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Psychological Hardiness

Chapter

Psychological Hardiness

Abstract

Social change is a process by which social groups and societies alter their structure and culture over time. Leadership, looking through the lens of social identity theory, is an example of a mechanism for social change where leaders have the ability to positively shift patterns of behaviors in their followers with increased levels of psychological hardiness. A group takes on the personality of their leader, therefore a leader who exudes the components of hardiness will positively influence fellow group members or subordinates to embrace hardiness and lead to a positive social change. This chapter will explore factors of leadership, and examine how great leaders’ use of psychological hardiness components can result in social level changes in those who follow them.
RUNNING HEAD: A LEADER’S SOCIAL IDENTITY FOR GROUP CHANGE
Psychological Hardiness
Jason L. Judkinsa,b, Brian A. Moorea,c Tyler Collettea
a Department of Psychology, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1 UTSA Circle, San Antonio,
TX 78249, USA
b United States Army, 187th Medical Battalion, Medical Professional Brigade, 2745 Harney Path
STE 187, Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234
c Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7550 IH-
10 West, Suite 1325, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA
*Corresponding author: Jason Judkins, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at San
Antonio, 1 UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA. Tel: +1 210-685-3987. Fax: +1 210-
562-6710. E-mail: Jason.judkins@utsa.edu
2
Abstract
Social change is a process by which social groups and societies alter their structure and culture
over time. Leadership, looking through the lens of social identity theory, is an example of a
mechanism for social change where leaders have the ability to positively shift patterns of
behaviors in their followers with increased levels of psychological hardiness. A group takes on
the personality of their leader, therefore a leader who exudes the components of hardiness will
positively influence fellow group members or subordinates to embrace hardiness and lead to a
positive social change. This chapter will explore factors of leadership, and examine how great
leaders use of psychological hardiness components can result in social level changes in those
who follow them.
Keywords: leadership, hardiness, positive social change
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Psychological Hardiness
The American Sociology Association defines social change as “the process through
which social groups and societies alter their structure and culture over both long and short
timeframes” (American Sociological Association, 2017). Such changes traditionally encompass
macro level elements like war, revolution, significant events such as the civil rights movement,
and aggregate forms of individual differences (Form & Wilterdink, 2019). Psychologists have
long been interested in how individuals can affect change in others due to their social dynamics
and roles. For example, how do great leaders positively shift patterns of behavior in their
followers? What characters of the leader predict positive changes, and can those elements be
learned? The following chapter will explore the role of psychological hardiness in influencing
leadership and examine how leaders that possess high levels of psychological hardiness can
result in social level changes within their subordinates.
1. Psychological Hardiness
Maddi (2006) defines hardiness as, “a cognitive/emotional amalgam constituting a
learned, growth-oriented, personality buffer” (P. 160). It consists of cognitive, emotional, and
behavioral features and describes the capability of individuals to maintain a healthy status during
turbulent times (Bartone, Kelly, & Matthews, 2013).
The theoretical background of hardiness stems from the work of Kobasa and Maddi
(1977), Heidegger (1986), Frankl (1960), and Binswanger (1963) on existential philosophy and
psychology (Bartone et al., 2013). It broadly describes how individuals view themselves and
their surroundings (Bartone et al., 2013). Existential psychology iterates the importance of an
individual’s continuous search for meaning and purpose within an ever-changing and
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unpredictable environment (Maddi, 2004). Existentialists believe that courage is required to
accomplish this goal and psychological hardiness has the necessary components to facilitate
courage in individuals.
Individuals with a high level of hardiness tend to perceive life as meaningful and
purposeful, even during tumultuous times. Bartone and colleagues (2013) state that individuals
with high hardiness levels will perceive a stressful situation as interesting and worthwhile, a
chance to exercise control, and an opportunity for growth. Basically, as conceptualized,
hardiness protects individuals from the negative effects of stress within multiple contexts; such
as sports (Maddi & Hess, 1992), military and first responders (Bartone & Snook, 1999; Florian,
Milkulincer, & Taubman, 1995), and college students (Lifton, Seay, & Bushke, 2000; Maddi et
al., 2006). Psychological hardiness consists of the following three attitudes: control,
commitment, and challenge.
