Perspective of supervision

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Chapter 1 of your text, Supervision in Social Work (linked in Resources), introduces you to many aspects of social work supervision including definitions, functions and objectives, ecology, cultural aspects, demography, and stakeholders. After having read the chapter and the Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision, what is your perspective of supervision? What key considerations of supervision stand out to you and why? Be specific in your discussion and cite sources relevant to your points.

Transformational Leadership in the
Social Work Context: The Importance
of Leader Continuity and Co-Worker
Support

Susanne Tafvelin*, Ulf Hyvönen, and Kristina Westerberg

Susanne Tafvelin is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Psychology at Umeå University in
Sweden. Her thesis is devoted to leadership in social work with a focus on transformational

leadership. Ulf Hyvönen, Ph.D., is research director at the Field Research and Development
Unit at Umeå Social Services in Sweden. Besides his interest in questions concerning the

interplay between research and practice, he has been engaged in national and international
research on child welfare and child protection for many years. Kristina Westerberg, Ph.D., is
currently Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at Umeå University. She also

holds a part-time position as research leader at the Field Research and Development Unit at
Umeå Social Services in Sweden, where her area of research concerns organisation, learning

and leadership.

*Correspondence to Susanne Tafvelin, Department of Psychology, Umeå University, 901 87
Umeå, Sweden. E-mail: [email protected]

Abstract

Social work leadership has attracted growing attention in both social work practice and

research. As social service organisations have changed in a variety of ways during the last

decades, knowledge of how leaders should act in these transformed organisations is

crucial. However, few empirical studies have examined what kind of leadership these

changed organisations benefit from and how the continuing organisational change

might affect the impact leaders have. The present study aimed at exploring the effect

of transformational leadership of first line managers in a social work setting. We used

a randomised sample of 158 employees in a Swedish social service organisation, and

examined the direct and indirect effect of transformational leadership on two important

employee attitudes—commitment and role clarity. The results demonstrate the contri-

bution of transformational leadership in creating a workplace where employees are

committed and know what their assignment is. Interaction effects of leader continuity

and co-worker support indicate the need for some stability in the organisation in

order to increase the positive influence transformational leaders have on employees.

This study has implications for leadership training in social work and is a contribution

# The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of

The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.

British Journal of Social Work (2014) 44, 886–904
doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcs174
Advance Access publication November 19, 2012

to the co-operative knowledge development of leadership in social service

organisations.

Keywords: Transformational leadership, social service organisations, leader continuity,

co-worker support

Accepted: August 2012

Introduction

Leadership in social work has attracted growing attention from both re-
search and practice (Lawler, 2007; Rank and Hutchison, 2000; Walter
et al., 2004). One reason for this newly awakened interest in leadership
may be the many changes social service organisations have undergone
during the last decades. With the introduction of flat organisations, new
public management and the aim to develop an evidence-based organisation
(Alexanderson et al., 2009; Lambers, 2002; Wolmesjö, 2005), the need for
knowledge of how to lead these transformed organisations has increased.
With even more anticipated organisational changes in the future due to
changing legal, social, technological and competitive circumstances, good
leadership is seen as being the key to retain employees and to handle the
rapid pace of change in today’s social service organisations (Lawler, 2007).

Although the importance of social work leadership has been recognised
by many scholars, knowledge of effective and successful leadership in these
organisations is still scarce. The few studies that have been conducted have
examined the effects of leadership in social work on a very limited set of
outcomes (e.g. satisfaction and service effectiveness) and are mostly from
the USA (e.g. Elpers and Westhuis, 2008; Yoo and Brooks, 2005),
whereas effects of leadership in European social service organisations
remain more or less unexplored. Also, while the methods in social work
are debated in the spirit of evidence-based practice in order to see its
effects (e.g. Mullen and Shuluk, 2011), leadership has, surprisingly, been
left out of the discussion. The need for further knowledge about good lead-
ership for social service organisations is clear (Lawler, 2007).

The purpose of this study was to examine effects of leadership in social
work on employee attitudes in a Swedish context. We did this by studying
the impact of first line managers’ transformational leadership, a leadership
model based on vision and empowerment (Bass and Riggio, 2006), on em-
ployee role clarity and commitment in a Swedish social service organisa-
tion, which includes social welfare, elderly care and care of the disabled.
Role clarity refers to the extent to which employees clearly understand
what is expected of them at work (e.g. King and King, 1990). Commitment
is defined as ‘the relative strength of an individual’s identification with and
involvement in a particular organization’ (Mowday et al., 1982, p. 27).

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 887

Given the challenging future with a changing environment, we will argue
that role clarity and commitment of employees will be essential for handling
the changes and preventing turnover in these organisations.

Leadership in social work

The discussion of social work leadership more or less began with Brilliant’s
(1986) analysis of social workers’ resistance to take on leadership roles. She
saw leadership as the missing ingredient in social work education but
emphasised that leadership is an important aspect of the professional role
for social workers. Analysing the roots of leadership as a non-theme in
social work, she suggested that social work students were passionate
about direct practice with clients, not with assuming leadership roles. She
also put forward ideological constraints, a sense of powerlessness and a
general lack of status in society as barriers for social workers to become
leaders. Her conclusion was that schools of social work must take on re-
sponsibility in developing leadership potential among social workers.

Since then, there have been dramatic changes within social service orga-
nisations with consequences for the leadership role. During the two last
decades, a wave of new ideologies, referred to as new public management
or managerialism, has found its way into the public sector. By importing
business models into the public sector and making its organisations more
market-oriented, the goal was to increase effectiveness and control
(Edwards, 1998). The idea was to modernise the public sector in terms of
making these organisations accountable, flexible and transparent.
However, the usefulness of business models in social service organisations
has been debated and many scholars argue that public sector organisations
differ too much from their private counterparts to make the continuing
import of models worthwhile (Langan, 2000; Persson and Westrup, 2009).
For leaders, the shift to managerialism resulted in increased responsibility
in general and more specifically in responsibility to reach goals (Lawler,
2007). A study of Swedish first line managers in elderly care discovered
that, with increased responsibility for budget and staff, the leadership
role took an administrative turn, with increased loyalty upwards in the or-
ganisation (Karlsson, 2006). Healy (2002) argues that, with managerialism
and its ideals of money and efficiency at heart, it becomes even more im-
portant for social workers to take on leadership roles to promote the
softer values of human service organisations.

Another line of research has investigated what kind of leadership differ-
ent stakeholders would like to see in social work. Wolmesjö (2005) com-
pared the expectations of politicians on leaders on the one hand with
expectations of employees on the other hand. The results demonstrated
that politicians expected leaders to be managers, in that sense that they
wanted leaders to focus on the administrative tasks. On the contrary,

888 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

employees asked for a leadership role with focus on the relational aspects,
which is in line with what is traditionally meant by leadership. Rank and
Hutchison (2000) asked leaders themselves what kind of leadership they
thought was appropriate in social work. The answers painted a picture of
a leadership based on vision, promoting values of the profession, motivating
and stimulating employees, and a leader who was able to facilitate change.
The authors also reported that the leaders saw social work leadership as dif-
ferent from other professions in terms of being more inclusive and altruistic.

Even though these kinds of studies give valuable and important insights
into the premises of social work leadership, they do not offer any informa-
tion of what kind of leadership would be effective, or have positive effects
for employees and clients. One approach to study effects of leadership in
social work used by a small body of recent studies has been to apply trans-
formational leadership theory.

Transformational leadership in social work

Transformational leadership theory was introduced by Bernard Bass in the
mid-1980s and is today one of the most thoroughly researched leadership
models (Bass, 1999; Bass and Riggio, 2006). In essence, transformational
leadership is based on a strong identification of the follower with the
leader and the social unit in which the leadership takes place. In this
process, the leader raises follower awareness and understanding of moral
values and inspiring visions, and encourages followers to transcend their
own personal goals and interests for the collective good (Bass, 1985). The
concept of transformational leadership is composed of four dimensions:
idealised influence (charismatic role modelling), inspirational motivation
(articulating an appealing vision), intellectual stimulation (promoting cre-
ativity and innovation) and individualised consideration (coaching and
mentoring) (Bass and Riggio, 2006). Research has demonstrated the useful-
ness of transformational leadership in many different types of organisations
and countries and established a range of positive effects of transformational
leadership, such as on organisational effectiveness, performance, innov-
ation, trust and job satisfaction (Fuller et al., 1996; Lowe et al., 1996). At
first, transformational leadership was associated with top leadership in
the private sector, but research evidence points in a different direction. In
a meta-analysis of transformational leadership and effectiveness, the
authors found, to their surprise, that transformational leadership was
more common in the public sector and among first line managers, not the
CEOs (Lowe et al., 1996).

Even though the numbers of studies using transformational leadership
theory in social work settings are increasing, these studies are still scarce,
scattered and rarely refer to each other. Most of the studies originate from
the USA and Canada and have explored the influence of transformational

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 889

leadership in social work with respect to job satisfaction and satisfaction
with the leader, and found positive relationships (Elpers and Westhuis,
2008; Gellis, 2001; Mary, 2005). Another set of studies examined the
effect of transformational leadership on service effectiveness. In a study
from the USA, service effectiveness was measured by the number of
out-of-home placements of children and it was found that a transformation-
al leader together with support and good work routines decreased the
number of children being placed out of home (Yoo and Brooks, 2005).
An Israeli study, which measured service effectiveness in terms of imple-
mentation of plans, goal attainment and client empowerment, found
weak but positive correlations between transformational leadership and
effectiveness (Boehm and Yoels, 2009). In Europe, studies of transformation-
al leadership in social work are rare. A few studies have been conducted
in Danish elderly care and supported the usefulness of transformational lead-
ership with regard to employee well-being (Nielsen and Munir, 2009; Nielsen
et al., 2008).

We suggest that employee role clarity and commitment will be two im-
portant employee attitudes for social service organisations in the future,
for at least two reasons. First, social service organisations face a challenging
future with a rapidly changing environment where, in order to keep high
performance and service quality levels, it will be important for employees
to know what their specific role in the organisation is (Mukherjee and Mal-
hotra, 2006) and to be committed to the organisation, as this buffers against
stress and job displeasure during organisational change (Begley and Czajka,
1993). Second, studies of turnover among social workers have demon-
strated the importance of both commitment and role clarity in retaining
employees (Mor Barak et al., 2001; Tham, 2007), which was suggested to
be one of the most important challenges for social work (Nissly et al.,
2004; Tham, 2007). High turnover rates among social workers were
reported in the USA, Great Britain and Sweden (Tham, 2007), which
may result in higher costs, reduced effectiveness and poorer outcomes
(Balfour and Neff, 1993; Drake and Yadama, 1996; Powell and York,
1992). Both commitment and role clarity have been positively related to
transformational leadership (Viator, 2001; Dumdum et al., 2002). By
being visionary and formulating clear goals, the transformational leader
helps employees to understand their role in the organisation (Viator,
2001). Transformational leaders are able to increase organisational commit-
ment by promoting higher levels of intrinsic motivation (Shamir et al.,
1993), inspiring loyalty, and recognising and appreciating the different
needs of each follower to develop his or her personal potential (Bass and
Avolio, 1994; Yammarino et al., 1993). Based on the above arguments,
we propose:

Hypothesis 1: Transformational leadership is positively related to role
clarity and organisational commitment.

890 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

In addition to examining the direct effect of transformational leadership
on role clarity and commitment, we also want to explore the influence of
organisational factors that may facilitate or hinder the effect of transform-
ational leadership in social work. In general, less is known of the processes
by which transformational leaders exert their influence on employee atti-
tudes (Avolio et al., 2004). One such factor is the continuing change in
social service organisations both in the past and anticipated in the future
(Lambers, 2002; Lawler, 2007; Wolmesjö, 2005). At the employee level,
these changes can have a range of consequences in terms of changing
work tasks, leader or work group. We examined the interaction effect of
two aspects that may be affected by a turbulent organisational environment:
leader continuity and perceived co-worker support. Leader continuity, in
terms of time with current leader, has been suggested to be one of the
most important but overlooked situational variables affecting transform-
ational leadership (Hughes et al., 2006). Transformational leadership does
not happen overnight and it takes time for leaders to build trusting relation-
ships, to develop and articulate their vision, to heighten followers’ emotion-
al level and empower them to fulfil the vision. These arguments are
supported by a study of Ling and colleagues (2008), who found that leader-
ship tenure moderated the relationship between transformational leader-
ship and firm performance. Therefore, we suggest that the longer the
employee is exposed to a transformational leader, the larger the effect
will be on commitment and role clarity.

Co-worker support refers to the extent to which employees can count on
their colleagues to help and support them when needed (Liao et al., 2004).
Co-worker support may be hampered by organisational change, as it needs
connectedness to develop (Langford et al., 1997), which is hindered if work
groups are frequently reorganised. Co-worker support, which includes
caring, tangible aid and information (Ducharme and Martin, 2000; Parris,
2003), may increase employees’ comfort within the organisation by fulfilling
needs for esteem, approval and affiliation (Stinglhamber and Vanden-
berghe, 2003), and thereby enhancing commitment by making employees
having an emotionally satisfying work experience, which, over time, trans-
lates into an emotional attachment to their employing organisation (Rous-
seau and Aubé, 2010). Empirical studies also confirm the positive
relationship between co-worker support and commitment (Ng and Soren-
sen, 2008; Rousseau and Aubé, 2010). Support from co-workers has also
been suggested to protect or shield the individual employee from the
worst aspects of role ambiguity (Cobb, 1976) or, in other words, spending
time with co-workers may help employees to better understand their role
in the organisation, and therefore enhance their role clarity. Empirical
support for this suggestion can be found in a meta-analysis that showed
that satisfaction with co-workers decreases role ambiguity (Fischer and
Gitelson, 1983) and thereby increases role clarity. In line with this, we
expect that co-worker support will strengthen and enhance the effect of

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 891

transformational leadership on commitment and role clarity. Therefore, we
suggest:

Hypothesis 2: The positive effect of transformational leadership on role
clarity and commitment is moderated by leader continuity and co-worker
support.

Method
Sample and procedure

The context of this study is a social service organisation in a larger Swedish
municipality, which provides three main services—social welfare, elderly
care and care of the disabled. The organisation had in the beginning of
2010 around 2,700 employees. Three hundred and eighty-two participants
with permanent or long-term temporary employment were randomly
selected from the staff records and a questionnaire was distributed to the
participants’ home address by mail. All respondents were informed that
the survey was anonymous, participation was voluntary and they could
withdraw at any time. A postage-paid, self-addressed envelope was pro-
vided so that they could mail their surveys back to the researchers directly.
Forty participants asked to be excluded because of circumstances as mater-
nity leave, longer sick periods or leave of absence. In the end, 158 out of the
remaining 342 answered the questionnaire, yielding a response rate of
46 per cent. The sample in our study included 125 (79 per cent) women
and 33 (21 per cent) men. The average age for women was forty-four
years, and for men it was forty-one years. Fifty per cent of both men and
women had completed a university degree and 91 per cent held a perman-
ent position. The sample was representative of the population, the entire
social service organisation, with respect to age, gender and employment
terms (permanent or temporary).

Measures

Transformational leadership

We measured transformational leadership with the Multifactor Leadership
Questionnaire (MLQ) developed by Bass and Avolio (1995). The MLQ is
the most common measure of transformational leadership (Yukl, 1998) and
operationalises the four theoretically identified dimensions of transform-
ational leadership—idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellec-
tual stimulation and individualised consideration. Respondents were
asked to rate how often their leader engages in behaviours specific to
each dimension on a five-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4
(often, if not always). The present study employed a Swedish translation

892 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

of the MLQ 5X (Form 5x—Short) provided by Mind Garden Inc.; however,
a few items were slightly changed to get a more accurate translation. The
reliability of the twenty items that together measure transformational lead-
ership was in our study 0.94.

Role clarity

We used a three-item scale to measure role clarity taken from the QPS
Nordic, which is a well validated and much used questionnaire measuring
psychological and social factors at work (Dallner et al., 2000). The scale
includes the items ‘Are there clearly defined goals in your work?’, ‘Do
you know which areas of responsibility you have?’ and ‘Do you know
exactly what is demanded of you at work?’. The response categories
ranged from 1 (very seldom or never) to 5 (very often or always). The reli-
ability of this subscale was 0.74.

Commitment

The scale to measure organisational commitment was also taken from the
QPS Nordic (Dallner et al., 2000). It contained three items: ‘The organiza-
tion inspires me to do my best’, ‘I tell my friends that the organization is a
very good place to work at’ and ‘My own values are very close to the values
of the organization’. The response scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree)
to 5 (strongly agree). The reliability of this subscale was 0.85.

Moderators

Leader continuity was measured by a single item with the question ‘How
many years have you had your current leader?’. The scale to measure co-
worker support comes from the Learning Climate Scale (Westerberg and
Hauer, 2009) and contains three items: ‘When I need I get support and
help from my colleagues’, ‘I can count on help and support to learn from
my mistakes at work’ and ‘It is acceptable to have a bad day’. The response
scale ranged from 1 (very seldom or never) to 5 (very often or always) and
the reliability of this subscale was 0.78.

Data analysis

Since we did not have any a priori expectations that any of the dimensions
of transformational leadership would differentially be associated with role
clarity or commitment, we combined these subscales into one higher order

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 893

factor, which is consistent with previous research (e.g. Bono et al., 2007; Lim
and Ployhart, 2004). We then examined the bivariate correlation between
our study variables to gain preliminary support of our hypotheses. To test
the interactional and main effect models described earlier, we followed
the hierarchical multiple regression procedures described by Aiken and
West (1991). In a first step, our independent variable transformational lead-
ership was entered into the regression. In the second step, co-worker
support or leader continuity was added to the regression. In the third and
final step, the interaction term, the cross-product of the two independent
variables (transformational leadership and either co-worker support or
leader continuity) was included into the regression, now reflecting the
joint effect of the two variables. The change in R2 from step 2 to step 3 pro-
vides a test of whether the interaction term is making a significant contribu-
tion to the equation. This three-step procedure was repeated in four
separate regressions, two with commitment and two with role clarity as de-
pendent variable, to test the interaction effect of the two moderators: leader
continuity and co-worker support. Assessing interaction terms in field re-
search is known to be difficult, and we therefore retained interactions
that accounted for more than 1 per cent of the variance for further analyses.
Analyses of field studies suggest that, on average, interactions account for
less than 3 per cent of the variance, and Monte Carlo findings indicate that
interactions accounting for 1 per cent of the variance are meaningful in re-
gression analyses (Aiken and West, 1991). Before running the regressions,
all independent variables were mean centred in order to decrease the risk of
collinearity (Aiken and West, 1991). As one of the moderators, leader con-
tinuity, was not normally distributed, a median split (Mdn ¼ 1.5 years) was
used for this variable instead of mean centering. This variable has two
levels: 0 representing a short time with the current leader and 1 representing
a longer time with the current leader. This variable was then entered as a
dummy variable into the regressions. When the interaction term was signifi-
cant, we calculated and plotted the simple slopes for high and low levels of
co-worker support or leader continuity. All statistical analyses were per-
formed using PASW Statistics, version 18.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL).

Results

Table 1 presents means, standard deviations and correlations among
the variables. As expected, transformational leadership was positively
associated with both role clarity and commitment (r ¼ 0.35, p , 0.01 and
r ¼ 0.44, p , 0.01, respectively), both associations significantly supporting
hypothesis 1. Examination of the relationship between transformational
leadership and co-worker support revealed a strong positive association
(r ¼ 0.48, p , 0.01). No association was found between transformational
leadership and leader continuity. Positive associations were found between

894 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

the two dependent variables role clarity and commitment (r ¼ 0.35, p ,

0.01). Further examination of the data revealed that co-worker support
was positively associated with both role clarity (r ¼ 0.30, p , 0.01) and
commitment (r ¼ 0.38, p , 0.01), while leader continuity was not associated
with either role clarity, commitment or co-worker support (r ¼ 0.03, p .

