EDUS 660 #5: The Power of Transformational Leaders

Leadership that Transforms
 Leadership that Transforms

Food for Thought-Search online journals to find a research project involving a panel study. Describe the nature of the study design and its primary findings. Include a link to the article.

Transformation is such a powerful word.  When joined with leadership the idea of empowerment and change surface as a reminder of the past semester studying organizational change and change strategies.  The longitudinal panel study that I considered for this week’s “Food for Thought” is Toward Understanding the direct and Indirect Effects of Transformation Leadership on Well-being: A Longitudinal Study. (The full text is located through the VCU library.)

Background:  The researchers are associated with Umea University and Umea Social Services, Sweeden. Their interest in pursuing this line of study stems from the absences of research in the possible effects that transformation leadership may have on the well-being of employees, primarily in the field of social services. While most studies, in their experience, employed cross-sectional designs, little work surrounds long-term transformation. Researchers contend that studies of leadership in the field of social service is a national dilemma.  The problems of burnout and stress are well documented in the Swedish social service field.

Transformation Cartoon

Purpose for the research-The team chose to further the understanding of the possible effects of transformation leadership on the well-being of employees over time. The researchers suggest that “Climate for innovation” has proven to influence well-being, framing  the conceptualization for this study. The researchers use the describe innovation as an intentional process. This process engages the application of ideas, and products.  Procedures that are unique are of interest to them when designed to yield favorable outcomes. They suggest that the perception of “climate,” in relation to organizational literature, is receiving considerable attention. It is used to predict both individual and organizational outcome variables.

Understanding Transformation Leaders-Emotional contagion suggests that transformation leaders who experience optimism, happiness and enthusiasm throughout the day are better able to influence group performance and affect. The importance of collective action may occur through idealized influence.  Leaders who replace feelings of isolation are able to transform employee well-being.  When lowering the levels of burnout and reducing stress, affective well-being is increased.

The Present Study-Researchers decided to conduct the research over a 12 month period of time.  Two hypothesis were formulated:

Hypothesis 1: TL is positively associated with affective well-being, both cross-sectionally and 1 year later.

Hypothesis 2:  the positive relationship between TL and affective well-being is mediated by perceptions of an innovative      climate, both cross-sectionally and 1 year later.

Method: Participants and Procedure-This research project engaged a longitudinal panel design. The sample was comprised of 2,700 social service employees from a large Swedish municipality. Questionnaires were distributed on two occasions.

Time I:

  • 342 employees who were randomly selected from staff records.
  • 158 individuals participated.
  • Questionnaires were mailed to the participants.
  • 79% female/11.5 years avg. employment/51% university degree/43.2 years avg.age
  • care assistants, social workers, nurses
  • Representative in comparison to population of organization

Time II:

  • Panel Mortality-22 respondents
  • 101 of 136 remaining returned 2nd questionnaire
  • 745 response rate
  • 81% female/13.0 years avg. employment/46% university degree/44.6 years avg. age
  • **81% of participants had same supervisor as time I

Measures: Research employed these measurement tools-

Transformation Leadership:  The most common measure of transformation leadership was used. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Bass and Avolio, 1995). It operationalizes four theoretically identified dimensions of transformation leaders: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation ,and individualized consideration.

A 5-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4(often, if not always).

Reliability: Time 1: . 94, Time 2: . 96

Climate for innovation: The questionnaire, QPS Nordic, used to measure innovation, using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree/never) to 5 (strongly agree/always). Three items measured the degree of possibility to take initiative at work.

Reliability: Time 1:.80  Time 2:  .77

Affective well-being: The Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ, 1993) was selected because it was context-free. The eight positively worded items on the test asked participants to report how well they felt the week of the test. The response scale, ranging from 1 (almost never) to 4 (most of the time) posed statements such as, “I am happy with my life,” or “I am filled with energy.”

Reliability:  Time 1: .85   Time 2:  .86

  • Results and Discussion: Researchers report the following positive correlation for both Time 1 and Time 2 for transformation leadership with climate for innovation and well-being. when testing for stability, they were confirmed using a stability model. The researchers came to three main conclusions when discussing the results of direct and indirect effects of transformational leadership on employee well-being over time: No direct effect of TL on well=being over time.
  • Differences in the level of well-being in employees can be explained, in part, by the level of innovation created by the TL.
  • TL has a direct and positive association with well-being.  It needs to be measured at the same time.

Theoretical and Practical Implications: The researchers contend that their findings contribute to the literature that exists. Overtime, Transformational Leaders have an effect of the well-being of employees over time and cross-sectionally. Because the subscales for transformational behavior were highly correlated, they cannot pinpoint which transformation behavior explains the effect on climate for innovation and well-being. They could not tell which specific behavior led to the outcome that they sought to explore.

Limitations and Future Discussion:  The researchers felt that the main weakness in their study was the use of the questionnaires.  The data was self-reported, which they felt could lead to problems with common method bias. The size of the sample was small.  The researchers felt that a larger sample might strengthen the study.  A stronger study would allow for more concrete conclusions to be drawn. The lack of variables concerned the researchers. The study was conducted in an organization comprised almost entirely of females. Could the result generalize to other settings or types of organizations? Sources of spurious dependency could be ruled out as a result of the stability coefficients that were built into the study.

Strengths: Occasional factors and biographical factors he testing of models to make sure that the scales used in the study were distinctively different. They used several procedural design remedies discovered during the literature review phase of their research.

I found the overall premise behind this study interesting to me to consider after organizational change and development. One of the key components of change is understanding that buy-in must be from those in a leadership position.  What I would have enjoyed learning more about would be the organizational learning that occurred through the design and development phase of transformational leadership. An added bonus was all of the vocabulary words that I didn’t need to look up as they were a part of last week’s reading! Yeah!

Dr. Richard Boyatzis has several wonderful videos that he’s created about leadership.  One that I found particularly interesting to me discusses the concept of brain development and leadership:

Something to chew on-

What are the qualities in a leader that encourage you to pursue innovative ideas?

Which qualities in a leader make for a climate of well-being in your organization?

How often does the leader in your department or organization participate in training for the expressed purpose of transforming his/her skills?


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