Control deals with the belief that an individual can control, manipulate, or influence
events and is rooted within Lefcourt’s (1973) control beliefs and Rotter’s concept of locus of
control (Rotter, Seeman, & Liverant, 1962). A high level of control leads to individuals with a
high level of self-efficacy that they positively influence change within a new situation (Bartone,
2013). Commitment refers to individuals belief that they are involved in something desirable. It
is influenced by Antonovsky’s (1974) sense of coherence and White’s (1959) self-awareness and
striving for competence. The primary benefit to developing a hardiness-commitment is the
acquisition of a sense of internal balance and confidence. This enables an individual to develop a
realistic assessment during times of trial (Bartone et al., 2013). In addition, commitment can
influence increased attention and adaptability within dynamic environments, leading to the
generation of creative alternative responses to situations.
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Finally, challenge stems from Maddi’s (1967) ‘ideal identity’ and Fiske and Maddi’s
(1961) variety in experience. It encompasses a positive outlook on change and a belief that it is
an exciting opportunity to excel (Skomorovsky & Sudom, 2011). Individuals are motivated to
learn and embrace the challenges of new things. Individuals with a high level of hardiness-
challenge flourish within novel experiences and view them as an opportunity for growth.
Psychological hardiness is not innate and has been proven that it can be learned (Maddi,
2007). Hardiness training has been validated throughout the literature in various populations. The
nursing community has embraced the positive effects of hardiness training. A study by
Henderson (2015) demonstrated that hardiness education of nurses helped prevent burnout and
stress. The training increased hardiness scores as measured by the Personal Views Survey Third
Edition Revised (Maddi et al., 2006) and as hardiness increased, burnout and stress decreased.
Another hardiness training study used the 30-item Cognitive Hardiness Scale and showed similar
effects (Rowe, 1999). The authors employed a 6-week hardiness program designed to curb
burnout in 325 health-care providers. The results revealed lower symptoms of burnout in
individuals that received the training as compared to the control group at two and six months
post-training. Hardiness training has been offered to undergraduates at the University of
California as a quarter course. After completion of the hardiness training, the undergraduates
demonstrated increased levels of hardiness using the HardiSurvey III-R (Maddi & Khoshaba,
2001) and grade point average (Maddi, Harvey, Khoshaba, Fazel, & Resurreccion, 2009).
2. Leadership and Psychological Hardiness
A leader is a person charged with the unique opportunity to have disproportionate
influence, direction, persuasion and inspiration of consensual individuals (Chemers, 2001;
Hogan, Curphy, & Hogan, 1994). Leaders are part of a group and the action of leadership is a
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social interaction between the leader and the subordinate group members (Dasborough &
Ashkanasy, 2002). Broadly speaking, there are three main leadership types: transformational,
transactional, and passive-avoidant.
Transformational leadership places an emphasis on subordinate development through
support and high expectations. In addition, transformational leaders utilize intellect, inspiration,
idealism, and consideration for developing subordinates (Johnsen, Jarle, Staale, Bartone, &
Nissestad, 2009). Transformational leaders are observant of their subordinates’ needs and
encourage future progression and achievement (Chen, Bian, & Hou, 2014). The aim is to
transform the subordinate or environment and encourage subordinates to be accepting of changes
that are congruent with the organization’s mission and vision (Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy,
2014). This is accomplished by providing subordinates the autonomy to problem solve from their
perspective and in the context of a proper articulation of the vision. This type of leadership has
proven to yield higher levels of group efficacy (Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy, 2014).
Conversely, transactional leaders place an emphasis on the contract between the leader
and the subordinate. With this style there comes a reliance on evaluation of performance, as this
dictates the type of response the subordinates receive from the leader. In general, the
transactional leader provides the subordinate with a task and the leader utilizes a positive or
negative reward system to influence subordinate performance during task completion
(Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy, 2014). In addition, transactional leaders may place greater
constraints on their subordinates and reduce perceived opportunities for creativity (Wei, Yuan, &
Di, 2010).
The final leadership style, passive-avoidant or laissez-faire, is described by Bass and
Avolio (1990) as, the leader “generally has neither transactions nor agreements with followers.
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Decisions are often delayed; feedback, rewards, and involvement are absent; and there is no
attempt to motivate followers or to recognize and satisfy their needs” (p. 20). Usually, laissez-
faire leaders lack presence or use a passive and avoidant style. This may contribute to meeting
the needs of their subordinates (Skogstad, Einarsen, Torsheim, Aasland, & Hetland, 2007).