0.05, r ¼ 0.02, p . 0.05, r ¼ –0.05, p . 0.05, respectively).
Next, moderated hierarchical regressions were conducted to test our hy-

potheses. In support of hypothesis 1, we found significant, positive relation-
ships between transformational leadership and role clarity as well as
between transformational leadership and commitment (see Table 2). Co-
worker support was significantly related to both role clarity and commit-
ment, while leader continuity was not significantly related to any of the
outcome variables. In hypothesis 2, co-worker support and leader continu-
ity were predicted to moderate the relationship between transformational
leadership and outcomes, such that stronger relationships with role clarity
and commitment would occur when employees experienced high co-worker
support and had worked with their leader for a longer period of time.
Table 2 reports a significant moderator effect of co-worker support on com-
mitment, but not on role clarity. A longer time with the leader moderated

Table 2 Results of moderated hierarchical regression analyses

Role clarity b Commitment b

1 2 3 1 2 3

Step 1: Transformational leadership 0.32** 0.32** 0.06 0.43** 0.43** 0.20
Step 2: Leader continuity 0.00 0.01 –0.03 –0.03
Step 3: Interaction 0.31** 0.28*
Adjusted R2 0.10 0.09 0.12 0.18 0.18 0.20
DR2 at last step 0.03* 0.02*
Step 1: Transformational leadership 0.35** 0.27** 0.26** 0.45** 0.33** 0.34**
Step 2: Co-worker support 0.17* 0.16 0.26** 0.28**
Step 3: Interaction –0.09 0.16*
Adjusted R2 0.11 0.13 0.13 0.19 0.24 0.26
DR2 at last step 0.00 0.02*

* p , 0.05; ** p , 0.01.

Table 1 Descriptive statistics and zero-order correlations for all study variables (n ¼ 158)

Variable M SD 1. TL 2. LC 3. CS 4. RC

1. Transformational leadership 2.18 0.81
2. Leader continuity 2.87 3.74 –0.01
3. Co-worker support 3.73 0.84 0.48* –0.05
4. Role clarity 4.24 0.66 0.35* 0.03 0.30*
5. Commitment 3.10 0.92 0.44* 0.02 0.38* 0.35*

* p , 0.01.

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 895

the effect of transformational leadership on both role clarity and commit-
ment as the changes in the multiple squared correlation coefficient (DR2)
associated with transformational leadership and its interaction with
leader continuity were both statistically significant.

In order to interpret the interactions, all three significant two-way inter-
actions were plotted with cut values of one standard deviation below the
mean and one standard deviation above the mean on each moderator vari-
able. The first plot revealed that the positive effect of transformational
leadership on role clarity was stronger among employees with longer
time with their leader (see Figure 1). A second plot revealed that the posi-
tive effect of transformational leaders on commitment was also stronger
among employees who had spent longer time with their leader (see
Figure 2). The third and last plot revealed that the positive effect of trans-
formational leadership on commitment was stronger among employees
with higher experience of co-worker support (see Figure 3). These plots
are consistent with hypothesis 2.

Discussion

This study has tested the direct and moderated effects of transformational
leadership on role clarity and commitment in a Swedish social service or-
ganisation. Our results supported a direct and positive effect of transform-
ational leadership in social work on both employee role clarity and
commitment. The findings further revealed interaction effects by two

Figure 1 Role clarity predicted by interaction of transformational leadership and leader continuity.

896 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

attributes of the organisational context—the amount of time spent with the
leader and support from co-workers. When employees had spent a longer
period of time with the leader, the effect of transformational leadership
was stronger on both role clarity and commitment. When employees felt
support from co-workers, the effect of transformational leadership was
stronger on commitment, but not on role clarity. The absence of an

Figure 2 Commitment predicted by interaction of transformational leadership and leader continuity.

Figure 3 Commitment predicted by interaction of transformational leadership and co-worker
support.

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 897

interaction effect of transformational leadership and co-worker support on
role clarity indicates that their effects on role clarity are independent of
each other.

From a practice standpoint, our findings demonstrate the benefits of
transformational leadership in social work in keeping employees commit-
ted and clear of their assignment, which are two important employee atti-
tudes in times of organisational change (Begley and Czajka, 1993;
Mukherjee and Malhotra, 2006). Transformational leadership is also in
itself known to be a leadership in times of change (Bass and Riggio,
2006), which will be helpful as social service organisations are facing a chal-
lenging future with many anticipated changes (Lawler, 2007). Even though
we only studied the effect of transformational leadership on employees,
commitment is a well-known predictor of performance (Meyer et al.,
2002), so the positive effect on commitment may also increase performance
in social service organisations. Our findings also indicate the importance of
preventing turnover among leaders, as transformational leadership takes
time before it actually has positive effects in the organisation. Our study
also shows that it is important to enable support among co-workers, as
this enhances the effect of transformational leadership. Further, previous
research has highlighted the importance of leadership training in social
work education (Brilliant, 1986); however, it is difficult to train students
in leadership when we do not know what kind of leadership we should
teach. Our study gives support for transformational leadership being a
type of leadership that has positive effects in social service organisations
and therefore should be taught to social work students.

From a research perspective, our findings are a piece of the puzzle to
further our understanding of social work leadership. Putting the pieces of
social work leadership research together brings remarkable clarity on the
matter. Our study, in line with previous studies in social work, indicates
that transformational leadership has positive effects in social service orga-
nisations. Studies of employee expectations demonstrate that employees
want a leader, not an administrator or manager (Wolmesjö, 2005). Rank
and Hutchison’s (2000) study of social work leaders’ own opinions
suggest that leaders believe that a leadership based on vision, development
and coaching is suitable for social work. Interestingly, this is very similar to
transformational leadership, and all these three pieces in the puzzle seem to
fit together and lead to the conclusion that transformational leadership will
work well in social work.

In our study, we found that time with the leader and support from
co-workers enhanced the effect of transformational leadership. This adds
to research and theory on which processes and mechanisms that contribute
to the effects of transformational leadership. Time is an emergent theme in
transformational leadership research, as less is known of how time influ-
ences the effect transformational leaders have on employees (Hughes
et al., 2006). Our study shows that being exposed to a transformational

898 Susanne Tafvelin et al.

leader during more than 1.5 years (the median in our sample) makes a dif-
ference to commitment and role clarity. This demonstrates the importance
of time for transformational leaders to affect employees and the need for
some stability in organisations in order to get the most out of good
leaders. The moderating effect of co-worker support on commitment high-
lights the role co-workers have in the transformational leadership process.
Previous research has shown that social networks and friendship among
co-workers affect the emergence of transformational leadership (Pastor
et al., 2002). Our study takes this one step further and indicates that positive
relationships between co-workers may also enhance the effects transform-
ational leaders have.

Our interaction effects also indicate that the organisational context
matters. This touches on a deeper and more sensitive issue, namely
whether social work leadership is something unique and different from
leadership in other types of organisations. The impression of the current
view is that researchers as well as practitioners tend to see social work lead-
ership as unique in comparison to leadership in other organisations. For
example, in Rank and Hutchison’s (2000) study, social work leaders
expressed a view that social work leadership was different, more inclusive
and altruistic, compared to leadership in general. In a review of leadership
in social work conducted by the National Board of Health and Welfare in
Sweden (Johansson, 2003), no international research was reviewed, due
to the view of their own national organisation as being so unique that com-
parison with other countries was difficult or even of no interest. We think
this view is unfortunate, as it prevents co-operative knowledge develop-
ment of leadership in social service organisations. We believe that social
service organisations have many things in common across countries, but
also with other types of organisations. When it comes to leadership,
research has shown that it is a relational process and transformational lead-
ership has shown good effect in many different cultures, companies and
countries (Avolio et al., 2009). However, it is important to further explore
the possibilities in the social work context for the leader to be transform-
ational. There could be many factors that hinder or enable transformational
leadership behaviours that are specific in this context and these factors are
important to identify in future research.

Limitations and future directions

Although we have found several encouraging results, it is important to rec-
ognise that the current findings also have several limitations. These limita-
tions caution against immediate acceptance of the findings and present
opportunities for replication and validation in future research. A major
threat in survey research of the type we conducted is common method
bias (cf. Podsakoff et al., 2003). The use of similar methods to measure

Transformational Leadership in the Social Work Context 899

both independent and dependent variables may inflate the observed rela-
tionships between independent and dependent variables. In our study, we
used a number of procedural study design remedies that should have, at
least to some extent, reduced the susceptibility of our data to common
method bias. These remedies were, for example, very strong assurances
of respondent confidentiality and use of different questionnaire sections,
instructions and response scales for different measures as recommended
by Podsakoff and colleagues (2003). Our response rate of 46 per cent was
also relatively low, but representative of the population (average age forty-
three years compared to forty-one years in the general population;
79 per cent were women compared to 80 per cent in the general population,
and 91 per cent held a permanent position compared to 90 per cent in the
general population). Further, the cross-sectional nature of the data prevents
us from drawing inferences regarding the directions of the relationship
between our variables. More studies are needed with stronger preferable
longitudinal designs to validate the positive effects of transformational
leadership in social work. This is of particular importance, since many
models have been imported from the business sector into social service
organisations without being tested whether they work equally well in this
context. In our study, we focused on the effects of immediate supervisors
on employees. First line managers may be affected by leadership higher
up in the organisation and future research may study how top leadership
in social work influences the leadership of first line managers. Finally, we
think it is time for social service organisations to ask themselves what
kind of leadership the organisation including the employees actually
needs. So far, the majority of the research on social work leadership has
dwelled on what kind of leadership different stakeholders prefer. Much
focus has also been on the leadership role, which has taken an administra-
tive turn since managerialism marched into social service organisation. Is
this what social work needs? Is this the kind of leadership that will help
social service organisations to develop? The picture that emerges from
recent empirical studies points in another direction. It does not point
toward an administrative and controlling leader, but to a leader that has
visions, acts as a role model, and inspires and motivates social workers to
endure the turbulent future to come.

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ORIGINAL PAPER

Transformational Leadership Moderates the Relationship
Between Emotional Exhaustion and Turnover Intention Among
Community Mental Health Providers

Amy E. Green • Elizabeth A. Miller •

Gregory A. Aarons

Received: 2 June 2011 / Accepted: 17 October 2011 / Published online: 4 November 2011

� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Abstract Public sector mental health care providers are

at high risk for burnout and emotional exhaustion which

negatively affect job performance and client satisfaction

with services. Few studies have examined ways to reduce

these associations, but transformational leadership may

have a positive effect. We examine the relationships

between transformational leadership, emotional exhaus-

tion, and turnover intention in a sample of 388 community

mental health providers. Emotional exhaustion was posi-

tively related to turnover intention, and transformational

leadership was negatively related to both emotional

exhaustion and turnover intention. Transformational lead-

ership moderated the relationship between emotional

exhaustion and turnover intention, indicating that having a

transformational leader may buffer the effects of providers’

emotional exhaustion on turnover intention. Investing in

transformational leadership development for supervisors

could reduce emotional exhaustion and turnover among

public sector mental health providers.

Keywords Emotional exhaustion � Burnout � Turnover �
Leadership � Mental health services

A common concern for human service organizations is

burnout caused by the high stress nature of providing ser-

vices to others. Burnout is a stress-related psychological

syndrome comprised of three components, emotional

exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplish-

ment (Maslach and Jackson, 1981). Public sector mental

health care providers are at high risk for burnout because

these positions typically have high demands, low resources,

and little reward (van Daalen et al. 2009). In the United

States, recent funding constraints have led many agencies to

increase productivity and billing requirements, thus adding

more stress to already overburdened workers (Morse et al.

2011). The emotional demands of mental health positions

are especially high (van Daalen et al. 2009), and are closely

tied to burnout. Of the three components of burnout, emo-

tional exhaustion, or the extent to which an employee lacks

sufficient emotional resources to handle interpersonal

stressors, is theorized to best capture the ‘‘core meaning’’ of

burnout (Cropanzano et al. 2003; Shirom 1989).

Studies of burnout among mental health workers have

found consistently high rates of emotional exhaustion

(Paris and Hoge 2010) with negative consequences at both

the employee and organization levels. Individual employ-

ees with higher burnout are more likely to experience

poorer health (e.g., illness, depression, fatigue) and strained

personal relationships (Knudsen et al. 2006; Morse et al.

2011; Salyers et al. 2011). At the organizational level,

emotional exhaustion and burnout lead to poor job per-

formance, increased absenteeism, and reduced client sat-

isfaction with services (Knudsen et al. 2006; Morse et al.

2011). Emotional exhaustion has also been found to spread

among providers within organizations, thus further

increasing the negative effects of emotional exhaustion on

the organization (Bakker et al. 2001).

Prior research has established a positive association

between emotional exhaustion and turnover intention

(Blankertz and Robinson 1997; Lee and Ashforth 1996;

Mor Barak et al. 2001), and emotional exhaustion has been

A. E. Green � E. A. Miller � G. A. Aarons (&)

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, 9500 Gilman

Drive (0812), La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093-0812, USA

e-mail: [email protected]

A. E. Green � E. A. Miller � G. A. Aarons

Child and Adolescent Services Research Center at Rady

Children’s Hospital, San Diego, CA, USA

123

Community Ment Health J (2013) 49:373–379

DOI 10.1007/s10597-011-9463-0

shown to predict future voluntary turnover (Wright and

Cropanzano 1998). Turnover intention refers to the likeli-

hood that an employee will leave their position in the near

future. Although actual turnover may be involuntary or due

to external factors (e.g., spousal job change, moving out of

the area), most turnover is related to organizational or job-

related factors (Mor Barak et al. 2001). Turnover intention

is related to other withdrawal behaviors such as tardiness

and absenteeism that negatively affect organizations

(Halfhill et al. 2002) and is a strong and consistent pre-

dictor of actual turnover (Griffeth et al. 2000; Vandenberg

and Nelson 1999).

Staff turnover is an ongoing and costly problem that

negatively affects staff morale, team performance and

productivity, and ultimately organizational effectiveness

(Abbasi and Hollman 2000; Argote et al. 1995; Gray et al.

1996). Annual turnover rates in agencies providing mental

health and social services can exceed 50% (Glisson et al.

2006), and have been attributed to factors including high

stress environments, lack of support, and low pay (Aarons

and Sawitzky 2006). In organizations providing clinical

services, turnover can lead to disruptions in service pro-

vision and weaker staff-consumer relationships, therefore

negatively affecting the quality and outcomes of services

provided by these organizations and their staff (Albizu-

Garcı́a et al. 2004; Glisson et al. 2006; Knudsen et al.

2006). Reducing turnover intention among community

mental health providers can help alleviate some of the costs

associated with turnover and related behaviors, as well as

improve the quality of services provided to clients.

In order to reduce turnover intention among employees,

it is important to identify potential protective factors. One

factor that may affect both emotional exhaustion and

turnover intention is leadership of mental health pro-

gram managers, in particular, transformational leadership

(Aarons et al. 2011; Stordeur et al. 2001). Transforma-

tional leadership, as described by the full range model of

leadership, is characterized by four leader behaviors—

idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual

stimulation, and individual consideration (Bass 1990).

Idealized influence is the extent to which a leader is

admired, respected, and trusted. Inspirational motivation is

the extent to which a leader promotes a common vision

and provides meaning to the work of staff. Intellectual

stimulation is the extent to which a leader stimulates staff

to think in new ways and supports innovation and crea-

tivity, and individual consideration is the extent to which a

leader takes into account the specific needs of individual

employees and works to promote their growth and

development (Bass 1990).

Transformational leadership is positively associated with

several organizational processes and outcomes, including

follower job performance, job satisfaction, organizational

commitment, organizational citizenship behavior, and staff

attitudes toward adopting evidence-based practices (Aarons

2006; MacKenzie et al. 2001; Walumbwa et al. 2005).

Previous research has found that transformational leader-

ship is negatively associated with both emotional exhaus-

tion (Stordeur et al. 2001) and turnover intention (Bycio

et al. 1995; Hughes et al. 2010; Rafferty and Griffin 2004)

and moderates the effect of organizational climate on

turnover intention (Aarons et al. 2011). Transforma-

tional leaders may help to reduce emotional exhaustion

and turnover intention by strengthening group cohesion,

increasing organizational commitment, and recognizing and

rewarding the work done by followers. By providing sup-

port and inspiration, transformational leaders can buffer the

negative effects of a stressful job environment (Stordeur

et al. 2001). This may be especially beneficial for workers in

the high stress field of mental health care.

While some predictors of transformational leadership

such as extroversion and emotional stability are related to

individual differences (Bono and Judge 2004), a number of

studies have shown that training individuals in transfor-

mational leadership can lead to measurable behavioral

change (Avolio and Bass 1998; Barling et al. 1996; Kel-

loway et al. 2000; Parry and Sinha 2005). Results of

experimental and quasi-experimental studies have found

that employees of leaders undergoing transformational

leadership training report higher levels of leader intellec-

tual stimulation, charisma, idealized attributes, idealized

behavior, and individual consideration as well as higher

subordinate organizational commitment, compared to a

control group (Barling et al. 1996; Kelloway et al. 2000;

Parry and Sinha 2005). Some common features of these

leadership trainings include didactic training on leadership

styles, 360-degree feedback (i.e., multi-rater assessment of

leadership from self, subordinates, and supervisors), and

individualized coaching and consultation. Given that such

training programs can produce positive leader behavior

change, it is important to examine the potential moderating

role of transformational leadership in relation to organi-

zational processes and individual differences in mental

health service systems.

The current study examines the relationships between

emotional exhaustion, turnover intention, and transforma-

tional leadership in a sample of public sector mental health

care providers serving children, adolescents, and families.

In accordance with previous literature, we hypothesized

that emotional exhaustion will be positively related to

turnover intention. We also predicted that transformational

leadership will be negatively related to both emotional

exhaustion and turnover intention. Finally, we hypothe-

sized that transformational leadership will moderate the

relationship between emotional exhaustion and turn-

over intention. Specifically, as transformational leadership

374 Community Ment Health J (2013) 49:373–379

123

increases, the relationship between emotional exhaustion

and turnover intention will be attenuated.

Methods

Participants

Researchers invited 72 public sector programs providing

mental health services for children, adolescents, and fam-

ilies to participate in the current study. Of the 72 eligible

programs, 64 programs agreed to participate (89% response

rate). However, data was not available on supervisor rat-

ings for two of the participating programs. The total

number of eligible participants from the participating

programs was 440, of which 435 agreed to participate

(98.9% response rate). Forty-seven of the participants were

primarily supervisors and did not report on their own

supervisor’s leadership behaviors resulting in a final sam-

ple of 388 community mental health providers.

Measures

Emotional Exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion was assessed using the Emotional

Exhaustion subscale from the Children’s Services Survey

(Glisson and James 2002) based on the Emotional Exhaustion

subscale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach et al.

1996). Examples of scale items include: ‘‘I feel emotionally

drained from my work,’’ and ‘‘I feel used up at the end of the

workday.’’ Participants indicated their level of agreement with

each statement on a 5-point Likert-type scale from 0 ‘‘Not at

all,’’ to 4 ‘‘To a very great extent,’’ with higher scores repre-

senting higher levels of emotional exhaustion. The scale has

demonstrated sound psychometric and measurement charac-

teristics (six items, current sample a = 0.91).

Transformational Leadership

The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire-5x (Bass and

Avolio 1995) was used to assess participants’ perceptions

of their supervisor’s leadership behaviors. Providers were

asked to report on the extent to which their immediate

supervisor engaged in specific behaviors (e.g., spends time

teaching and coaching). Each behavior was rated on a

5-point scale ranging from 0 ‘‘Not at all,’’ to 4 ‘‘To a very

great extent.’’ Transformational leadership was assessed

using the following four subscales: Idealized Influence

(eight items, current sample a = 0.85), Inspirational

Motivation (four items, current sample a = 0.89), Intel-

lectual Stimulation (four items, current sample a = 0.81),

and Individual Consideration (four items, current sample

a = 0.85). Overall transformational leadership was calcu-

lated as the mean score across all items in these four

subscales (20 items, a = 0.95).

Turnover Intention

Turnover intention is defined as the degree to which the

respondent intends to leave or stay at their organization.

Turnover intention was assessed with five items (e.g., ‘‘I

am actively looking for a job at another agency’’) derived

from organizational studies and adapted for use in human

service agencies (Knudsen et al. 2003; Walsh et al. 1985).

