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The Prevelence of the Pygmalion Effect in Leadership

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  Term Paper  •  1,346 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,185 Views

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Leadership appears in a variety of ways and there is no one fool-proof method to being a success and effective leader. There are a variety of models that can be utilized in order to become a leader of which people choose to follow. According to Kouzes and Posner, leaders are everywhere one looks and involved in every aspect of society stating that,

Leaders reside in every city and every country, in every position and every place. They're employees and volunteers, young and old, women and men. Leadership knows no racial bounds, no ethnic or cultural borders. We find exemplary leadership everywhere we look. (2007, p. 14)

It is how one achieves leadership that is the variable. All of the great leaders in history did not do so by following the same set of rules, they used their knowledge and inherent capabilities in order to support, guide, and encourage their follows. Today, research is constantly being performed in order to understand and evaluate current models of leadership. Strong leadership benefits companies, organizations, educational institutions, and almost all other aspects of society, and the more effective the leadership, the more that is achieved. The Pygmalion effect was first researched by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in 1968 in order to demonstrate the idea of self-fulfilling prophesies in a educational environment (Rhem, 1999, pg 1). According to Robert Merton (1968), a self-fulfilling prophecy is "… in the beginning, a ‘false' definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original conception come ‘true'", and the Rosenthal and Jacobson study investigated this idea in an elementary school. This phenomenon came to be known as the Pygmalion effect and was defined by George Bernard Shaw in 1987 as "… situations in which students perform better than other students simply because they are expected to do so" (Poornima and Chakraborty, 2010, p. 50). In more recent years, the Pygmalion effect has been researched in regards to its applicability to organizational and managerial situations, and it has been found that Pygmalion leadership is effective in a wide array of situations.

The famous "Oak School Experiment" was conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson in 1968 in an elementary school. Students at the school were given pre-intelligence tests, and the teachers were given the names of the top 20% of students who had the highest scores and showed the most academic promise. In actuality, the names that were given to the teachers were selected at random by the experimenters and had no bearing whatsoever on the actual score that the student received. Eight months later, the students were retested, and it was found that the students' whose names were given to the teachers received significantly higher scores on their tests (Duquesne University, 2009). The conclusion that could be drawn from this experiment was that, "When


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