Several studies have assessed the relation between elements of psychological hardiness
and leadership within a military environment. Johnsen et al., (2009) used the Dispositional
Resilience Scale-15-R and examined whether personality hardiness predicted peer ratings of
leadership styles within Norwegian Naval cadets. The authors determined that hardy-
commitment was a predictor of all leadership styles and hardy-challenge positively predicted
transformational and transactional leadership, and negatively predicted passive-avoidant.
Finally, Eid, Johnsen, Bartone, and Nissestad (2007) evaluated the change in
transformational leadership within 66 Norwegian Navy cadets after completing a stressful
military exercise. The authors were interested in whether psychological hardiness facilitated a
change in leadership style. They reported that hardiness was a predictor of transformational and
transactional leadership right after the exercise and the effect lasted for at least six months after.
In addition, hardiness played a role in decreasing laissez-faire style after the military exercise.
3. Psychological Hardiness, Social Identity, and Leadership
Psychological hardiness influences positive change in performance within various roles,
including leadership. The mechanism behind this change can be better understood by
incorporating the social identity theory of leadership. A main tenet of social identity theory of
leadership is that effective leaders are required to understand that they are perceived by their
subordinates as prototypical members of the group and the leaders’ self-perception or identity
8
molds their beliefs, feelings, behaviors, and attitudes towards their group (Hogg, van
Knippenber, & Rast III, 2012; Leary & Tangney, 2003). A firm understanding of self-perception
or identity is important as it provides leaders with the ability to define and manage the identity of
a group and influence subordinates attitudes and behaviors (Balmer, 2008). This joint
involvement is a shared identity between leaders and subordinates, such that all members of the
group share the group’s identity and allow the leader to become the primary voice of that group
(Reicher, Haslam, & Hopkins, 2005). Thus, the leader is an active component for facilitating
change within the social functioning from an internal and external perspective.
Bartone (2006) provided a psychological hardiness framework that incorporates
components of the social identity theory of leadership and illustrates the aspects of psychological
hardiness for influencing positive leadership and social change within a group. He stated that
leaders with high levels of hardiness can positively alter the perceptions of their subordinates and
influence a greater usage of hardiness principles during stressful experiences. For example,
cohesion within a military unit provides an example of how leaders can influence social change
within a group. Within the military, a unit is a group of individuals within the same organization
that are given a prescribed role to achieve a certain mission and there are leaders at various levels
responsible for successful completion of tasks. These leaders are assigned to units by a source
external to the unit and yield the authority or capability to empower and embrace their
subordinates. It is important for military leaders to take an active role in obtaining or managing
the perception of being a prototypical member of the unit. Military leaders have the ability to
define what the unit stands for through the mission and vision statement. The social atmosphere
of a unit takes on the personality of their leader. So, in order for subordinates to perceive their
leader as having a high level of hardiness, the leader needs to interact, demonstrate to
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subordinates that they are committed to them and their future development, and properly
communicate that challenges are necessary, manageable, and beneficial.
Commitment is important because it is related to performance for subordinates.
Perception of a high level of commitment in a leader facilitates higher levels of performance by
subordinates. Examples of increased performance include fewer instances of tardiness, less
subordinate turnover, and higher reported satisfaction in social relationships.
Control also plays a role for leaders making social changes within groups. Leaders can
use control to manage their subordinates perceptions and manipulate the level of cohesion
within the group through direct interactions and involvement in subordinate development. This
can be achieved by the leader providing autonomy for subordinates and provide them with a
sense of control over their mission.
The final component of hardiness, challenge, can be utilized to facilitate group social
change. Leaders need to understand that challenges are necessary to facilitate change within the
group. Leaders who understand this tend to communicate to subordinates that challenges are
positive opportunities to succeed and encourage subordinates to take on challenges. This can lead
to a changed mindset within subordinates that includes increased motivation to take on
challenging tasks and a greater production due to increased ambition.
In summary, a group takes on the personality of their leader; therefore a leader who
embraces and communicates the components of hardiness will positively influence fellow group
members or subordinates to embrace hardiness and lead to a positive social change.
10
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