Respondents rated each item on a 5-point scale ranging

from 0 ‘‘Not at all,’’ to 4 ‘‘To a very great extent.’’ The

scale has good factor structure and validity with factor

loadings ranging from 0.82 to 0.88, and excellent reliability

(five items; current sample a = 0.89).

Control Variables

The questionnaire also included questions about respon-

dents’ age, gender, mental health care tenure, and caseload

size. Mental health experience was the number of years and

months the respondent has worked in mental health care.

Caseload size reflects a clinician’s self-reported number of

active cases at the time of the survey administration.

Procedure

A program manager at each program was contacted and the

study was described in detail. Permission was sought to

survey service providers who worked directly with youths

and families. For participating programs, providers’ survey

sessions were scheduled at the program site at a time des-

ignated by the program manager. Surveys were administered

to groups of providers. The project coordinator or a trained

research assistant administered providers’ surveys and was

available during the survey session to answer any questions

that arose. Surveys averaged approximately 60 minutes in

length. Participants received a verbal and written description

of the study, and informed consent was obtained before the

survey. Participation in the study was voluntary, and all

participant responses were confidential. This study was

approved by the appropriate institutional review boards

(University of California-San Diego, Rady Children’s Hos-

pital, and San Diego County Mental Health Services). The

authors of this study report no known conflicts of interest and

certify responsibility for this manuscript.

Analyses

Pearson product-moment correlation analyses were first

conducted to examine associations of turnover intention

Community Ment Health J (2013) 49:373–379 375

123

with the covariates well as the intercorrelations among the

covariates. Next, a moderated regression analysis was

conducted to examine the associations of transformational

leadership and emotional exhaustion with turnover inten-

tion as well as the moderating effect of transformational

leadership on the relationship between emotional exhaus-

tion and turnover intention. Because providers were nested

within supervisors, resulting in potential dependency of

responses within supervisors, multilevel analyses were

conducted to control for the effects of the nested data

structure (Hedeker et al. 1991; Raudenbush and Bryk

2002). Additionally, clinician age, gender, months working

in mental health care, and caseload size were included in

the analyses as control variables. Following the recom-

mendations of Kleinbaum et al. (2008), a decision was

made to include the control variables in the final model if

they accounted for a change of more than 15% in the

parameter estimates for the covariate or moderation terms.

Analyses were conducted in SPSS 18.0 using the mixed

model function to account for the nested data structure.

Results are presented using unstandardized parameter

estimates.

Results

Descriptive Statistics

The mean age for participants was 36.0 (SD = 10.6) years

and the majority of respondents were female (81.4%). The

racial/ethnic distribution was 51.7% Caucasian, 7.8%

African American, 23.9% Hispanic, 4.2% Asian American,

0.3% Native American, and 12.2% Other. Participants’

highest level of education was as follows: 5.9% Ph.D./

M.D. or equivalent, 63.9% master’s degree, 6.7% graduate

work but no degree, 13.4% bachelor’s degree, 2.3% asso-

ciate’s degree, 3.9% some college but no degree, 1.0% high

school diploma, and 0.3% less than a high school diploma.

Participants worked in the mental health services field

for a mean of 7.9 years (SD = 7.4), in child and/or ado-

lescent mental health services for a mean of 6.9 years

(SD = 7.2), and in their present agency for 3.0 years

(SD = 4.1). The average caseload size for participants was

14.8 clients (SD = 13.32).

The average emotional exhaustion score was 1.23

(SD = 1.0), on a 0–4 scale, with higher scores signifying

higher levels of emotional exhaustion. The average trans-

formational leadership score was 2.40 (SD = 0.86), with

higher scores signifying higher levels of transformational

leadership behaviors, and the average level of turnover

intention was 1.47 (SD = 1.04), with higher scores indi-

cating greater intentions to leave one’s current position.

Table 1 presents the intercorrelations among all study

variables. As expected, emotional exhaustion was posi-

tively correlated with turnover intention. Additionally,

consistent with our hypotheses, transformational leadership

was negatively correlated with both emotional exhaustion

and turnover intention. Of the hypothesized control vari-

ables, only age and months in mental health were signifi-

cantly related to turnover intention with younger providers

and providers with less time working in the field reporting

greater turnover intention.

Regression Analyses

When examining the combined effects of the selected

control variables entered into the multilevel regression

equation simultaneously with the independent variables

and moderator term, the observed change in coefficients

was less than 15%. Additionally, none of the control

variables were significant when entered with the other

covariates in the model. Therefore, we present the mod-

erated regression model and coefficient terms without

including the effects of these non-significant control

variables.

Table 2 presents the results of the moderated multilevel

regression analyses. As predicted, emotional exhaustion

was significantly associated with turnover intention.

However, when controlling for the effects of emotional

exhaustion, the relationship between transformational

leadership and turnover intention was attenuated such that

it was no longer significant in the model. As hypothesized,

a significant moderator relationship existed, whereby

higher levels of transformational leadership reduced the

Table 1 Intercorrelations

of study variables

1 = male, 2 = female

* P 0.05, ** P 0.01

1 2 3 4 5 6

1. Sex

2. Age -0.08

3. Caseload 0.07 0.04

4. Months working in MH -0.16** 0.63 0.06

5. Emotional exhaustion 0.03 -0.06 0.09 -0.05

6. Transformational leadership -0.09 -0.01 0.06 0.02 -0.30**

7. Turnover intention -0.04 -0.14** 0.02 -0.17** 0.44** -0.28**

376 Community Ment Health J (2013) 49:373–379

123

positive associations between emotional exhaustion and

turnover intention. As shown in Fig. 1, we employed a

mean split on the transformational leadership variable to

categorize supervisors into those with high and low trans-

formational leadership. We then used the unstandardized

regression equations to display the relationships between

emotional exhaustion and turnover intention as moderated

by leadership.

Discussion

Although both emotional exhaustion and turnover intention

have been identified as significant issues affecting mental

health providers and organizations (Aarons et al. 2009a, b;

Glisson et al. 2006; van Daalen et al. 2009), research

suggesting ways to reduce the relationship between the

emotional exhaustion and turnover intention have been

rare. This study examined the effects of emotional

exhaustion and transformational leadership on turnover

intention in a sample of mental health care providers. As

hypothesized, emotional exhaustion was positively related

to turnover intention and transformational leadership was

negatively related to both emotional exhaustion and turn-

over intention. However, in multivariate analyses only

emotional exhaustion was related to turnover intention.

Additionally, as hypothesized, transformational leadership

moderated the association between emotional exhaustion

and turnover intention, with higher transformational lead-

ership reducing the strength of the positive association.

This finding indicates that having a stronger transforma-

tional leader may help to buffer the effects of emotional

exhaustion on turnover intention.

Leadership is a key organizational issue both in times of

stable organizational operations and in times of organiza-

tional change (Aarons and Sommerfeld 2011). While

leadership development programs are readily available,

there has been little attempt to validate many such trainings.

By exploring transformational leadership as exemplified in

the full range model, we examined an ‘‘evidence-based’’

approach to leadership. Indeed, the full range model is the

most thoroughly researched approach to leadership with

validity evidence in multiple types of industries and orga-

nizations, and across national and international contexts

(Antonakis et al. 2003; Lowe et al. 1996).

Some limitations of the present study should be noted.

First, only cross-sectional data was collected, therefore

causality cannot be determined. Second, all variables were

based on respondent self-reports, and therefore common

method variance may have influenced the results presented

here. However, the scales and measures were spread

throughout a longer survey and the leadership measure

assesses specific observable behaviors. Finally, this study

took place in one county mental health service system and

results may not generalize to other service sectors or

workers. However, these results may inform studies in

other sectors and service systems, as workforce issues that

are common across service sectors and types.

In community mental health services, training supervi-

sors in transformational leadership may help to engage

staff and reduce emotional exhaustion and burnout. Each

dimension of transformational leadership can be applied

specifically to mental health services. For example, intel-

lectual stimulation may improve the ability of staff to

problem solve around the variety of problems presented by

clients, while inspirational motivation may build on pro-

viders’ desire to help clients to create an environment in

which team members support one another in their pursuit

of shared goals. Leadership training targeted to the devel-

opment of strategic climates is another potential area for

Table 2 Multilevel moderated regression of emotional exhaustion

and transformational leadership on turnover intention

Variable B SE t

Intercept 1.06 0.28 3.82

Emotional exhaustion 0.65** 0.14 4.65

Transformational leadership -0.04 0.10 -0.38

Emotional exhaustion by transformational

leadership

-0.11* 0.06 -1.97

* P 0.05, ** P 0.01

Fig. 1 Moderation effect of transformational leadership on the

relationship between provider’s emotional exhaustion and turnover

intention

Community Ment Health J (2013) 49:373–379 377

123

both research and applied work in mental health services.

Strategic climates are those that focus on a particular issue

or strategy (Schneider et al. 2005). For example, leaders

could be trained to create a favorable climate for evidence-

based practice implementation (Aarons et al. 2011).

Emotional exhaustion and turnover are persistent prob-

lems for mental health agencies and systems, contributing

to higher costs and diminishing service quality. However,

there is cause for optimism that these issues can be

addressed. The results of this study suggest that investing

in developing supervisor transformational leadership

knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors could improve

provider emotional exhaustion and ultimately reduce

turnover. Transformational leadership skills can be learned,

and training programs focused on transformational lead-

ership have been shown to improve job performance and

organizational commitment of those supervised by trainees

(Barling et al. 1996; Dvir et al. 2002). Therefore, leader-

ship is a promising area for intervention and one that can

improve the lives of supervisors, providers, and ultimately

improve the quality and outcomes of mental health services

(Glisson and James 2002; Glisson et al. 2008; Knudsen

et al. 2003; Stordeur et al. 2001).

Acknowledgments This research was supported by National Insti-

tute of Mental Health grants R01MH072961, R21MH082731,

K01MH001695 (PI: Aarons) and P30MH074678 (PI: Landsverk). We

thank the organizations, supervisors, and service providers that par-

ticipated in the study and made this work possible.

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  • Transformational Leadership Moderates the Relationship Between Emotional Exhaustion and Turnover Intention Among Community Mental Health Providers
    • Abstract
    • Methods
      • Participants
      • Measures
        • Emotional Exhaustion
        • Transformational Leadership
        • Turnover Intention
        • Control Variables
      • Procedure
      • Analyses
    • Results
      • Descriptive Statistics
      • Regression Analyses
    • Discussion
    • Acknowledgments
    • References

Transformational
Leadership Theory:
What Every Leader Needs to Know

April 201154 Nurse Leader

H ealthcare is complex and requires effec-

tive leaders skilled at leading and

adapting to change. The Canadian Nurses

Association1 states, “Leadership plays a pivotal role

in the lives of nurses” and “Nursing requires strong,

consistent, and knowledgeable leaders.” Obtaining

this knowledge and skill is difficult. Although

numerous studies have examined and explained

leadership, no definitive theory has emerged to

guide leaders.2 Nor is there evidence available on

what theory is most effective for the new leader.

Compounding these problems is the massive amount

of literature available on leadership that a new

leader must sift through to acquire the knowledge to

determine which leadership style to adopt and

implement into practice.

Paula Rolfe, BSc, MSc, RN, BN, MN

The impetus for writing this paper was to share my per-
sonal journey in nursing leadership. In my first leader-

ship position, I remember feeling overwhelmed and
incompetent because of insufficient leadership skills, and I
realized this was detrimental to my effectiveness. I knew
that if I did not get the trust of my fellow “followers,” I was
not going to be an effective leader, nor would I be able to
inspire a better work environment or make a positive
impact on the care that patients receive. My first attempt at
management had minimal success.

For my second attempt, I was better prepared. I researched
leadership theories, implemented a style of leadership that
was recognized as effective, established a relationship with my
fellow followers, and encouraged them to succeed. Problems
that seemed insurmountable gradually melted away. We were
all empowered to work harder, strive higher, and transform
the work environment. This definitely transferred over into
their personal lives, as their partners anecdotally commented
on how they enjoyed going to work now and there was less
stress at home.

Because of family commitments, my career path changed,
and I entered nursing education. In this role, I can continue
to instill my love of leadership into the moldable minds of
students so that they will become great followers, bursting to
be great leaders.

While many leadership theories exist, I found that transfor-
mational style, from transformational leadership theory (TLT),3,4

was effective for me as a new leader. Endorsements for this style
included the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario’s5 best
practice guidelines for developing and sustaining nursing leader-
ship and British Columbia in recognizing the importance of
having well-skilled nursing leaders by providing new leaders
with a formal leadership development program that endorsed
transformational leadership augmented by transactional leader-
ship.6 Unfortunately, not all organizations offer such programs,
yet new leaders require preparation to lead. Therefore, being
familiar with a known effective style is critical, and having per-
sonally found this style valuable, I thought it was important to
simplify it and share it with new leaders.

The purpose of the article is to present TLT using the
three common themes (relationship, leader, and environment)
extracted from the literature, augmented with personal strate-
gies for implementation into practice. The article reveals that
TLT, although not perfect, is an effective leadership theory in
today’s changing environment because of its ability to trans-
form organizations through its people while generating
desired outcomes.

TLT THEMES
TLT can “bring about significant change in both followers
and organization.”2(p 356) Incorporating TLT beliefs and prac-
tices into the new leaders’ behaviors will enhance success. This
can be accomplished through an understanding of TLT
themes, their interrelationships, organizational requirements,
and leader-follower interdependence, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Relationships
TLT’s basic premise is that the leader possesses the skills to
develop successful relationships with followers in an envi-
ronment where both leader and follower strive to meet
organizational goals necessary to fulfill the vision.2 A recip-
rocal and interdependent relationship follows, increasing
trust and a sense of belonging.2,7 Because followers have
input into the vision, they feel valued and the relationship is
enhanced. This energizes and motivates followers to develop
ownership of the shared vision and move toward its actual-
ization. Morale increases and followers become empowered
to develop their own leadership skills.

Unfortunately, TLT does not address all relationship situa-
tions. Some management requirements of the leader’s job can
negatively affect this relationship.8,10 Addressing issues such as
sick time abuse and conflict within the work environment are
negative to the relationship-building process yet are essential
to being an effective leader. “Naysayers” are also challenging
to transform, and developing relationships over vast
geographic areas can be taxing.

Author’s Strategies. Developing relationships is time-con-
suming and challenging. Treating others the way you want to
be treated is key. Treat everyone with respect, value what they
say, and genuinely care about them. You can demonstrate this
by acknowledging individual achievements, asking about their
workday, including them into decisions (vision development,
strategic plan, etc), involving them on committees, etc. Most
importantly, you must show followers that you are not only
listening to them but that you are hearing them and genuine-
ly interested in what they are saying. You will not always
agree, but you can come to a consensus.

When things are beyond your control and you are
required to implement difficult decisions that impact the
followers, you should be honest and open and collaborate
with them to develop a plan that will affect them the least.
This allows them to have some control over the process on
how the enforced change is achieved. They will trust and
respect you for including them in even the smallest decisions.
To do this you must show a presence on the unit. You must
know the organization’s vision and strategic plan, since they
are what you will be communicating to followers. If followers
suspect that your vision is misaligned with the organization’s,
they will mistrust you, and the relationship will be severed.

You do serve a dual function, and some decisions will be
unpopular. Being upfront, honest, fair, consistent, and transpar-
ent will benefit you as you rebuild relationships. When you
interact with naysayers who do not want to follow or believe
in the vision, you should try to build a relationship. If your
attempt is unsuccessful, treat them with respect and compas-
sion but forge ahead with the majority, collectively moving
the vision forward. The naysayers can stagnate without input
into their future, or they can join forces, making the group
even more powerful as they move toward the vision.

Leader Attributes
TLT leaders are visionaries, catalysts, motivators, and goal-
oriented, futuristic leaders who invoke group respect,

www.nurseleader.com Nurse Leader 55

shared vision, and improved culture. Eight attributes con-
tributing to their success include self-knowledge, expertise,
authenticity, flexibility, vision, charisma, shared leadership,
and the ability to inspire and motivate followers.4 Of those,
charisma is the most important in transformational leader
influence.10,11 Charisma used appropriately is very effec-
tive12 but can cause destruction when used inappropriately.

The above attributes makes this leader powerful. This
power can innovate, inspire, and motivate followers, leading
to increased loyalty, commitment, job satisfaction, and per-
formance.10,13 TLT assumes that leaders possess integrity
and function within a moral and ethical framework, while
building trusting relationships.9 Unfortunately, this is not
always true, and followers’ values shaped by such leaders
may be self-serving.14

Transformational leaders are the communication champi-
ons and ambassadors for the organization’s vision.2,9,10 As
followers embrace the vision, they acquire the role of selling
it. Sharing this communication role is important as the con-
stant energy9 required to communicate the vision increases
the leader’s risk of burnout.

Author’s Strategies. Self-reflection and assessment of where
personal growth and change need to occur are difficult but
necessary skills you should learn. Acknowledging and develop-
ing the above attributes will enhance your effectiveness. It will
require time; an assessment of your morals, values, weaknesses,
and strengths; and identification of your own vision and its
alignment with the organization. Ask coworkers, family, and
friends how they see you with regard to some of these attrib-
utes. Being energetic, action-oriented, and positive in your
interactions is important. Being flexible in your thinking and
knowing there may be many ways to achieve the end-result
are important. Developing conflict-resolution skills will help.
You must not talk the talk but practice what you preach and
walk it. You have to be a visible role model, acting as a mentor
and assisting followers to be leaders.

To enhance communication skills, enroll in a public
speaking course. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and
when you fail, start again. When you make mistakes, apolo-
gize and say that you are learning and would appreciate
feedback. Ask followers how they see things unfolding in
the organization. Listen to their plans on how this can be
achieved. Through a collaborative effort, implement the
plans. If initially unsuccessful, alter them and try again.
Involving followers into all decisions will enhance leader
and organizational accountability and success.

Perseverance is crucial. You cannot solve all the problems,
and progress toward the goals will be slow, but collectively
you can make a better future. Implement accountability
frameworks at your level to ensure you are acting in the orga-
nization’s best interests.9,10 Transparent mechanisms (dissemi-
nating unit reports, including followers on committees, etc)
will accomplish this.

Work Environment
Implementing the Registered Nurses Association of
Ontario’s5 recommendations in creating and sustaining

healthy work environments is one way to provide an effective
work environment. They include continuing to build rela-
tionships and trust, creating an empowering work environ-
ment, supporting knowledge integration in the work
environment, leading and sustaining change, and balancing
competing values and priorities.

Healthy work environments support followers into think-
ing outside the box and envisioning ways to do things differ-
ently. Creating a milieu conducive to learning supports
followers into becoming creative, innovative, and autonomous
decision-makers.8,9 Leader visibility enhances this process by
being available to role model, teach, and coach.9,10

TLT promotes quality improvement environments where
the reciprocal relationship between leader and follower bene-
fits the organization.2 As leaders empower followers, followers
grow and develop into leaders. These empowered followers
have increased organizational loyalty, motivation, and job
satisfaction with decreased absenteeism, promoting a positive
work environment2,10 and building organizational success.8

This makes TLT a great recruitment and retention strategy.15

In fact, leaders implementing TLT have higher rates of reten-
tion, recruitment, and staff satisfaction.16 This benefit is signif-
icant with the world-wide nursing shortage.

Author’s strategies. The morale of the work environ-
ment you enter depends on followers’ past experiences.
Help followers understand that, even though many things
within the organization are beyond their control, they are
in control of the morale on their unit. To improve morale,
create a “no-blame” environment where followers can
voice their doubts, challenges, strengths, and goals.
Collaboratively explore and implement strategies that can
address their issues. An increase in morale will follow
when followers feel empowered by seeing their ideas
transformed into reality.

Celebrate all small successes as each hurdle is conquered.
Challenge your followers to think differently, do differently,
and aim high. Change may be slow but persevere while mak-
ing small strides toward transforming the environment.

IMPLICATIONS OF ADOPTING TLT INTO PRACTICE
As a new leader, TLT offers a known, effective3,4 leadership style
for you to commence your journey. As you grow, however,
other styles maybe integrated, depending on the situation. TLT
does provide organizations with strategic directions, processes
for quality improvement, solutions for recruitment and reten-
tion, and the foundation for a sustainable future.

