majoring in management and students majoring in accounting. It revealed that the majority of students majoring in management are “relationship-oriented”, while the majority of students majoring in accounting are “taskoriented”. This suggests that those young people who study accounting today may face a problem dealing with “human” factor if they are promoted to management positions in future (as frequently happens). Thus, they are advised to pay attention to developing their interpersonal skills while they are still studying.

 

REFERENCES

  1. Annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker (2012), available at http://www. roberthalf. co. uk, accessed in January 2013
  2. Fiedler, F.E. and Chemers, M. M. (1984), Improving Leadership Effectiveness: The Leader Match Concept, New York: Wiley
  3. Horngren, C. T., Foster, G., Datar, S. M., and Teall, H. D. (2000), Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, Prentice Hall
  4. Luthans, F. (1988), Successful vs. Effective Real Managers, Academy of Management Executive, May: 127-132. Cited in Robbins, S. P. and Judge, T. A. (2011), Organizational Behavior, Prentice Hall
  5. Robbins, S. P. and Judge, T. A. (2011), Organizational Behavior, Prentice Hall
  6. Sanders, J. S. (2011), The Path to Becoming a Fortune 500 CEO, available at http://www. forbes. com, accessed in January 2013
Year: 2013
City: Almaty
Category: Pedagogy