TLT can be very powerful for the organization. TLT lead-
ers make positive changes happen in organizations where it
would be difficult to do without committed followers.
Including followers into decisions empowers them to achieve
the vision and become leaders themselves.

While the benefits of implementing TLT outweigh the
problems, an awareness of the theory’s limitations is crucial.
Organizations, leaders, and followers must be aware of the
misuse that can occur when incorporating TLT into practice.
Organizations need accountability frameworks9,10 and contin-
uous monitoring incorporated into their reporting structures.

April 201156 Nurse Leader

Continued vigilance is necessary to ensure organizations are
lead by the best possible leaders.

CONCLUSION
As a new leader, the quest to learn about leadership and lead-
ership styles can be met with frustration because the amount
of material and time required to research is excessive. TLT
can be learned and implemented to produce effective leaders.
The skills learned can help advance organizational goals by
transforming its people. The momentum and power of such
leadership can move agendas forward if the relationship,
leader attributes, and environment are developed and con-
ducive to change. This challenging journey that new leaders
embark upon requires patience and perseverance, but in the
end the benefits are apparent to all involved. NL

References
1. Canadian Nurses Association. Nursing Practice: Leadership. http://www.cna-

nurses.ca/CNA/practice/leadership/default_e.aspx. Updated 2009. Accessed
May 4, 2010.

2. Daft RL. The Leadership Experience. 4th ed. Mason, OH: South-Western
Cengage Learning; 2008.

3. Goleman D. Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review.
2000;78(i2):90.

4. Ward K. A vision for tomorrow: Transformational nursing leaders. Nurs
Outlook. 2002;50:121-6.

5. Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. Nursing best practice guidelines
program: Healthy work environments best practice guidelines � Developing
and sustaining nursing leadership. http://www.rnao.org/Storage/16/1067_
BPG_Sustain_Leadership.pdf. Updated 2006. Accessed May 4, 2010.

6. Macphee M, Bouthillette F. Developing leadership in nurse managers: The
British Columbia Nursing Leadership Institute. Nurs Leadership.
2008;21(3):64-75.

7. Stanley D. Congruent leadership: Values in action. J Nurs Management.
2008;16:519-524.

8. Murphy L. Transformational leadership: A cascading chain reaction. J Nurs
Management. 2005;13:128-136.

9. Tucker BA, Russell RF. The influence of the transformational leader. J
Leadership Organizational Studies. 2004;10(4):103-111.

10. McGuire E, Kennerly SM. Nurse managers as transformational and transac-
tional leaders. Nurs Economics. 2006;24(4):179-185.

11. Feinberg BJ, Ostroff C, Warner Burke W. The role of within-group agreement
in understanding transformational leadership. J Occup Organizational
Psychology. 2005;78:471-488.

12. Davidhizar R. Leading with charisma. J Adv Nurs. 1993;18:675-679.
13. Porter-O’Grady T. Is shared governance still relevant? J Nurs Adm.

2001;31(10):468-473.
14. Keeley M. The trouble with transformational leadership: Toward a federalist

ethic in organizations. Business Ethics Q. 1995;5(1):67-96.
15. Walters J. Creating a culture of trust. ECPN. 2005;102:18-23.
16. Casida J, Pinto-Zipp G. Leadership-organizational culture relationship in

nursing units of acute care hospitals. Nurs Economics. 2008;26(1):7-16.

Paula Rolfe, BSc, MSc, RN, BN, MN, has had numerous leadership roles
in acute care nursing and is a nurse educator at Western Regional School of
Nursing at Corner Brook, Newfoundland. She can be reached at
[email protected].

1541-4612/2011/ $ See front matter
Copyright 2011 by Mosby Inc.
All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.mnl/2011.01.014

www.nurseleader.com Nurse Leader 57

  • Transformational Leadership Theory: What Every Leader Needs to Know
    • TLT THEMES
      • Relationships
      • Leader Attributes
      • Work Environment
    • IMPLICATIONS OF ADOPTING TLT INTO PRACTICE
    • CONCLUSION
    • References

The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

The Leadership Quarterly

j ourna l homepage: www.e lsev ie r .com/ locate / leaqua

Theoretical and Practitioner Letters

Transformational leadership and performance outcomes:
Analyses of multiple mediation pathways

Thomas W.H. Ng
The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Business and Economics, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong

a r t i c l e i n f o

E-mail address: [email protected].

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2016.11.008
1048-9843/© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 11 March 2016
Received in revised form 29 November 2016
Accepted 30 November 2016
Available online 10 December 2016

Transformational leadership (TFL) has been shown to affect employees’ job performance, and
the literature offers a large variety of explanatory processes. Integrating the diverse literature
related to the mechanisms that mediate the TFL-performance relationship, the current study
identified five core mechanisms—affective, motivational, identification, social exchange, and
justice enhancement—that are consistent with established social and psychological theories.
Meta-analysis involving N600 samples was conducted to test these mechanisms. General sup-
port was found for each of the five mechanisms. The findings showed that TFL was related to
variables that represented these mechanisms, which in turn were associated with non-self-re-
port measures of employees’ task performance, citizenship behavior, and innovative behavior.
An integrative model was further proposed and tested to show the central role of leader-mem-
ber exchange in the relationships between TFL, other mediating variables, and performance
outcomes. This study contributes to the literature by strengthening researchers’ theoretical un-
derstanding of the major social and psychological processes by which transformational leaders
promote followers’ job performance.

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Transformational leadership
Job performance
Citizenship behavior
Innovation
Meta-analysis

Transformational leadership (TFL) is one of the most extensively researched topics of the past few decades, evidenced by the
more frequent citation of studies of TFL than other leadership topics (Antonakis, Bastardoz, Liu, & Schriesheim, 2014). Transfor-
mational leadership attracts such attention because of its relevance and importance to organizational productivity. Robust evi-
dence has shown that followers of transformational leaders are more productive, regardless of whether performance is
measured at the individual, team, unit, or firm level (Barrick, Thurgood, Smith, & Courtright, 2015; Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson,
2003a, 2003b) and whether the performance outcomes are in-role tasks, extra-role activities, or innovations (Chen, Farh,
Campbell-Bush, Wu, & Wu, 2013; Choi, 2009; Keller, 1992).

Many explanatory mechanisms have been proposed to explain the positive effects of TFL on job performance. Consequently,
multiple pathways have been identified as relevant, but no efforts have been made to integrate the plethora of different mecha-
nisms. An attempt at integration is important because identifying the most relevant mechanisms helps both researchers and prac-
titioners understand not only that TFL enhances the job performance of followers, but also why and how it does so. Although
different perspectives are often encouraged in leadership research (DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, & Humphrey, 2011), too many
different explanatory mechanisms with no integration may actually hinder development in the field, as TFL researchers have
reached little consensus about which mechanisms are the most useful and powerful. Other leadership researchers have echoed
this call to examine the detailed social and psychological mechanisms by which TFL affects job performance (Avolio,
Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009).

386 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

The goal of the current investigation is to identify and test the mediating mechanisms through which TFL affects followers’ job
performance. Five theory-driven mediating mechanisms are addressed, including affective, motivational, identification, social ex-
change, and justice enhancement mechanisms. These five mechanisms were chosen for two reasons. First, each is supported by
an established social or psychological theory, thereby enriching the theoretical foundation of the TFL research. As Van
Knippenberg and Sitkin’s (2013) recent review of the TFL literature states, “the mediators studied are rather diverse, probably be-
cause there is no theory to guide the investigation of mediation.” (p. 16). Second, the five mechanisms together comprehensively
show how TFL affects followers internally and externally, including their affect intensity (the affective mechanism), motivation
level (the motivational mechanism), and value system (the identification mechanism), and their external environment, including
the relationships with leaders and employers (the social exchange mechanism) and the broader workplace (the justice enhance-
ment mechanism). Taken together, these five mechanisms broadly illustrate the different types of changes in followers elicited by
TFL.

Meta-analytical data collected from N600 empirical studies are used to test these mechanisms, with a special focus on non-
self-report measures of performance, including task performance, citizenship behavior, and innovative behavior, to lower the
threat posed by common method variance (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). These three performance outcomes
were chosen because they capture three major roles an effective worker should play in an organization (Welbourne, Johnson,
& Erez, 1998). An employee is effective when he or she is a significant contributor to the organization’s technical core, a team
player who goes beyond his or her prescribed role, and an innovator who helps the organization innovate. These three roles
are also highly relevant to TFL research. Transformational leaders can not only convince followers of the importance of an
organization’s goal and therefore persuade them to contribute their efforts to help achieve that goal (through the display of higher
task performance and citizenship behavior), but also motivate followers to challenge the current ways of doing things to seek im-
provement (innovative behavior). In brief, through examining five theory-based mechanisms by which TFL affects job perfor-
mance, this study enriches the theoretical foundation of this field and integrates the diverse ways in which transformational
leaders promote followers’ job performance. The five core models are depicted in Fig. 1.

Theoretical background

The nature of TFL

TFL entails inspiring followers to believe in or identify with the leader’s vision beyond their own self-interest (Bass, 1985;
Burns, 1978). It consists of four core components: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and indi-
vidualized consideration (Bass, 1985; Bass & Avolio, 1993). Idealized influence involves exhibiting confidence and charisma that
arouse strong emotions and loyalty from followers. Inspirational motivation involves articulating organizational goals,

TFL

JS

AOC

TP

OCB

IB

(A) The affective mechanism

TFL

JSE

WE

TP

OCB

IB

(B) The motivational mechanism

TFL

LID

OID

TP

OCB

IB

(C) The identification mechanism

TFL

LMX

POS

TP

OCB

IB

(D) The social exchange mechanism

TFL

DJ

PJ

TP

OCB

IB

(E) The justice enhancement mechanism

TIL

TIO

Fig. 1. The five mediating mechanisms. Note. AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfac-
tion; JSE = job self-efficacy; LID = leader identification; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational iden-
tification; PJ = procedural justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TIL = trust in the leader; TIO = trust in the organization; TFL = transformational
leadership; TP = task performance; WE = work engagement.

387T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

communicating high expectations, and convincing followers of the importance of those goals. Intellectual stimulation involves en-
couraging innovative ways of thinking and doing things and breaking away from existing routines and norms. Individualized con-
sideration involves attending to the individual needs of followers, acting as their coach, and listening to their concerns.

Overall, TFL gives followers meaning and reasons to expend effort in their jobs (Grant, 2012). Followers of transformational
leaders are more likely to endorse the organizational mission (Caillier, 2014a, 2014b; Colbert, Kristof-Brown, Bradley, & Barrick,
2008). These positive effects of TFL exist at not only the individual level, but also the team, unit, and organizational levels
(Searle & Barbuto, 2013). In the following sections, the discussion focuses only on the individual level, as this study was interested
in identifying the psychological and social processes that explain the TFL-performance relationship, and such processes largely
occur at the individual level. Followers typically react to leaders’ TFL through experiencing changes in their beliefs, cognitions, mo-
tivations, and emotions (Bass, 1985; Caillier, 2014a, 2014b; Van Knippenberg & Sitkin, 2013). As these changes largely transpire
internally, focusing on individual-level relationships here is warranted. Consistent with this focus, a majority of the empirical
studies of TFL have been conducted at the individual level (79% in the current review). However, it is important to point out
that the mediating pathways proposed here can be theoretically extended to the group, unit, or organizational level. For instance,
consistent with the affective mechanism explained below, organization-level TFL may promote a more positive climate in the or-
ganization, which in turn can benefit the organization’s productivity (Menges, Walter, Vogel, & Bruch, 2011).

TFL and performance outcomes

Content analysis of the leadership literature shows that job performance is the most frequently examined outcome (Hiller,
DeChurch, Murase, & Doty, 2011). Task performance (TP) is the effectiveness with which employees perform activities that contrib-
ute to an organization’s technical core (Borman & Motowidlo, 1997). Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) refers to how well
employees perform extra-role activities that are instrumental to promoting organizational effectiveness (Organ, 1988). OCB
shapes the organizational and psychological context that acts as the catalyst for improved performance in core task activities
(Borman & Motowidlo, 1997). Innovative behavior (IB) is the extent to which employees come up with new and useful ideas,
spread their own or others’ ideas to colleagues, and implement those ideas or help others to do so (Janssen, 2000). Researchers
have advocated the inclusion of IB as a formal appraisal criterion (Welbourne et al., 1998).

Each of the four core dimensions of TFL contributes to TP, OCB, and IB. Followers who feel positive and loyal as a result of a
transformational leader’s confidence and charisma are likely to be energized to do better in their in-role tasks, extra-role activities,
and innovative endeavors. Followers who are inspired by their transformational leaders endorse the organizational goals and
know clearly what they are expected to do. They are therefore willing to give their efforts in the different work roles they occupy
while anticipating that such efforts will help the organization attain its goals. Followers who are intellectually stimulated by trans-
formational leaders are likely to seek innovative ways of approaching their tasks, encouraging their IB. Finally, followers who are
given individualized consideration by transformational leaders are likely to reciprocate to their leaders with positive contributions
to their organizations, whether they are in-role, extra-role, or innovative endeavors. Indeed, recent meta-analysis shows that TFL
is related to TP at 0.21 (k = 31), OCB at 0.30 (k = 28), and creativity at 0.21 (k = 14) (Wang, Oh, Courtright, & Colbert, 2011). To
replicate and update these findings, this study proposes the following hypothesis.

Hypothesis 1. TFL is positively related to employee TP (H1a), OCB (H1b), and IB (H1c).

The preceding hypothesis states that there is a positive relationship between TFL and performance outcomes without shedding
light on the mediating processes. TFL indeed involves multiple types of behavior that may profoundly affect followers, both inter-
nally and externally. From an internal perspective, TFL can affect followers’ affective experiences, job motivation, and value sys-
tem. From an external perspective, it can affect their social exchanges and the broader work environment. These changes, in
turn, can explain why followers of transformational leaders display higher levels of TP, OCB, and IB than others. These five explan-
atory mechanisms are discussed in turn as follows.

The affective mechanism

The affective mechanism suggests that transformational leaders promote the positive affective well-being of followers and that
enhanced affective well-being promotes job performance in turn. This mechanism is best explained by both affective events the-
ory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964). First, affective events theory suggests that the external
environment strongly determines employees’ affective experiences at work. Employees experience a variety of positive and neg-
ative work events, which give rise to positive and negative affective experiences (Ohly & Schmitt, 2015). For instance, transforma-
tional leaders enhance followers’ positive mood (Bono & Ilies, 2006), and their positivity is contagious and “caught” by followers
(Bono, Foldes, Vinson, & Muros, 2007). Indeed, some researchers have viewed TFL as a process of transferring positive affect from
leaders to followers (Bommer, Rich, & Rubin, 2005; Walter & Bruch, 2009).

Affective events theory thus suggests that when leaders display positive behavior such as inspiring followers and considering
their interests, the followers’ positive affect in the workplace is likely to grow. As job satisfaction and affective organizational com-
mitment reflect employees’ positive feelings about their jobs and organizations (Harrison, Newman, & Roth, 2006), they were used
to represent the affective mechanism in this study. Although these two attitudinal variables also entail evaluative judgments of
one’s job and employer (Schleicher, Watt, & Greguras, 2004), they strongly reflect one’s liking or disliking of these targets

388 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

(Staw, Bell, & Clausen, 1996; Judge & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). Indeed, researchers have argued that there is a salient affective
underpinning to these two types of attitudes (Thoresen, Kaplan, Barsky, Warren, & de Chermont, 2003). Receiving TFL is a positive
work event that makes one feel positive about his or her job (job satisfaction); for instance, being inspired by the leader makes
the follower see his or her job as meaningful. Receiving TFL is also a positive work event that makes one feel positive about his or
her organization (affective organizational commitment); for instance, leaders’ individualized consideration makes a follower see
working for the organization as enjoyable.

Positive affective experiences drive improved job performance in turn, partly because followers make more positive assess-
ments of the link between effort and outcome (Kluemper, Little, & Timothy, 2009). Expectancy theory suggests that when em-
ployees expect their efforts to lead to better job performance and that better job performance to lead to desired outcomes in
turn, employees are more motivated to put in their efforts toward their jobs. In a leadership context, positive leadership behavior
positively colors followers’ assessments of the effort-performance and performance-outcome links, motivating them to perform
better in different aspects of their jobs. Consequently, further extending the previous discussion of how TFL affects job satisfaction
and affective organizational commitment, this study proposes that these two positive affect variables should promote better job
performance in turn (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002) because positive
affect strengthens their beliefs about the link between their inputs and outputs (Davis, 2009; Lee & Allen, 2002; Miner & Glomb,
2010). Perhaps due to these beliefs, satisfied employees are more effective in performing their core duties (Judge et al., 2001),
more willing to engage in OCB (Organ & Ryan, 1995), and more motivated to contribute to innovation (Madrid, Patterson,
Birdi, Leiva, & Kausel, 2014). Committed employees have also been shown to do well in their jobs (Meyer, Paunonen, Gellatly,
Goffin, & Jackson, 1989), be more willing to participate in extra-role activities (Meyer et al., 2002), and innovate on behalf of
their organizations (Ng, Feldman, & Lam, 2010). Thus, following affective events theory and expectancy theory, the following hy-
potheses are proposed.

Hypothesis 2. : Job satisfaction mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H2a), OCB (H2b), and IB (H2c).

Hypothesis 3. : Affective organizational commitment mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H3a), OCB (H3b),
and IB (H3c).

The motivational mechanism

The motivational mechanism suggests that transformational leaders inspire and motivate followers to feel confident about
doing well in their jobs and be willing to dedicate time and effort to their work tasks, both of which contribute to greater job
performance in turn. Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001, 2006) is informative here. It asserts that individuals strive to be
agentic; they hope to makes things happen through their own actions. The theory emphasizes that self-efficacy, or the confidence
to do well in a domain, is the key to determining whether an individual can successfully shape reality in the way he or she wants.
Those with greater self-efficacy have stronger beliefs in their ability to do well that in turn motivate them to try hard and persist
in the face of setbacks. In the organizational sciences, job self-efficacy refers to the extent to which employees believe they have
the ability to execute the courses of action needed to manage job situations (Bandura, 1995; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998).

Transformational leaders strengthen followers’ job self-efficacy through intellectual stimulations; they inspire followers to im-
prove themselves and look for excellence by choosing tasks or pursuing goals that are outside of their comfort zones (Liao &
Chuang, 2007). TFL is also a source of inspirational motivation; followers are convinced that they are capable of contributing to
an organization’s pursuit of its goals. Social cognitive theory indeed suggests that verbal persuasion and vicarious learning are
key to enhancing self-efficacy. First, self-efficacy beliefs grow when others (e.g., the transformational leader) provide encourage-
ment and instill confidence and when a person learns vicariously from someone who is seen as outstanding and as a role model
(e.g., the transformational leader). Thus, social cognitive theory suggests that followers of transformational leaders should have
high levels of job self-efficacy.

Job self-efficacy should promote greater TP in turn, as it represents employees’ perceived task competence, their conviction
that they can meet work goals, and optimistic assessments of the likelihood of task success (Gist, 1987; Hughes, Galbraith, &
White, 2011). Thus, the confidence to do well guides employees to actually do well in their core duties (Chen, Casper, &
Cortina, 2001; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Job self-efficacy also strengthens OCB, as executing extra-role tasks or taking part in
extra-role activities requires employees to know the work environment, social processes, and organizational system well. Job
self-efficacy also benefits IB, as employees need to first feel confident in their job ability before they can go beyond their comfort
zones to push for innovation and search for improvement. Therefore, consistent with social cognitive theory, the following hy-
pothesis is proposed.

Hypothesis 4. : Job self-efficacy mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H4a), OCB (H4b), and IB (H4c).

In addition to instilling work confidence, TFL strengthens followers’ work engagement, which is the extent to which followers
feel invigorated, dedicated, and absorbed when they work (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Schaufeli & Salanova, 2007). It has three
core dimensions: vigor (energy, mental resilience, and persistence), dedication (enthusiasm, inspiration, and pride at work), and
absorption (concentration and intensity in work). This three-dimensional view of work engagement extends the generic engage-
ment concept proposed by the Gallup Organization, which conceptualizes work engagement as whether employees feel generally

389T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

supported by their organizations to do their work well. The three-dimensional view, on the contrary, focuses on the specific state
of minds of employees while they are working; it taps into an intense investment of personal resources in one’s work tasks, in-
cluding his or her physical, emotional, and cognitive energies (Rich, LePine, & Crawford, 2010). One important antecedent of the
intensity of work engagement is the degree to which employees are resourceful, whether internally (e.g., feeling excited about the
work role) or externally (e.g., receiving resources from the leaders).

Many studies have indeed examined work engagement from a resource perspective; employees with more resources engage
themselves fully in their work roles (Crawford, LePine, & Rich, 2010; Halbesleben, Harvey, & Bolino, 2009). Conservation of re-
sources theory (Hobfoll, 1989, 2002) is relevant in this area. Although this theory typically focuses on resource depletion and
stress, it highlights the very important role of resources in people’ lives. Resources are so centrally valued because when people
have more resources, they are more able to achieve more goals, thereby enhancing their well-being (Wright & Hobfoll, 2004). This
instrumental value of resource is the source of motivation for individuals to exert effort. Furthermore, individuals are willing to
invest in pursuing laudable and valued goals in anticipation of garnering even more resources from that investment (Hobfoll,
1989, 2002).

The way TFL affects followers can be viewed as a resource enrichment process, especially spiritual and tangible resources. In
terms of spiritual resources, TFL energizes followers and strengthens their psychological capacity to handle different task demands
because transformational leaders make followers excited about organizational goals (Aryee, Walumbwa, Zhou, & Hartnell, 2012;
Avolio, Zhu, Koh, & Bhatia, 2004; Dust, Resick, & Mawritz, 2014) and enhance their beliefs that this goal pursuit is worthwhile
and value adding. Consistent with this psychological resource expansion argument, TFL has been found to strengthen employees’
sense of duty (Hannah, Jennings, Bluhm, Peng, & Schaubroeck, 2014). In terms of tangible resources, transformational leaders give
followers personalized support for problems and concerns (through the display of individualized consideration), such as by
granting them practical and useful means to achieve their work, career, and personal goals.

As a result of resource expansion through receiving TFL, followers can improve their performance in core tasks, extra-role ac-
tivities, and innovative endeavors. That is, TFL expands the psychological and tangible resources that allow followers to be fully
engaged with different aspects of their jobs. First, they feel invigorated and dedicated in doing their assigned duties (Christian,
Garza, & Slaughter, 2011). Engaged followers should also demonstrate greater OCB, because they are energized and equipped
to do more (rather than less) in the workplace and to go beyond the prescribed work roles. Engaged followers are also better
innovators because they are psychologically prepared and have external support to persist in seeking breakthroughs and improve-
ments. Thus, the resource perspective leads to the following hypothesis.

Hypothesis 5. : Work engagement mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H5a), OCB (H5b), and IB (H5c).

The identification mechanism

The identification mechanism suggests that followers of transformational leaders are inspired by and personally identify with
the leaders or their values. In turn, strengthened identification becomes a source of motivation for followers to work harder. Social
identification theory is particularly relevant here. Identification is the integration of a person’s value system with that of another
entity (Vignoles, Regalia, Manzi, Colledge, & Scabini, 2006). Identification occurs when individuals internalize the values and be-
liefs of the other entity (Hornsey & Hogg, 2000). The theory suggests that a person’s strengthened identification with a target is
associated with a stronger motivation to perform well for that target, as the person is willing to exert effort to achieve those ideals
on behalf of that target (Meyer, Becker, & Van Dick, 2006). The person believes that those ideals championed by the target are
important for them to pursue too.

As transformational leaders demonstrate a set of positive behavior that is seen as charismatic and inspiring, followers are likely
to personally identify with the leader’s values or with what they perceive the leader as representing (Ashforth, Harrison, & Gorley,
2008; Ashforth & Mael, 1989). This entails not only a reduced gap between what the leader and the follower see as ideal, but also
a sense of personal endorsement and admiration of the transformational leader’s value and behavior. Not surprisingly, researchers
have found that followers of transformational leaders report greater person-leader value fit (Hoffman, Bynum, Piccolo, & Sutton,
2011; Jung & Avolio, 2000). In addition, as transformational leaders are seen as symbolic of the organization (Eisenberger,
Stinglhamber, Vandenberghe, Sucharski, & Rhoades, 2002), followers may also identify with the broader organization. Empirical
research has shown that TFL does indeed enhance followers’ identification with their organizations (Boehm, Dwertmann,
Bruch, & Shamir, 2015; Effelsberg, Solga, & Gurt, 2014a, 2014b) and their perceptions of person-organization fit (Chi & Pan, 2012).

Identification with the leader and organization is likely to be associated with greater TP, OCB, and IB. Meyer et al. (2006) em-
phasized that discretionary work behavior is strongly driven by the intensity of employees’ social identities. Individuals spend
more time on those activities that validate and reinforce their salient social identities the most (Burke & Reitzes, 1981; Callero,
1985; Leary, Wheelers, & Jenkins, 1986; Stryker & Serpe, 1982). By expending greater efforts on different aspects of their jobs
to help leaders attain their performance goals, including core task duties, extra-role activities, and innovative endeavors, followers
can ensure that those goals that are also important to them can be achieved. A similar argument can be offered for identifying
with the organization; employees are willing to expend efforts in multiple areas of their jobs because doing so helps the organi-
zation with which they identify to attain a better well-being.

Hypothesis 6. : Identification with the leader mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H6a), OCB (H6b), and IB
(H6c).

390 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

Hypothesis 7. : Identification with the organization mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H7a), OCB (H7b),
and IB (H7c).

The social exchange mechanism

The social exchange mechanism suggests that TFL strengthens the quality of social exchanges between followers and leaders,
and higher quality exchanges motivate followers to reciprocate with greater job efforts to benefit the leaders (Song, Tsui, & Law,
2009). Social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) is directly relevant here. In social exchanges, there are rules governing the growth of
social relationships (Meeker, 1971). One of the rules is the norm of reciprocity, which suggests that a person should reciprocate
positively to another person when that person has done something to improve the quality of the relationship (e.g., doing a favor)
(Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005; Gouldner, 1960). The reciprocating acts create a self-reinforcing cycle that promotes the growth of
the relationship (Molm, Whitham, & Melamed, 2012). In the TFL context, transformational leaders continue to offer acts that im-
prove the quality of the relationship, but do not necessarily expect rewards directly, proportionately, or immediately from the fol-
lower to whom they have dedicated resources, as the relationship is believed to be characterized by open obligations and long-
term commitment. This generalized social exchange (Liden, Sparrowe, & Wayne, 1997) enhances followers’ intention to
reciprocate.

Leader-member exchange (LMX) has been used to represent the quality of exchange between leaders and followers; it is the
degree to which a leader develops a close or deep relationship with a follower (Dienesch & Liden, 1986; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).
TFL is closely related to LMX. First, as transformational leaders are supportive of their followers through individualized consider-
ation (Zacher, Pearce, Rooney, & McKenna, 2014), followers are likely to perceive the quality of the exchange as high (Chun, Cho,
& Sosik, 2016; Wang, Law, Hackett, Wang, & Chen, 2005). This individualized consideration behavior is quite unique to transfor-
mational leaders and is the key to accelerating the growth of the quality of the social exchange between leaders and followers as a
result of the strengthening of the reciprocation norms (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005). Second, followers led by transformational
leaders should be more likely to admire the leaders for their extraordinary behavior, charisma, and wisdom, thereby filling the
relationship with respect and trust. Third, transformational leaders are willing to invest their time and effort in cultivating rela-
tionships with followers, who are seen as important long-term assets that help the team, unit, or firm achieve its goal.

Another variable that is frequently seen as an important indicator of a social exchange at work is perceived organizational sup-
port, which is the extent to which the organization values the employee’s contribution and cares about his or her well-being
(Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). This construct is frequently examined at the
individual level; employees assess the extent to which their organizations are supportive and then react to such an assessment
psychologically. For instance, researchers have emphasized that organizational support fulfills employees’ internal, socioemotional
needs, which in turn draws favorable attitudinal, emotional, and behavioral responses from employees (Arneli, Eisenberger,
Fasolo, & Lynch, 1998; Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, & Rhoades, 2001). Thus, this study also examines perceived orga-
nizational support at the individual level.

Perceived organizational support is also relevant to the current investigation of TFL, as followers may take the actions of the
leaders as symbolic of the treatment they receive from their organizations (Eisenberger et al., 2002). For instance, Liaw, Chi,
and Chuang (2010) find that followers of transformational leaders report greater organizational support, which in turn enhances
their service performance. Thus, TFL enhances not only LMX, but also perceived organizational support.

These two social exchange variables promote job performance in turn (Wayne, Shore, & Liden, 1997). As suggested by social
exchange theory, followers who develop better exchange quality with a leader are more willing to reciprocate to the leader by
helping the leader to attain his or her goals. For instance, as transformational leaders are considerate, their followers are likely
to perceive the LMX as high quality; in turn, higher LMX is an impetus for the followers to perform well in their core task duties
as a way to reciprocate to the leaders (Wang et al., 2005). This reciprocation can also manifest in OCB that helps the leader to
improve the social processes within the team or unit and in IB that helps the leader’s team or unit to innovate. Perceived orga-
nizational support, which captures the exchange quality between the follower and organization, is similarly likely to promote pos-
itive performance outcomes. Employees who feel supported by their organizations have motivation to not only contribute to its
technical core as a way to reciprocate to the organization, but also engage in OCB and IB to help the organization maintain its
smooth social process and improve its production system. Thus, the reciprocation norm tenet of social exchange theory leads
to the following hypotheses.

Hypothesis 8. : LMX mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H8a), OCB (H8b), and IB (H8c).

Hypothesis 9. : Perceived organizational support mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H9a), OCB (H9b), and
IB (H9c).

The justice enhancement mechanism

The justice enhancement mechanism suggests that TFL indicates to followers that future resource allocations and the proce-
dures leading to those allocations are likely to be fair, in turn motivating followers to contribute their efforts. The group value
model (Tyler, 1989; Tyler, Degoey, & Smith, 1996) is informative here. It suggests that being treated fairly signals the value of

391T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

the target to the broader collective. Being treated fairly suggests to the target that he or she occupies a respectable position in the
group and can take pride in the group membership. Those feelings of respect and pride can in turn motivate individuals to ded-
icate more effort to serving the group’s interest (Restubog, Hornsey, Bordia, & Esposo, 2008). Thus, the group value model sug-
gests that fair treatment by transformational leaders carries more than just instrumental value; it also carries symbolic value,
which motivates followers to work dutifully for the group.

There are four types of justice perception: distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational justice (Colquitt et al.,
2013). Following other TFL researchers, this study focuses on distributive and procedural justice (Pillai, Schriesheim, &
Williams, 1999). These two types of justice are frequently assessed by employees at work (Gilliland, 1994; Rousseau, Salek,
Aube, & Morin, 2009). Distributive justice is the fairness of resource allocation (or outcomes received), and procedural justice is
the fairness of the procedures used to determine those outcomes (Moorman, 1991).

TFL enhances distributive justice because transformational leaders generally uphold high ethical standards (Groves & LaRocca,
2011; Zhu, Avolio, Riggio, & Sosik, 2011); they ensure that employees who have put in efforts or shown merits are compensated
fairly. Transformational leaders are cognizant of fairness issues and careful not to create resource allocation outcomes that break
the team spirit. Not surprisingly, it has been observed that followers of transformational leaders experience fewer breaches of
their expectations (Epitropaki, 2013), suggesting that the resource allocation decisions of such leaders are usually fair in the
eyes of followers. TFL also enhances procedural justice; for instance, Kirkman, Chen, Farh, Chen, and Lowe (2009) suggested
that transformational leaders always offer praise and recognition, which in turn make followers feel that the procedures and pol-
icies are fair. Transformational leaders also encourage employees to articulate their own opinions and satisfy their individualized
needs. This style of promoting stronger follower presence in the organizational system also promotes procedural justice (Pillai et
al., 1999).

Distributive and procedural justice enhance performance outcomes in turn, as being treated with respect and having one’s
worth affirmed by a broader collective are basic human needs, the satisfaction of which generates motivational power (Aryee,
Walumbwa, Mondejar, & Chu, 2015; Kovjanic, Schuh, Jonas, Van Quaquebeke, & Van Dick, 2012). When one’s status is affirmed,
one has stronger rationales to perform well in different aspects of his or her job (core task duties, extra-role activities, and inno-
vative endeavors) to serve the interest of the group (or the leader’s group). Doing so also bolsters and justifies the affirmation one
receives from the group; if one does not do well in different areas of his or her job, he or she may lose that affirmation from other
colleagues. Thus, based on the group value model, the following hypotheses are proposed.

Hypothesis 10. : Distributive justice mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H10a), OCB (H10b), and IB (10c).

Hypothesis 11. : Procedural justice mediates the relationships between TFL and employee TP (H11a), OCB (H11b), and IB (H11c).

Colquitt and Rodwell (2011) extended the group value model to suggest that justice perceptions strengthen employees’ feel-
ings of trust. Trust in the leader and trust in the organization indicate the extent to which employees are willing to become vulner-
able to the actions of the leader and organization. Strong trust indicates that employees assume the risk of believing that the
future behavior of the leader and organization will be supportive rather than unsupportive (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001; Lewicki,
McAllister, & Bies, 1998). That is, they are willing to rely on these entities despite the risk that they may not honor their obliga-
tions (Colquitt, Scott, & LePine, 2007; Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995).

When there is a high level of distributive and procedural justice, followers are willing to become vulnerable to the actions of
the leaders and organization because they anticipate that they will receive their fair share of resources from the leader or orga-
nization, through the application of fair procedures and decisions. In other words, perceptions of fairness are social cues to fol-
lowers that they can accept the risk associated with depending on the leaders and organization in the future and thereby
enhance their feelings of trust (Colquitt & Rodwell, 2011).

Trust in the leader and organization promotes followers’ job performance in turn, as they are willing to bear the risk of
exerting effort on behalf of these entities, with the expectation that these entities will appreciate the effort (Pillai et al., 1999).
This is especially true for OCB and IB, which can upset leaders and colleagues who see the employees who engage in extra-
role tasks as infringing upon their authorities or escalating competition and see proposers of changes and innovations as trouble-
makers. Followers who trust their leaders and organizations may also want to show to their leaders and organizations their own
benevolent intentions and job ability, the two core elements of trustworthiness (Mayer et al., 1995). Demonstrating a high level of
performance in different aspects of their jobs, including TP, OCB, and IB, is solid evidence to that end. Thus, the following hypoth-
esis is proposed.

Hypothesis 12. : Trust in the leader (H12a) and trust in the organization (H12b) mediate the relationships between justice per-
ceptions and employee performance outcomes.

The central role of LMX

Of the five aforementioned mediating mechanisms, the social exchange mechanism (especially LMX) is arguably the most im-
portant. Of the 10 mediators representing the five theory-based mechanisms, only LMX has captured the changing quality of the
relationship with the very leader who displays TFL. A core premise driving the TFL research is that leaders who are able to trans-
form and in particular escalate the relationship they have with their followers are likely to be more successful in motivating those

392 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

followers to contribute to the organizational goals (Barrick et al., 2015; Bass et al., 2003a, 2003b; Keller, 1992). Thus, successful
TFL often means successful and positive shaping of the LMX into higher quality. Other researchers have also acknowledged the
important role of TFL in advancing the quality of exchange between leaders and followers, from strangers who are wary of
each other’s exchange behavior to partners who are receptive to and grateful for each other’s offers of social exchange (Chun
et al., 2016; Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002; Wang et al., 2005).

When the relationship grows and the norm of reciprocation continues to strengthen, followers are likely to gradually experi-
ence other functional changes, such as increased positive affect, motivation, identification, and even justice perceptions. That is,
the followers in a high quality LMX reciprocate not only by increasing their job performance, but also through other positive
changes that indirectly benefit productivity, such as feeling more satisfied and committed, feeling more motivated and invigorated
to contribute, feeling a sense of identification with the leader and organization, and perceiving the leader and organization as fair
and trustworthy (Liden et al., 1997; Wayne et al., 1997). For instance, multiple meta-analyses have shown LMX to have wide-
spread positive effects on employees, including their affective experiences, job motivation, and justice perceptions (Dulebohn,
Bommer, Liden, Brouer, & Ferris, 2011; Gerstner & Day, 1997; Rockstuhl, Dulebohn, Ang, & Shore, 2012). Consequently, this
study explores the possibility that LMX is a core explanatory mechanism of the five discussed previously and that it at least par-
tially mediates the effects of TFL on other mediating variables.

Research Question 1. : Does LMX mediate the effects of TFL on other mediating variables, which are related to employee perfor-
mance outcomes in turn?

Method

To find studies relevant to this investigation, a comprehensive search for empirical articles examining TFL was performed. As
TFL has rather broad influences, studies conducted at any levels were targeted initially, although the subsequent model testing
focused on the individual level. That focus on individual-level data is acceptable, as this study addresses multiple social and psy-
chological processes occurring at the individual level.

Keyword searches were performed in multiple comprehensive journal databases: Dissertation Abstracts International, Digital
Dissertation Consortium, EBSCOHost, Emerald, Factiva, JSTOR, Oxford Journals, Proquest, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, Sage Full-Text Collec-
tions, and Wiley InterScience. Examples of the keywords used include “transformational leadership,” “charisma,” “job performance,”
“citizenship behavior,” “creativity,” and “innovation”. Several groups of TFL articles were necessarily excluded from the search re-
sults because (a) they did not provide the information needed to convert the effect sizes into correlations, (b) they discussed TFL
but did not provide any TFL data, or (c) the datasets involved were duplicated in other studies by the same group of authors.

The search identified 389 empirical articles related to TFL and 416 independent samples were contained in these studies (N =
126,463). The year of publication of the studies reveals a growing interest in TFL: 3% were published in 1999 or earlier 13% be-
tween 2001 and 2005 30% between 2006 and 2010 and 55% in 2011 or later. The mean age of individuals across samples that
gave demographic information was 36 years (SD = 8) and 47% were female. The mean job tenure was 5 years and the mean or-
ganizational tenure was 8 years. In terms of location 36% of the studies were conducted in the United States or Canada 23% in
Europe 31% in Asia Pacific regions and 4% in the Middle East with the remaining 6% conducted in other regions (e.g. Africa) or
covering more than one region. Finally 79% of the studies examined TFL at the individual level 11% at the team or unit level
and 10% at the organization level

To test the mediation effect hypotheses, correlations between the mediating variables involved (e.g., between job self-efficacy
and work engagement) were needed. Although some of these correlations were available from previous meta-analyses, others re-
quired new meta-analyses because meta-analytical effect sizes were not available. Thus, 240 additional articles (N = 83,048) that
contained correlations of interest but had not previously been meta-analyzed in the research were gathered. The major variables
of interest in this additional group of articles included job self-efficacy, work engagement, identification with the leader, and non-
self-report measures of IB. The article search strategy adopted was congruent with that noted previously for TFL studies. In sum,
N600 articles were used in this study.

Measures

To alleviate concerns about common method variance, this study endeavored to separate the sources of the ratings of the
study variables. TFL was measured from the followers’ perspective because they were the ones who directly and constantly
witnessed the leadership behavior. The mediating variables were also measured based on the followers’ self-ratings, as the fol-
lowers were arguably in the best position to evaluate these variables, which related to their social and psychological experiences
with TFL. These experiences were highly personal and subjective; it was hard to argue that a coworker, a leader, or a spouse had a
more accurate assessment of an employee’s own affect, motivation, identification, and justice perceptions. Finally, the three per-
formance outcomes were measured by non-self-report measures, as self-ratings of these variables might have contained inflation
or other biases.

TFL was the key variable of interest. Across virtually all of the studies, TFL was consistently measured by follower reports of the
extent to which leaders displayed TFL behavior. A few studies measured TFL using leaders’ self-reports or coworkers’ reports. To

393T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

rule out differences attributable to ratings sources, these studies were excluded from subsequent analyses. That is, this study con-
sistently focused on followers’ ratings of their leaders’ TFL.

Of the many scales used to measure TFL, the MultiFactor Leadership Questionnaire (Bass & Avolio, 1993) was the most fre-
quently used (68%) (with an average reliability estimate of 0.91). In cases where the authors provided dimensional scores instead
of an overall score, a linear average composite was created to represent TFL. Another set of studies (13%) used Podsakoff,
MacKenzie, Moorman, and Fetter’s (1990) inventory to measure TFL (with an average reliability estimate of 0.88). A small portion
of studies (5%) used the scale created by Carless, Wearing, and Mann (2000) (with an average reliability estimate of 0.94). The
remaining 14% used a variety of other scales to measure TFL.

Performance outcomes
The core outcomes of interest were TP, OCB, and IB, with TP representing the performance of in-role tasks and OCB

representing extra-role behavior that improved the organization (including prosocial behavior). Some studies provided dimen-
sional scores for OCB; in those cases, a linear average composite was created to represent the overall level of OCB for that
study. IB represented the invention, spreading, and implementation of ideas and therefore included not only creativity measures
but also other types of innovative endeavors. These three performance variables were further divided into self-rated and non-self-
report measures (supervisor ratings, peer ratings, or objective measures). The following mediation analyses used non-self-report
measures of TP, OCB, and IB at the individual level of analysis.

Mediating variables
Looking at the affective mechanism, job satisfaction and affective organizational commitment were operationalized with

established scales in individual studies, such as the measures of job satisfaction used by Brayfield and Rothe (1951) and Weiss,
Dawis, England, and Lofquist (1997) and the measures of organizational commitment used by Meyer, Allen, and Smith (1993)
and Cook and Wall (1980). In this case, job satisfaction referred to the job in general rather than any specific work conditions.
This study excluded other types of organizational commitment (e.g., normative, calculative), as this mechanism centered on pos-
itive affective experiences.

To test the motivational mechanism, job self-efficacy and work engagement were used as the core variables of interest, and both
were operationalized with established scales such as the measures of self-efficacy used by Jones (1986) and Riggs and Knight
(1994) and the measures of work engagement used by Schaufeli, Bakker, and Salanova (2006) and Rich et al. (2010). Job self-ef-
ficacy reflected one’s confidence in doing job tasks and was therefore different from generalized self-efficacy or self-efficacy beliefs
about other domains (e.g., creativity). In cases where the authors provided correlations for dimensions of work engagement
(vigor, dedication, absorption), those effect sizes were averaged to represent the overall degree of work engagement.

The third mediating mechanism was employees’ identification, with identification with the leader and identification with the or-
ganization being the core variables of interest. In this study, they were measured based on such measures as the scales of iden-
tification with the leader used by Kark, Shamir, and Chen (2003) and Shamir, House, and Arthur (1993) and the scales of
identification with the organization used by Mael and Ashforth (1992) and Smidts, Pruyn, and Riel (2001). Psychological identi-
fication with other entities such as team members, the group, or the occupation was excluded.

The social exchange mechanism was captured by LMX and perceived organizational support. Both variables were operational-
ized in individual studies with established scales, such as the measures of LMX used by Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995) and
Scandura and Graen (1984) and the measure of perceived organizational support used by Eisenberger et al. (1986) or its shorter
variant (Hellman, Fuqua, & Worley, 2006). To keep the focus on the support measures provided by the organization rather than
the supervisor, coworkers, or mentors, measures of other sources of support were excluded. As perceived organizational support
reflected generic feelings about the supportiveness of an organization, measures of specific kinds of assistance, such as support for
work-family balance or support for innovation, were excluded.

The fifth and final group of variables included distributive justice, procedural justice, trust in the leader, and trust in the organi-
zation, which served to test the proposed justice enhancement mechanisms. In this study, all four variables were operationalized
with established scales. For instance, the measures used by Moorman (1991) and Niehoff and Moorman (1993) were used to
measure distributive and procedural justice, and measures of trust (in either the leader or the organization) were often adapted
from scales such as those used by Dirks (2000) and McAllister (1995). Trust in other entities such as team members or mentors
was excluded.

Meta-analytical procedures

This study used the meta-analytical approach developed by Raju, Burke, Normand, and Langlois (1991). First, the measurement
error variance was removed from the observed correlations by using the internal reliability estimates provided in individual stud-
ies. Second, the sampling error variance was removed from the observed correlations by aggregating the same study relationship
across different studies, as any variability identified in the observed correlations might have been attributable to differences in the
nature and size of the samples.

To specifically test the mediation effects, this study used meta-analytical path analysis (Viswesvaran & Ones, 1995). In the first
step, individual-level meta-analytical data related to the relationships between TFL and all of the other correlates were gathered,
following the meta-analytical procedures described previously. Second, individual-level meta-analytical data related to the rela-
tionships between mediators were gathered. Some of the relationships between mediators had already been examined by

394 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

other authors in other meta-analyses (such as the relationship between job satisfaction and procedural justice). In those cases, the
meta-analytical effect sizes were directly borrowed, following other researchers who also used meta-analytical data for model
testing (Butts, Casper, & Yang, 2013; Courtright, Thurgood, Stewart, & Pierotti, 2015; Harrison et al., 2006). When more than
one meta-analysis existed for the same study relationship, the effect sizes based on more empirical studies were used. Third, a
similar procedure was used to gather the effect sizes for the individual-level relationships between mediators and non-self-report
measures of performance. That is, new meta-analyses were performed for a mediator-performance relationship if previous meta-
analyses did not provide such effect sizes.

The meta-analytical effect sizes borrowed from other studies included the correlation between affective organizational com-
mitment and OCB and job satisfaction from a study by Meyer et al. (2002), the correlations between LMX and affective organiza-
tional commitment and justice perceptions from a study by Dulebohn et al. (2011), the correlations between perceived
organizational support and job satisfaction and work engagement from a study by Ahmed, Nawaz, Ali, and Islam (2015), the cor-
relation between justice perceptions and affective organizational commitment from a study by Meyer et al. (2002), the correlation
between job satisfaction and OCB from a study by Judge et al. (2001), the correlations between affective organizational commit-
ment and TP and organizational identification from a study by Riketta (2002), the correlation between job self-efficacy and TP
from a study by Judge et al. (2007), the correlations between work engagement and TP, OCB, job satisfaction, and LMX from a
study by Christian et al. (2011), the correlations between LMX and TP and OCB from a study by Martin, Guillaume, Thomas,
Lee, and Epitropaki (2016), the correlations between perceived organizational support and TP and OCB from a study by
Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002), the correlations between organizational identification and TP, OCB, and perceived organizational
support from a study by Ng (2015), the correlations between justice perceptions and TP, OCB, LMX, and perceived organizational
support from a study by Colquitt et al. (2013), the correlation between job satisfaction and OCB from a study by Organ and Ryan
(1995), and the correlation between TP and OCB from a study by Harrison et al. (2006).

Following the preceding steps, two groups of data were obtained: (a) new primary data from current meta-analyses and (b)
secondary data from meta-analyses performed by other researchers. These individual-level data were then used to construct the
input correlation matrix used for the path analysis conducted to test the mediation hypotheses. Following Viswesvaran and Ones’s
(1995) recommendation, a harmonic mean sample size was computed for this matrix (N = 3142 in the current study). With the
correlation matrix and harmonic mean estimate, the next step was to specify and test the proposed models.

Table 1
The relationships of TFL with performance outcomes.

. N k rc SD 95% CI 90% CV

TP — non-self-report measures 18,794 100 0.26 0.09 (0.24, 0.28) (0.11, 0.41)
Individual level 14,178 59 0.27 0.09 (0.25, 0.29) (0.12, 0.42)
Team/unit level 2566 29 0.30 0.11 (0.26, 0.34) (0.12, 0.48)
Organizational level 2050 12 0.20 0.09 (0.15, 0.25) (0.05, 0.35)
MLQ 9109 23 0.28 0.10 (0.24, 0.32) (0.12, 0.44)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 4113 10 0.23 0.00 (0.23, 0.23) (0.23, 0.23)

TP — self-ratings 11,506 45 0.44 0.16 (0.39, 0.49) (0.18, 0.70)
Individual level 4464 14 0.36 0.15 (0.28, 0.44) (0.11, 0.61)
Team/unit level 1629 13 0.48 0.23 (0.35, 0.61) (0.10, 0.86)
Organizational level 5413 18 0.49 0.11 (0.44, 0.54) (0.31, 0.67)
MLQ 4288 14 0.36 0.17 (0.27, 0.45) (0.08, 0.64)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 906 5 0.37 0.16 (0.23, 0.51) (0.11, 0.63)

OCB — non-self-report measures 11,951 53 0.26 0.08 (0.24, 0.28) (0.13, 0.39)
Individual level 11,407 47 0.26 0.08 (0.24, 0.28) (0.13, 0.39)
Team/unit level 544 6 0.42 0.16 (0.29, 0.55) (0.16, 0.68)
MLQ 5707 26 0.27 0.07 (0.24, 0.30) (0.15, 0.39)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 4400 12 0.23 0.07 (0.19, 0.27) (0.11, 0.35)

OCB — self-ratings 13,493 30 0.32 0.15 (0.27, 0.37) (0.07, 0.57)
Individual level 13,146 27 0.32 0.15 (0.26, 0.38) (0.07, 0.57)
Team/unit level 189 2 0.43 0.24 (0.10, 0.76) (0.04, 0.82)
MLQ 6430 17 0.28 0.16 (0.20, 0.36) (0.02, 0.54)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 317 2 0.57 0.28 (0.18, 0.96) (0.11, 1.03)

IB — non-self-report measures 7154 34 0.20 0.09 (0.17, 0.23) (0.05, 0.35)
Individual level 5905 24 0.18 0.08 (0.15, 0.21) (0.05, 0.31)
Team/unit level 468 6 0.19 0.00 (0.19, 0.19) (0.19, 0.19)
Organizational level 781 4 0.33 0.00 (0.33, 0.33) (0.33, 0.33)
MLQ 4891 19 0.18 0.10 (0.14, 0.22) (0.02, 0.34)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 780 3 0.22 0.00 (0.22, 0.22) (0.22, 0.22)

IB — self-ratings 6104 24 0.42 0.18 (0.35, 0.49) (0.12, 0.72)
Individual level 2522 8 0.32 0.15 (0.22, 0.42) (0.07, 0.57)
Team/unit level 137 2 0.32 0.00 (0.32, 0.32) (0.32, 0.32)
Organizational level 3445 14 0.50 0.16 (0.42, 0.58) (0.24, 0.76)

Note. N = cumulative sample size; k = number of studies cumulated; rc = sample-size weighted corrected correlation; SD = standard deviation of rc; CI = –
confidence intervals for rc; CV = credibility intervals for rc. IB = innovative behavior; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; TFL = transformational leader-
ship; TP = task performance.

395T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

To identify any significant mediation effects embedded in the testing model, this study used Iacobucci, Saldanha, and Deng’s
(2007) method. According to these authors’ suggestion, if the predictor variable in a structural model is significantly related to
the mediator, which is in turn significantly related to the criterion variable (in the presence of a direct effect of the predictor var-
iable on the criterion variable), then there is initial evidence of mediation effects. These authors also suggested that Sobel’s (1982)
z-test could be used to determine whether the indirect effects are statistically significant. Although other mediation testing
methods are available (Preacher & Hayes, 2008), this study used Sobel’s z-test, as other methods required raw data to generate
bootstrapping confidence intervals, and such data were not available given the nature of meta-analysis. Other researchers have
also used Sobel’s statistic for mediation tests (Chen & Lin, 2011; Kaldo, Ramnerö, & Jernelöv, 2015; Vallieres, Vallerland,
Bergeon, & McDuff, 2014).

Results

Table 1 shows the corrected correlations between TFL and the performance outcomes, Table 2 shows the corrected correla-
tions between TFL and the mediating variables, and Table 3 shows the meta-analytical correlation matrix used to test the medi-
ation effects. In evaluating the proposed models, this study used three indices recommended by Hu and Bentler (1998): the
Incremental Fit Index (IFI), Comparative Fit Index (CFI), and Standardized Root Mean Squared Residual (SRMR). Hu and Bentler
(1999) especially recommended SRMR for its sensitivity to model misspecification. They suggested that IFI and CFI should be
close to 0.95 and that SRMR should be close to 0.08. In addition, this study used the stringent “α = 0.01” rule to perform signif-
icance tests of the parameter estimates in the models, as multiple significant tests were performed. Finally, as all of the

Table 2
The relationships of TFL with mediating variables.

N k rc SD 95% CI 90% CV

Job satisfaction 32,428 83 0.48 0.16 (0.45, 0.51) (0.22, 0.74)
Individual level 32,355 81 0.48 0.16 (0.45, 0.51) (0.22, 0.74)
Team/unit/organizational level 73 2 0.54 0.12 (0.37, 0.71) (0.34, 0.74)
MLQ 16,765 52 0.48 0.15 (0.44, 0.52) (0.23, 0.73)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 5834 12 0.43 0.18 (0.33, 0.53) (0.13, 0.73)

Affective organizational commitment 34,523 98 0.43 0.14 (0.40, 0.46) (0.20, 0.66)
Individual level 34,279 95 0.44 0.14 (0.41, 0.47) (0.21, 0.67)
Team/unit/organizational level 244 3 0.30 0.00 (0.30, 0.30) (0.30, 0.30)
MLQ 27,214 74 0.45 0.14 (0.42, 0.48) (0.22, 0.68)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 3320 8 0.33 0.11 (0.25, 0.41) (0.15, 0.51)

Job self-efficacy 15,825 42 0.32 0.11 (0.29, 0.35) (0.14, 0.50)
Individual level 14,445 30 0.31 0.10 (0.27, 0.35) (0.15, 0.47)
Team/unit/organizational level 1380 12 0.45 0.13 (0.38, 0.52) (0.24, 0.66)
MLQ 5012 16 0.27 0.08 (0.23, 0.31) (0.14, 0.40)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 1552 3 0.19 0.10 (0.08, 0.30) (0.03, 0.35)

Work engagement (all studies were conducted at the individual level) 7678 25 0.46 0.15 (0.40, 0.52) (0.21, 0.71)
MLQ 4755 16 0.45 0.10 (0.40, 0.50) (0.29, 0.61)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 1572 4 0.62 0.12 (0.50, 0.74) (0.42, 0.82)

Identification with the leader 3342 12 0.66 0.15 (0.58, 0.74) (0.41, 0.91)
Individual level 3262 11 0.67 0.15 (0.58, 0.76) (0.42, 0.92)

Identification with the organization 6639 19 0.51 0.14 (0.45, 0.57) (0.28, 0.74)
Individual level 6489 18 0.51 0.13 (0.45, 0.57) (0.30, 0.72)
MLQ 5612 15 0.53 0.14 (0.46, 0.60) (0.30, 0.76)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 625 2 0.42 0.00 (0.42, 0.42) (0.42, 0.42)

Leader-member exchange 8887 25 0.75 0.17 (0.68, 0.82) (0.47, 1.03)
Individual level 8741 24 0.76 0.16 (0.70, 0.82) (0.50, 1.02)
MLQ 7146 18 0.75 0.16 (0.68, 0.82) (0.49, 1.01)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 922 4 0.80 0.20 (0.60, 1.00) (0.47, 1.13)

Perceived organizational support (all studies were conducted at the individual level) 4024 13 0.52 0.16 (0.43, 0.61) (0.26, 0.78)
MLQ 1346 5 0.51 0.13 (0.40, 0.62) (0.30, 0.72)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 984 3 70 0.00 (0.70, 0.70) (0.70, 0.70)

Distributive justice (all studies were conducted at the individual level) 2592 7 0.44 0.08 (0.38, 0.50) (0.31, 0.57)
Procedural justice 6863 16 0.57 0.11 (0.52, 0.62) (0.39, 0.75)

Individual level 6744 15 0.55 0.11 (0.49, 0.61) (0.37, 0.73)
MLQ 3966 10 0.53 0.12 (0.46, 0.60) (0.33, 0.73)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 1403 68 0.68 0.05 (0.67, 0.69) (0.60, 0.76)

Trust in the leader 9840 30 0.67 0.17 (0.61, 0.73) (0.39, 0.95)
Individual level 9491 26 0.67 0.17 (0.60, 0.74) (0.39, 0.95)
Team/unit/organizational level 349 4 0.70 0.12 (0.58, 0.82) (0.50, 0.90)
MLQ 5641 17 0.74 0.16 (0.66, 0.82) (0.48, 1.00)
Podsakoff et al.’s scale 2457 5 0.60 0.15 (0.47, 0.73) (0.35, 0.85)

Trust in the organization 661 4 0.64 0.12 (0.52, 0.76) (0.44, 0.84)
Individual level 503 3 0.64 0.14 (0.48, 0.80) (0.41, 0.87)

Note. N = cumulative sample size; k = number of studies cumulated; r = sample-size weighted uncorrected correlation; rc = sample-size weighted corrected
correlation; SD = standard deviation of rc; CI = confidence intervals for rc; CV = credibility intervals for rc; TFL = transformational leadership.

Table 3
Meta-analytical correlation matrix (harmonic mean = 3142).

A. The correlation matrix used for testing the affective mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB JS AOC

1. TFL –
2. TP 0.27

(61, 14,646)

3. OCB 0.27
(48, 11,766)

0.23 a

(24, 9912)

4. IB 0.18
(24, 5905)

0.53
(30, 6846)

0.63
(8, 1918)

5. JS 0.48
(82, 32,594)

0.30 b

(312, 54,471)
0.26 d

(22, 5549)
0.28
(5, 1243)

6. AOC 0.44
(97, 34,626)

0.19 c

(59, 14,906)
0.27 e

(8, 1815)
0.42
(4, 944)

0.65 e

(69, 23,656)

B. The correlation matrix used for testing the motivational mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB JSE WE

1. TFL –
2. TP 0.27

(61, 14,646)

3. OCB 0.27
(48, 11,766)

0.23 a

(24, 9912)

4. IB 0.18
(24, 5905)

0.53
(30, 6846)

0.63
(8, 1918)

5. JSE 0.31
(30, 14,445)

0.37 f

(217, 32,123)
0.29
(11, 3463)

0.28
(5, 1243)

6. WE 0.46
(25, 7678)

0.39 g

(4, 1139)
0.43 g

(5, 1159)
0.42
(4, 944)

0.45
(19, 7519)

C. The correlation matrix used for testing the identification mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB LID OID

1. TFL –
2. TP 0.27

(61, 14,646)

3. OCB 0.27
(48, 11,766)

0.23 a

(24, 9912)

4. IB 0.18
(24, 5905)

0.53
(30, 6846)

0.63
(8, 1918)

5. LID 0.67
(11, 3262)

0.37
(7, 2774)

0.35
(4, 952)

0.12
(4, 844)

6. OID 0.51
(18, 6489)

0.38 h

(24, 8575)
0.47 h

(16, 5513)
0.17
(5, 1647)

0.58
(5, 3172)

D. The correlation matrix used for testing the social exchange mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB LMX POS

1. TFL –
2. TP 0.27

(61, 14,646)

3. OCB 0.27
(48, 11,766)

0.23 a

(24, 9912)

4. IB 0.18
(24, 5905)

0.53
(30, 6846)

0.63
(8, 1918)

5. LMX 0.76
(25, 9100)

0.29 i

(108, 23,672)
0.31 i

(72, 15,365)
0.31
(14, 4105)

6. POS 0.52
(13, 4024)

0.18 j

(12, 2873)
0.22 j

(16, 4050)
0.09
(3, 500)

0.54 k

(7, 2444)

E. The correlation matrix used for testing the justice enhancement mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB DJ PJ TIL TIO

1. TFL –
2. TP 0.27

(61, 14,646)

3. OCB 0.27
(48, 11,766)

0.23 a

(24, 9912)

4. IB 0.18
(24, 5905)

0.53
(30, 6846)

0.63
(8, 1918)

396 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

Table 3 (continued)

E. The correlation matrix used for testing the justice enhancement mechanism

TFL TP OCB IB DJ PJ TIL TIO

5. DJ 0.44
(7, 2592)

0.26 k

(45, 11,336)
0.21 k

(36, 10,100)
0.17
(5, 1266)

6. PJ 0.55
(15, 6744)

0.24 k

(57, 14,258)
0.30 k

(71, 16,864)
0.30
(3, 707)

0.61 k

(184, 67,956)

7. TIL 0.67
(26, 9491)

0.32 k

(5, 749)
0.48 k

(10, 2355)
0.22
(3, 530)

0.45 k

(26, 7085)
0.65 k

(31, 7877)

8. TIO 0.64
(3, 503)

0.19 k

(3, 1372)
0.29 k

(8, 3027)
0.02
(3, 643)

0.54 k

(20, 6409)
0.63 k

(22, 5898)
0.53 k

(7, 2063)

Note. The first figure in parentheses represents the number of studies cumulated (k). The second figure represents the total sample size (N). Performance measures
are based on non-self-report data at the individual level of analysis. The data from new meta-analyses are in boldface. The letter superscripts in the body of the
table indicate the source of the meta-analytical correlations: “a,” Harrison et al. (2006); “b,” Judge et al. (2001); “c,” Riketta (2002); “d,” Organ and Ryan (1995);
“e,” Meyer et al. (2002); “f,” Judge et al. (2007); “g,” Christian et al. (2011); “h,” Ng (2015); “i,” Martin et al. (2016); “j,” Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002); “k,”
Colquitt et al. (2013). AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfaction; JSE = job self-effi-
cacy; LID = leader identification; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational identification; PJ = –
procedural justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TIL = trust in the leader; TIO = trust in the organization; TFL = transformational leadership;
TP = task performance; WE = work engagement.

397T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

relationships discussed thus far were predicted to be positive in direction, the following discussion focuses on estimates that sup-
port that prediction.

Examining the TFL-performance relationship

Hypothesis 1 predicted that TFL was positively related to TP (H1a), OCB (H1b), and IB (H1c). As shown in Table 1, TFL was
positively related to non-self-report measures of TP at the individual (ρ = 0.27), team (ρ = 0.30), and organization (ρ = 0.20)
levels, fully supporting H1a. TFL was also related to non-self-report measures of OCB at the individual (ρ = 0.26) and team
(ρ = 0.42) levels, supporting H1b. Finally, TFL was related to non-self-report measures of IB at the three levels of analysis
(ρ = 0.18, 0.19, and 0.33, respectively), supporting H1c.

Two methodological issues are noteworthy. First, this study considered whether individual-level meta-analytical correlations
differed from aggregated correlations. As shown in Tables 1 and 2, the credibility intervals associated with the effect sizes for
the individual- and aggregate-level data overlapped, which suggests that the level of analysis was not a confounding factor
here (Whitener, 1990). Second, it examined whether measures of TFL altered the effect sizes. As noted earlier, the two most wide-
ly used scales were the MLQ measure and the measure used by Podsakoff et al. (1990). Tables 1 and 2 show that the credibility
intervals associated with the effect size for the group of studies that used MLQ overlapped with that for the group of studies that
used the measure adopted by Podsakoff et al. These results suggest that the choice of TFL measure did not appear to substantially
affect the current set of findings and data interpretation.

Examining the five mediating models

The parameter estimates in meta-analytical path analysis (using individual-level correlations as inputs) are shown in Fig. 2.
Hypothesis 2 predicted that job satisfaction mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H2a), OCB (H2b), and IB (H2c). Hypothesis 3 pre-
dicted that affective organizational commitment mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H3a), OCB (H3b), and IB (H3c). The fit of this
affective model was acceptable: IFI was 0.98, CFI was 0.98, and SRMR was 0.04. TFL was related to job satisfaction (β = 0.48),
which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.31) and OCB (β = 0.25). In the same model, TFL was related to affective organizational
commitment (β = 0.44), which in turn was related to OCB (β = 0.17) and IRB (β = 0.18). Table 4 shows a summary of the re-
sults of mediation analyses. Job satisfaction did mediate the relationships of TFL with TP and OCB, and affective organizational
commitment mediated the relationships of TFL with OCB and IB. Thus, H2a, H2b, H3b, and H3c were supported, but H2c and
H3a were not.

Hypothesis 4 predicted that job self-efficacy mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H4a), OCB (H4b), and IB (H4c). Hypothesis 5
predicted that work engagement mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H5a), OCB (H5b), and IB (H5c). The motivation mechanism
model had an acceptable fit: IFI was 0.99, CFI was 0.99, and SRMR was 0.02. As shown in Fig. 2, TFL was related to job self-efficacy
(β = 0.31), which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.24), OCB (β = 0.12), and IB (β = 0.11). TFL was also related to work engage-
ment (β = 0.46), which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.28), OCB (β = 0.38), and IB (β = 0.37). As shown in Table 4, mediation
analyses revealed that both job self-efficacy and work engagement mediated the relationship between TFL and all three perfor-
mance outcomes. Thus, H4a–H4c and H5a–H5c were all supported.

Hypothesis 6 predicted that identification with the leader mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H6a), OCB (H6b), and IB (H6c).
Hypothesis 7 predicted that identification with the organization mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H7a), OCB (H7b), and IB
(H7c). The identification mechanism model had an acceptable fit: IFI was 0.98, CFI was 0.98, and SRMR was 0.02. TFL was related
to identification with the leader (β = 0.67), which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.23) and OCB (β = 0.12). In the same model,

Table 4
A summary of tests of mediation relationships.

Independent variable (IV) Mediator (M) Dependent variable (DV) β1 (IV➔M) β2 (M➔DV) Significance of the indirect effect (β1 ∗ β2)

The affective mechanism
TFL JS TP 0.48⁎⁎ 0.25⁎⁎ 10.14⁎⁎

TFL JS OCB 0.48⁎⁎ 0.09⁎⁎ 3.89⁎⁎

TFL JS IB 0.48⁎⁎ ns –
TFL AOC TP 0.44⁎⁎ ns –
TFL AOC OCB 0.44⁎⁎ 0.14⁎⁎ 5.96⁎⁎

TFL AOC IB 0.44⁎⁎ 0.15⁎⁎ 6.12⁎⁎

The motivational mechanism
TFL JSE TP 0.31⁎⁎ 0.23⁎⁎ 10.58⁎⁎

TFL JSE OCB 0.31⁎⁎ 0.11⁎⁎ 5.85⁎⁎

TFL JSE IB 0.31⁎⁎ 0.12⁎⁎ 6.13⁎⁎

TFL WE TP 0.46⁎⁎ 0.25⁎⁎ 11.72⁎⁎

TFL WE OCB 0.46⁎⁎ 0.34⁎⁎ 15.22⁎⁎

TFL WE IB 0.46⁎⁎ 0.38⁎⁎ 16.26⁎⁎

The identification mechanism
TFL LID TP 0.67⁎⁎ 0.23⁎⁎ 9.78⁎⁎

TFL LID OCB 0.67⁎⁎ 0.13⁎⁎ 5.13⁎⁎

TFL LID IB 0.67⁎⁎ ns –
TFL OID TP 0.51⁎⁎ 0.25⁎⁎ 11.65⁎⁎

TFL OID OCB 0.51⁎⁎ 0.41⁎⁎ 17.60⁎⁎

TFL OID IB 0.51⁎⁎ 0.12⁎⁎ 5.55⁎⁎

The social exchange mechanism
TFL LMX TP 0.76⁎⁎ 0.20⁎⁎ 7.17⁎⁎

TFL LMX OCB 0.76⁎⁎ 0.23⁎⁎ 8.32⁎⁎

TFL LMX IB 0.76⁎⁎ 0.44⁎⁎ 15.97⁎⁎

TFL POS TP 0.52⁎⁎ ns –
TFL POS OCB 0.52⁎⁎ 0.06⁎⁎ 3.17⁎⁎

TFL POS IB 0.52⁎⁎ −0.09⁎⁎ 4.50⁎⁎

The justice enhancement mechanism
TFL DJ TP 0.44⁎⁎ 0.15⁎⁎ 6.79⁎⁎

TFL DJ OCB 0.44⁎⁎ ns –
TFL DJ IB 0.44⁎⁎ ns –
TFL PJ TP 0.55⁎⁎ ns –
TFL PJ OCB 0.55⁎⁎ 0.21⁎⁎ 8.70⁎⁎

TFL PJ IB 0.55⁎⁎ 0.30⁎⁎ 12.17⁎⁎

DJ TIL TP ns 0.23⁎⁎ –
DJ TIL OCB ns 0.55⁎⁎ –
DJ TIL IB ns ns –
DJ TIO TP 0.18⁎⁎ −0.07⁎⁎ 2.86⁎⁎

DJ TIO OCB 0.18⁎⁎ 0.13⁎⁎ 5.23⁎⁎

DJ TIO IB 0.18⁎⁎ −0.37⁎⁎ 9.39⁎⁎

PJ TIL TP 0.40⁎⁎ 0.23⁎⁎ 8.52⁎⁎

PJ TIL OCB 0.40⁎⁎ 0.55⁎⁎ 16.90⁎⁎

PJ TIL IB 0.40⁎⁎ ns –
PJ TIO TP 0.30⁎⁎ −0.07⁎⁎ 2.91⁎⁎

PJ TIO OCB 0.30⁎⁎ 0.13⁎⁎ 5.56⁎⁎

PJ TIO IB 0.30⁎⁎ −0.37⁎⁎ 11.80⁎⁎

Note. ns = not significant; AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfaction; JSE = job self-
efficacy; LID = leader identification; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational identification; PJ = –
procedural justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TIL = trust in the leader; TIO = trust in the organization; TFL = transformational leadership; TP = –
task performance; WE = work engagement.
⁎⁎ p b 0.01.

398 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

TFL was related to identification with the organization (β = 0.51), which in turn was positively related to TP (β = 0.25), OCB
(β = 0.40), and IB (β = 0.15). As shown in Table 4, mediation analyses revealed that identification with the leader mediated
the relationships of TFL with TP and OCB, and identification with the organization mediated the relationships of TFL with all
three performance outcomes. Thus, H6a, H6b, and H7a\H7c were all supported, but H6c was not.

Hypothesis 8 predicted that LMX mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H8a), OCB (H8b), and IB (H8c). Hypothesis 9 predicted
that perceived organizational support mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H9a), OCB (H9b), and IB (H9c). The social exchange mech-
anism model had an acceptable fit: IFI was 0.98, CFI was 0.98, and SRMR was 0.02. TFL was related to LMX (β = 0.76), which in
turn was related to TP (β = 0.27), OCB (β = 0.27), and IB (β = 0.37). TFL was also related to perceived organizational support
(β = 0.52), which in turn was related to OCB (β = 0.07) but not to TP and IB. As shown in Table 4, mediation analyses revealed
that LMX mediated the relationship between TFL and all three performance outcomes, and perceived organizational support

Table 5
Meta-analytical correlations among all study variables (harmonic mean = 3142).

TFL TP OCB IB JS AOC SE WE OID LMX POS DJ PJ

1. TFL –
2. TP
(non-self-reports)

0.27
(61,
14,646)

3. OCB
(non-self-reports)

0.27
(48,
11,766)

0.23 a

(24,
9912)

4. IB
(non-self-reports)

0.18
(24,
5905)

0.53
(30,
6846)

0.63
(8,
1918)

5. JS 0.48
(84,
32,667)

0.30 b

(312,
54,471)

0.26 j

(22,
5549)

0.12
(3,
418)

6. AOC 0.44
(100,
34,873)

0.19 c

(59,
14,906)

0.27 k

(8,
1815)

0.18
(4,
854)

0.65 k

(69,
23,656)

7. SE 0.32
(41,
15,825)

0.37 d

(217,
32,123)

0.29
(11,
3463)

0.28
(5,
1243)

0.45
(71,
32,000)

0.43
(26,
12,354)

8. WE 0.46
(25,
7678)

0.39 e

(4, 1139)
0.43 e

(5,
1159)

0.42
(4,
944)

0.53 e

(20,
9725)

0.52 e

(14,
7569)

0.45
(19,
7519)

9. OID 0.51
(19,
6636)

0.38 h

(24,
8575)

0.47 h

(16,
5513)

0.17
(5,
1647)

0.54 n

(38,
8759)

0.78 n

(16,
4263)

0.25
(5,
1172)

0.31 e

(4,
4695)

10. LMX 0.75
(26,
9246)

0.29 f

(108,
23,672)

0.31 f

(72,
15,365)

0.31
(14,
4105)

0.49 l

(88,
22,520)

0.41 l

(21,
8118)

0.39
(12,
3644)

0.62 m

(39,
19,214)

0.46
(13,
3549)

11. POS 0.52
(13,
4024)

0.18 g

(12,
2873)

0.22 g

(16,
4050)

0.09
(3,
500)

0.52 m

(56,
22,430)

0.62 m

(66,
15,760)

0.19
(11,
3544)

0.53
(6,
2013)

0.56 h

(25,
7810)

0.54 I

(7,
2444)

12. DJ 0.44
(7, 2592)

0.26 i

(45,
11,336)

0.21 i

(36,
10,100)

0.17
(5,
1266)

0.56 o

(24,
57,515)

0.40 p

(14,
3426)

0.08
(5,
2018)

0.39
(4,
1304)

0.45
(10,
3059)

0.44 l

(32,
6693)

0.51 i

(17,
7085)

13. PJ 0.57
(16,
6863)

0.24 i

(57,
14,258)

0.30 i

(71,
16,864)

0.30
(3,
707)

0.62 o

(40,
31,774)

0.38 p

(14,
4384)

0.23
(11,
4431)

0.42
(6,
1825)

0.48
(19,
6285)

0.55 l

(30,
7211)

0.59 i

(29,
11,072)

0.61 i

(184,
67,956)

Note. The first figure in parentheses represents the number of studies cumulated (k). The second figure represents the total sample size (N). The data from new
meta-analyses are in boldface. AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfaction; LMX = –
leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational identification; PJ = procedural justice; POS = perceived organiza-
tional support; SE = self-efficacy; TFL = transformational leadership; TP = task performance; WE = work engagement. The letter superscripts in the body of
the table indicate the source of the meta-analytical correlations: “a,” Harrison et al. (2006); “b,” Judge et al. (2001); “c,” Riketta (2002); “d,” Judge et al.
(2007); “e,” Christian et al. (2011); “f,” Martin et al. (2016); “g,” Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002); “h,” Ng (2015); “i,” Colquitt et al. (2013); “j,” Organ and
Ryan (1995); “k,” Meyer et al. (2002); “l,” Dulebohn et al. (2012); “m,” Ahmed et al. (2015); “n,” Riketta (2005); “o,” Colquitt et al. (2001); “p,” Meyer et al.
(2002).

399T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

mediated the relationship between TFL and OCB in the expected direction. Thus, H8a\H8c and H9b were supported, but H9a and
H9c were not.

Hypothesis 10 predicted that distributive justice mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H10a), OCB (H10b), and IB (H10c).
Hypothesis 11 predicted that procedural justice mediated the effects of TFL on TP (H11a), OCB (H11b), and IB (H11c). The
model with only justice perceptions as mediators (not shown here) had an acceptable fit: IFI was 0.97, CFI was 0.97, and
SRMR was 0.03. TFL was related to distributive justice (β = 0.44), which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.18) but not to OCB
or IB. In the same model, TFL was related to procedural justice (β = 0.55), which in turn was related to TP (β = 0.13), OCB
(β = 0.27), and IB (β = 0.39). As shown in Table 4, mediation analyses revealed that distributive justice mediated the relation-
ship of TFL with TP, and procedural justice mediated the relationships of TFL with OCB and IB. Thus, H10a, H11b, and H11c were
supported, but H10b, H10c, and H11a were not.

Extending the preceding justice mechanism, Hypothesis 12 predicted that trust in the leader and trust in the organization me-
diated the relationship of justice perceptions with performance outcomes. The extended justice enhancement model had an ac-
ceptable fit: IFI was 0.98, CFI was 0.98, and SRMR was 0.02. As shown in Fig. 2, distributive justice was related to trust in the
organization (β = 0.18), and procedural justice was related to both trust in the leader (β = 0.40) and trust in the organization
(β = 0.30). Trust in the leader was related to TP (β = 0.28), OCB (β = 0.48), and IB (0.10), and trust in the organization was
related to OCB (β = 0.08). Mediation analyses reported in Table 4 show that (a) trust in the leader mediated the effects of
both distributive and procedural justice on TP and OCB, (b) trust in the organization mediated the effects of distributive justice
on OCB and IB, and (c) trust in the organization mediated the effects of procedural justice on OCB. Thus, H12a and H12b received
modest support.

TFL

JS

AOC

TFL

JSE

WE

OCB

(A) The affective mechanism

(IFI = .98, CFI = .98, SRMR = .04)

IB

TFL

LID

OID

OCB

IB

OCB

IB

.44

.31

.17

.18

.46

TFL

.24

LMX

POS

TP

.37

OCB

(B) The motivational mechanism

(IFI = .99, CFI = .99, SRMR = .02)

IB

.12

(D) The social exchange mechanism

(IFI = .99, CFI = .99, SRMR = .02)

TP

.11

TFL

TP

.28

TP

DJ

PJ

TP

OCB

.38

(C) The identification mechanism

(IFI = .98, CFI = .98, SRMR = .02)

.17

IB

.51

(E) The justice enhancement mechanism

(IFI = .99, CFI = .99, SRMR = .01)

.23

TIL

TIO

76.13.52.84. .12

.40

.15

.76

.52

.37

.27

.27

.07

.44

.55

.18

.40

.28

.30
.08

.40

.48

.10

.25

Fig. 2. Significant positive parameter estimates. Note. All effect sizes are significant at α = 0.01. For the sake of simplicity, the direct effects of TFL on job perfor-
mance are not shown. AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IRB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfaction; JSE = job self-ef-
ficacy; LID = leader identification; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational identification; PJ =
procedural justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TIL = trust in the leader; TIO = trust in the organization; TFL = transformational leadership;
TP = task performance; WE = work engagement.

TFL

JS

AOC

TP

OCB

IB

TFL

JSE

WE

TP

OCB

IB

LMX LMX

TFL

LID

OID

TP

OCB

IB

(C) The extended identification mechanism

(IFI = .98, CFI = .98, SRMR = .02)

TFL

DJ

PJ

TP

OCB

IB

(D) The extended justice enhancement mechanism

(IFI = .98, CFI = .98, SRMR = .02)

LMX LMX

.75
.30

.18

.23

.13

.14

.32

.19

.22

.26

.30

.34

(A) The extended affective mechanism

(IFI = .99, CFI = .99, SRMR = .01)

(B) The extended motivational mechanism

(IFI = .98, CFI = .98, SRMR = .03)

.18

.13

.20

.52

.75

.18

.07

.06

.26

.34

.35

.85

.17

.88

.38

.25

.22

.20

.36

.21

.25

.75

.15

.22

.18

.76 .10

.30

.24

.21

.41

.06

.28

Fig. 3. Extended mediating mechanisms and significant positive parameter estimates. Note. All effect sizes are significant at α = 0.01. For the sake of simplicity, the
direct effects of TFL on job performance are not shown. AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job
satisfaction; JSE = job self-efficacy; LID = leader identification; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organiza-
tional identification; PJ = procedural justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TFL = transformational leadership; TP = task performance; WE = work
engagement.

400 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

401T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

As shown in Table 4, across the 10 theoretical mediators, TFL had the strongest effect on LMX and the weakest effect on job
self-efficacy. The strongest mediator-performance relationship was between LMX and IB, and the weakest (albeit significant) re-
lationship was between perceived organizational support and OCB. To directly compare the five mediating mechanisms, a model
containing all of the mediators was tested. The mediating effects observed in this model therefore controlled for one another’s
influences. Next, the averages of the standardized positive mediating effects representing each mechanism were compared. It
was found that the identification mechanism (0.56) was the strongest mediating mechanism, followed by the motivation
(0.35), affective (0.33), social exchange (0.21), and justice enhancement (0.19) mechanisms.

LMX as the central explanatory mechanism

Research Question 1 asked whether LMX mediated the effects of TFL on other mediating variables (which were related to the
performance outcomes in turn). To examine this research question, the model that was originally proposed for the affective, mo-
tivational, identification, and justice enhancement mechanisms was extended by treating LMX as the mediator in the relationships
between TFL and the mediating variables. The mediating variables, in turn, were specified as related to the three performance out-
comes. These four models are shown in Fig. 3 along with the fit indices and parameter estimates. Each of the four extended
models had an acceptable fit.

In the extended affective mechanism model, TFL was related to LMX (β = 0.75), which in turn was related to both job satis-
faction (β = 0.30) and affective organizational commitment (β = 0.18). These mediating variables were in turn related to TP,
OCB, and IB (β ranged from 0.06 to 0.23). In the extended motivational mechanism model, TFL was again related to LMX
(β = 0.75), which was in turn related to job self-efficacy (β = 0.34) but not work engagement. Both job self-efficacy and
work engagement were in turn related to TP, OCB, and IB (β ranged from 0.07 to 0.35). In the extended identification mechanism
model, TFL was related to LMX (β = 0.76), which was in turn related to identification with both the leader (β = 0.85) and the
organization (β = 0.17). These mediating variables were in turn related to TP, OCB, and IB (β ranged from 0.21 to 0.41). Finally, in
the modified justice enhancement mechanism model, TFL was related to LMX (β = 0.75). LMX was in turn related to both dis-
tributive justice (β = 0.25) and procedural justice (β = 0.28), which were in turn related to TP, OCB, and IB (β ranged from 0.15
to 0.22). The preceding findings affirm the prediction made in Research Question 1.

Finally, this study tested an integrative model that specified TFL as related to LMX, which was in turn related to all of the other
mediating variables except for perceived organizational support and identification with the leader. Perceived organizational support
was excluded from this integrative model because it captured the same type of mechanism (that is, the social exchange

TFL LMX .75

SE

WE

OID

TP

JS

AOC

DJ

PJ

.30

.18

.18

.25

.28

.30

.36

.38

.25

.52

.12

.15

.38

.20

.11

.15

.23

.45

.07

.23

.62

OCB

.61

.16

.28

IB

.34

.26

Fig. 4. The integrated model and significant positive parameter estimates. Note. Model fit: IFI = 0.98, CFI = 0.98, SRMR = 0.03. All effect sizes are significant at
α = 0.01. For the sake of simplicity, the direct effects of TFL on performance outcomes, the correlated residuals among mediators, and the correlated residuals
among performance outcomes are not shown. AOC = affective organizational commitment; DJ = distributive justice; IB = innovative behavior; JS = job satisfac-
tion; JSE = job self-efficacy; LMX = leader-member exchange; OCB = organizational citizenship behavior; OID = organizational identification; PJ = procedural
justice; POS = perceived organizational support; TFL = transformational leadership; TP = task performance; WE = work engagement.

402 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

mechanism) as LMX. Identification with the leader was excluded because, even after a thorough search, there were not enough
empirical studies to conduct meta-analyses of its relationships with other mediating variables (e.g., work engagement, justice),
which were needed to successfully test the integrative model. Each of the remaining seven mediating variables was then specified
to affect the three performance outcomes. To account for the interrelationships between these seven variables, their residuals
were allowed to be freely estimated. This integrative model is shown in Fig. 4 along with the parameter estimate and fit indices.
The meta-analytical correlations used to test this integrative model are shown in Table 5.

Several specific findings are noteworthy. First, this integrative model had an acceptable fit: IFI was 0.98, CFI was 0.98, and
SRMR was 0.03. Second, TFL was positively related to LMX (β = 0.73). This relationship was the strongest in the integrative
model. LMX was in turn positively related to each of the seven mediating variables except for work engagement. Third, all of
the mediating variables were positively related to at least one performance outcome. In some cases (e.g., job self-efficacy), the
mediating variable was related to all three performance outcome variables. Finally, as expected, in addition to the mediating effect
of LMX, TFL positively affected each of the seven mediating variables except for job self-efficacy.

Overall, supportive evidence showed that TFL affected performance outcomes through the affective, motivational, social ex-
change, identification, and justice enhancement mechanisms, with the social exchange mechanism being the most important,
as evidenced by the central role of LMX in the integrative model and its strongest magnitude with TFL (β = 0.75). Of the remain-
ing four mechanisms, the motivational mechanism had the strongest mediating effects, as evidenced by the finding that job self-
efficacy and work engagement were the only mediators that related positively to all three performance outcome variables (al-
though LMX was related to job self-efficacy only and not to work engagement). The identification mechanism was equally impor-
tant, as evidenced by its strong relationship with both TP (β = 0.62) and OCB (β = 0.61).

Discussion

Contribution of the present study

Although multiple mediating mechanisms have been identified in previous research related to TFL and performance outcomes,
no attempt has been made to integrate the plethora of mechanisms. Consequently, the field has grown in different directions, hin-
dering its forward movement. To address this gap, this study attempted to integrate the diverse literature in this area by identi-
fying and testing five core mediating mechanisms supported by at least one established social or psychological theory. This
attempt was important because the TFL research has been criticized for a lack of clarity as a result of the different approaches
used by different researchers and for the lack of theoretical justification in the mediating processes tested (Van Knippenberg &
Sitkin, 2013). Thus, identifying theory-based mediating mechanisms helped to unify the field by identifying some common frame-
works for TFL researchers to approach their investigations. It also contributes above and beyond the Wang et al. (2005) meta-
analysis, which only examined the bivariate relationship between TFL and performance outcomes. No mediating mechanisms
were tested in that study. The current meta-analysis fills that gap and unravels the multiple pathways through which TFL can
draw a favorable performance.

The results were generally supportive. Based on meta-analytical data gathered from 600 articles, this study showed that five
theory-driven mechanisms help to explain the effects of TFL on performance outcomes. Each of these five mediating mechanisms
is unique. The affective mechanism focuses on the positive emotional experience of being led by transformational leaders. The
motivational mechanism focuses on the effects of TFL on employees’ confidence and excitement in doing their work tasks. The
identification mechanism unravels the influence of TFL on employees’ value beliefs. The social exchange mechanism addresses
the quality of social exchange between followers and transformational leaders (and the organization). The justice enhancement
mechanism addresses the social cues created by TFL around resource allocation in the workplace, thereby affecting their trust
in leaders and their job efforts.

Most importantly, the current study contributes to the literature by integrating the five mechanisms and highlighting the crit-
ical role of LMX. The social exchange mechanism (and LMX in particular) arguably plays the most central role of the five mech-
anisms, as it is the only mediator examined here that tapped into how employees directly felt about their leaders. That feeling
should be the most proximal and immediate reaction to TFL. In fact, this study observed that TFL had the strongest influence
on LMX out of all of the mediators examined. LMX was in turn positively related to each of the other mediators except for
work engagement. Therefore, this study unraveled one core way in which TFL draws better performance: TFL significantly en-
hances the quality of the relationship between leaders and followers. An improved LMX not only enhances job performance by
strengthening the reciprocation norm (as suggested by the social exchange mechanism), but also strengthens other mediating
variables, including affect intensity (job satisfaction, affective organizational commitment), motivation level (job self-efficacy),
value system (identification with the leader and the organization), and justice perceptions (distributive and procedural justice),
all of which, in turn, relate to performance outcomes.

In summary, all five mechanisms received general support in this study, suggesting that they are all useful for explaining the
pathways through which TFL affects employees’ job performance. This study also integrated various streams of the literature re-
lated to TFL research, including LMX, social and psychological processes, and performance. There are certainly other ways in
which TFL affects employees. However, these five mechanisms were generated from established social and psychological theories
and are therefore likely to be applicable across different settings and disciplines. It is important to consider all five in future TFL
theories because they are not independent; instead, they are likely to occur simultaneously.

403T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

Implications for future research

The five mechanisms can be extended both separately and together in multiple ways in future research. First, the supportive
evidence favoring the affective mechanism suggests that TFL, affect, and performance are closely related. However, this study
did not examine mood, but instead used job satisfaction and affective organizational commitment to represent employees’ pos-
itively charged affective experience. Although mood does not have targets, attitudes do, which is why this study examined the
latter. Future research can extend the affective mechanism by considering howmood may play an additional role in influencing
this affective process. Affective events theory indeed emphasizes that employees’ affective experiences are governed by both
individual differences and the work environment. Future research can also consider the role of negative moods/attitudes in
the affective mechanism, given that transformational leaders can help to remove job stress for their followers (Liu, Siu, & Shi,
2010a).

Second, this study identified supportive evidence for the motivational mechanism. It is indeed the only mechanism of the five
examined here in which the two mediators mediated the effects of TFL on all three types of job performance. The robust findings
here were not surprising given that one of the major goals of TFL is to help followers to see meaning in their jobs and to endorse
organizational goals as worthy of their efforts (Grant, 2012). To extend this mechanism further, future research should (a) differ-
entiate between different types of self-efficacy beliefs (e.g., task, role-breadth, and creative self-efficacy) and different dimensions
of work engagement (vigor, absorption, and dedication), (b) compare why job self-efficacy generally has a weaker mediating ef-
fect than work engagement (as evidenced in Table 4 of the current study), and (c) examine how job self-efficacy and work en-
gagement influence each other. In the model tested, the correlations between the residuals of job self-efficacy and work
engagement were controlled for so that they could be treated as though they influenced each other (and were influenced by
the same other variables). Future research should disentangle whether and why job self-efficacy leads to a higher level of work
engagement and vice versa. Finally, to fully understand how TFL enriches followers’ resources (as captured by their work engage-
ment intensity), more direct measures of the resources valued by the followers are needed.

Third, this study found that identification with the leader mediated the relationships of TFL with TP and OCB and that identifi-
cation with the organization mediated the relationships of TFL with all three performance outcomes. Some possible ways to further
extend the identification mechanism include (a) investigating identification with other targets directly or indirectly affected by
the transformational leaders, such as the team and unit; (b) directly measuring followers’ person-leader value fit, which this
study argued was the major reason why identification occurred, according to social identity theory; and (c) determining how
identification may hinder IB, as endorsing a leader’s values may mean fewer independent thoughts and challenges to stimulate
innovation. Indeed, among the three performance outcomes in this study, both identification with the leader and identification
with the organization had the weakest effects on followers’ IB.

Fourth, this study also found supportive evidence for the social exchange mechanism. As shown in Table 4, there was more
supportive evidence for LMX than for perceived organizational support, although both were seen as indicators of social exchange
quality (Wayne et al., 1997). Future research can extend this mechanism by further differentiating between the different types of
social exchange relationships at work (Maurer, Pierce, & Shore, 2002). Future research can also address why perceived organiza-
tional support has such a limited mediating effect in the presence of LMX. One reason is that LMX should emerge as the more
relevant mediator in studies of leadership. The level of organizational support, as signaled by the degree of TFL, involves a
more indirect inference on the part of followers. The level of analysis may play a role here; unit-level LMX may create a support-
ive culture that in turn robustly enhances the unit’s performance. As this study focused on the individual level of analysis only,
future research is encouraged to examine the social exchange mechanism at other levels of analysis. Finally, future research
can directly measure the perceived reciprocation norm, which is the core element in social exchange theory (Blau, 1964). As
this study argued, TFL enhances LMX (and also perceived organizational support) in part because the reciprocation norm is
strengthened, which in turn motivates followers to reciprocate with greater performance.

Fifth, the justice enhancement mechanism is certainly in need of more future research, as the supportive evidence, although
positive, is not strong. The justice enhancement mechanism has some non-significant (or even unexpectedly negative) estimates
for the relationships between TFL, justice perceptions, and performance outcomes (Table 4). Therefore, to extend the justice en-
hancement mechanism further, future research should (a) consider overall justice perceptions instead of subcomponents of jus-
tice, as high correlations between the different types of justice perceptions may contribute to unexpected estimates (Landis,
2013), and (b) further address the roles of trust in the process. Although the current study showed that trust mediated the effects
of justice perceptions on job performance, there was no clear pattern of why a certain type of trust mediated a certain type of
justice on a certain type of job performance. Further disentangling the effects of different types of justice on different types of
trust is therefore important to boost the utility of this mechanism. Finally, how TFL affects justice and trust may benefit from in-
corporating research highlighting the downsides of TFL, such as creating pressure for followers to conform (Samnani & Singh,
2013).

Future research should also directly measure the core constructs in the group value model, which this study used to explain
the justice enhancement mechanism. The group value model (Tyler, 1989; Tyler et al., 1996) suggests that fair treatment by
leaders has special motivational benefits because it symbolizes the value of followers to the leader or organization. Being fairly
treated by transformational leaders is an important cue that one is a highly valued and respected member of the group. The feel-
ings of respect and pride can in turn motivate one to trust the leader and organization and dedicate more effort to serving the
group’s interest (Restubog et al., 2008). Thus, the group value model suggests that multiple social and psychological variables
such as justice, respect, pride, trust, and perceived insider status are important for explaining why TFL affects performance.

404 T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

Finally, the supportive evidence for the integrative model suggested that LMX played a central and mediating role in the no-
mological network of TFL; it mediated most of the mediating effects of other variables in the TFL-performance link. The integrative
model can be extended by (a) further specifying the directions of the effects of some pairs of variables, such as those between
affective organizational commitment and justice perceptions and between identification with leaders and work engagement, as
this study controlled for these interrelationships only by allowing residual correlations to be freely estimated, and (b) incorporat-
ing perceived organizational support into the model, which was excluded from analysis in this study because both LMX and per-
ceived organizational support were from the same mediating mechanism. It is, however, possible that some of the effects of LMX
on other mediating variables were transferred via perceived organizational support. In addition, the integrative model can be ex-
tended by examining (c) why LMX is not positively related to work engagement, as found by this study; (d) how one’s perfor-
mance feeds back to affect the degree of TFL received, thereby extending the static view presented in the integrative model;
and (e) shifting the level of analysis to the team, unit, or organizational level and examining whether the integrative model
also holds at these levels.

Limitations of the present research

Interpretation of the findings of this study must take some limitations into consideration. First, although this study tested me-
diations, causal inferences should not be inferred because the data were non-experimental in nature. For instance, followers who
perform poorly may attribute the cause to the poor TFL displayed by the leaders, an argument consistent with the romance of the
leadership literature (which highlights the overemphasis on the influence of leaders on organizational success; Meindl, Ehrlich, &
Dukerich, 1985). In that scenario, job performance may affect TFL. Second, although an integrative model was tested in this study,
there are certainly other ways to specify the relationships between the variables contained in this integrative model. As noted
previously, the interrelationships between the mediators were controlled for by specifying the correlations between their resid-
uals as freely correlated. Despite this specification, readers should be cognizant of other ways in which the mediators may affect
one another.

Third, this study limited its investigation of each mediating mechanism to two mediating variables that best represented that
mechanism. However, the choice of variables representing each mechanism is not limited to those chosen here. The test could be
expanded to include other variables in the same theoretical domain. Fourth, because its goal was to identify mediating effects, this
study did not examine moderators in its original meta-analyses. Readers should be aware that the meta-analytical correlations
presented here reflected the average across studies conducted in different settings with different samples.

Fifth, in testing the proposed models, some relationships were either non-significant or even became negative. For instance,
the relationships of TP and IRB with perceived organizational support were either non-significant or negative. As none of the orig-
inal meta-analytical correlation inputs (presented in Table 3) were negative in nature, it is likely that the negative estimates re-
sulted from including other variables in the testing model. When a variable is related moderately or even strongly to another
variable, the effect of that original variable (on a third variable) may be vastly weakened or even forced to become negative in
a model that contains both (Friedman & Wall, 2005). According to Landis’s (2013) recommendation, when the meta-analytical
correlations between the input variables are high and result in unexpected path estimates, those variables can be considered to
load on a higher-level latent factor. As the goal of the current study was to identify the specific effect of each mediator, such
an approach was not adopted, but future research should certainly consider it.

Sixth, although the current study focused on individual-level relationships only, TFL has been examined at a higher aggregated
level. The relationships held at the individual level should logically hold at a higher level, although it is not a must (Klein &
Kozlowski, 2000). Future research should reexamine the research questions posed here when more studies conducted at other
levels of analysis accumulate. The final limitation is the relatively small number of studies that could be aggregated to investigate
some of the proposed relationships. Although meta-analysis can be executed with as few as two studies (Hunter & Schmidt,
2004), the cumulated effect sizes are more stable when the number of cumulative studies is higher. However, this study’s
meta-analysis is timely and important because it helps to move forward the field of TFL by identifying the most important medi-
ating mechanisms explaining why TFL affects performance.

Managerial implications

It is hoped that managers, like academics, will also attend to the mediating mechanisms through which TFL affects employees.
Although many managers believe that TFL is important, they do not necessarily understand why it is important. The current study
identifies five major reasons why TFL plays such a vital role in promoting followers’ job performance. It suggests that followers of
transformational leaders are more productive in different areas of work because (a) they are happier at their jobs and more com-
mitted to their organizations, (b) they are more motivated to work hard when they are inspired by the leaders, (c) they want to
perform better because they feel as though they personally identify with the transformational leader and the organization, as poor
performance of the organization directly hurts their value beliefs, (d) they are more willing to reciprocate to their transformation-
al leaders by increasing their job efforts, and (e) they see their transformational leaders as fair and trust that the leaders appre-
ciate their performance efforts and recognize their benevolence and competence. Taken together, these five pathways reveal to
managers a more accurate and dynamic picture of the various social and psychological mechanisms by which TFL affects fol-
lowers. Managers should consider devising leadership forums, training workshops, or assessment centers that communicate
these benefits of TFL to current and potential leaders.

405T.W.H. Ng / The Leadership Quarterly 28 (2017) 385–417

This study also highlights to managers the important role of LMX in particular. It shows that LMX mediates the mediating re-
lationships between TFL, perceptual and psychological variables, and performance outcomes. This is an important finding, as man-
agers can more readily and quickly change the quality of the relationships they share with their followers rather than change their
employees’ perceptions and psychological attitudes, which are unobservable, subjective, and take time to alter. In contrast, when
transformational leaders are able to focus on improving LMX through, for instance, giving employees individualized consideration
(one of the major dimensions of TFL), they are likely to successfully enhance employees’ positive affect, motivational level, value
fit with the leader, and justice perceptions to improve performance.

Indeed, there are multiple ways in which transformational leaders (or those who hope to be more transformational) can show
individualized consideration and therefore help to sustain and improve a high quality exchange with their followers, such as by
acknowledging their accomplishments, granting developmental opportunities, involving them in the decision-making process, giv-
ing positive and constructive feedback, and implementing performance-based pay (Fuller et al., 2006; Grover, 2013; Sommer &
Kulkarni, 2012). All of these measures are likely to make employees feel that they have an elevated status in the workplace, there-
by making them more likely to reciprocate with improved performance. The psychosocial support rendered by the transforma-
tional leader is also key to promoting LMX, such as hearing out and listening to followers’ concerns, expressing genuine
interest in their positions and career development, recognizing and understanding what goes into their work, emphasizing
their good sides, and expressing appreciation and respect for their contribution, efforts, and time (Carmeli, Dutton, & Hardin,
2015). These are all important ways in which transformational leaders can strategically build LMX with their followers, thereby
benefitting the organization’s productivity in the long run. Managers are again encouraged to communicate these specific ways
of building LMX to current and potential leaders.

Conclusion

TFL research has been accumulating for a few decades now; there is already a plethora of findings on the effects of TFL on em-
ployees. The current study integrated the diverse literature within this area of research by identifying and testing five theory-driv-
en mediating mechanisms through which TFL affects employees’ job performance. Although all five mechanisms received general
support in the current empirical investigation, the extent of the support depended on the mechanism and variable involved. An
integrative model highlighting the important role of LMX was also proposed and tested, and the evidence was generally positive.
It is hoped that the five mechanisms identified here will be further expanded and incorporated into future studies to help re-
searchers understand the psychological and social processes by which transformational leaders promote their followers’ job
performance.

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  • Transformational leadership and performance outcomes: Analyses of multiple mediation pathways
    • Theoretical background
      • The nature of TFL
      • TFL and performance outcomes
      • The affective mechanism
      • The motivational mechanism
      • The identification mechanism
      • The social exchange mechanism
      • The justice enhancement mechanism
      • The central role of LMX
    • Method
      • Measures
        • Performance outcomes
        • Mediating variables
      • Meta-analytical procedures
    • Results
      • Examining the TFL-performance relationship
      • Examining the five mediating models
      • LMX as the central explanatory mechanism
    • Discussion
      • Contribution of the present study
      • Implications for future research
      • Limitations of the present research
      • Managerial implications
    • Conclusion
    • References

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