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  • v.6(4); 2020 Apr

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Leadership styles, work engagement and outcomes among information and communications technology professionals: A cross-national study

Habtamu kebu gemeda.

a Adama Science & Technology University, School of Humanity & Social Sciences, Ethiopia

b Pusan National University, Keumjeong-Gu, Jangjeon-Dong, San 30, Busan, 609-735, South Korea

The present study examined relationships among leadership styles, work engagement and work outcomes designated by task performance and innovative work behavior among information and communication technology professionals in two countries: Ethiopia and South Korea. In total, 147 participants from Ethiopia and 291 from South Korea were made to fill in the self-reporting questionnaire intended to assess leadership styles, work engagement, task performance, and innovative work behavior. To test the proposed hypotheses, multiple linear regression analysis was utilized. The results showed that transformational leadership style had a significant positive relationship with employees' work engagement and innovative work behavior, while transactional leadership style had a significant positive relationship with employees' task performance. However, laissez-faire leadership style had a significant negative relationship with task performance. Work engagement had significant positive relationships with the indicators of work outcomes. Besides, work engagement partially mediated the relationship between leadership styles and work outcomes. The observed associations and mediation were consistent across the two national samples considered, indicating the soundness of the assumptions across countries. The findings provide insights into how leadership styles correspond with employees’ work outcomes.

Leadership; Workplace; innovation; Performance; industry; Organization; Human Resources; work engagement; transformation; transaction, Technology Management; Organizational Theory; Human Resource Management; Behavioral Psychology; Organizational Psychology

1. Introduction

Leadership is crucial for effective functioning of any organization. The fundamental of leadership is its persuading power on human resources, organizations' source of competitive advantage, and the resultant outcomes. In swaying followers and harnessing organization member's selves to their work roles, leaders must enhance employees' motivation as having engaged employees is critical for organization to achieve its goal ( Batista-Taran et al., 2009 ). Studies, (e.g., Bakker and Bal, 2010 ; Harter et al., 2002 ; Xathopoulou et al., 2009 ) recorded the noteworthiness of employees' work engagement for organizational achievement measured in terms of monetary returns, productivity, client satisfaction, and a number of individual-level alluring employees' characteristics such as taking initiative and being proactive.

Literature (e.g. Bakker and Demerouti, 2008 ; Kim, 2014 ; Park et al., 2013 ; Saks, 2006 ; Salanova et al., 2011 ; Salanova and Schaufeli, 2008 ; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004 ; Song et al., 2012 ; Xathopoulo et al., 2007 ) studied employee engagement within the framework of its antecedents and consequences using mainly the job demand-resources model, social exchange theory, social cognitive theory, and leadership theory. In the plethora of studies examining the correlates of employee engagement, particularly in Western and some Asian contexts, the most discussed antecedents included job resources, personal resources, perceived supports, learning organizations, and transformational leadership, while the personal-level outcomes considered were performance, turnover intention, organizational citizenship behavior, health, proactive behavior, innovative behavior, and knowledge creation practices. In spite of significant empirical studies on associates of work engagement, little research have been found that explored the potential link between leadership behaviors and employee engagement in the wider human resources literature ( Carasco-Saul et al., 2015 ).

Thus, the current study focused on examining relationships among leadership styles, employee work engagement and work outcomes. Leadership was targeted because previous research (e.g. Xu and Thomas, 2011 ; Carasco-Saul et al., 2015 ) also elucidated scarcity of findings that connect leadership styles and employees work engagement. Further, the dominant capacity of leadership over other work variables and its vulnerability to modifications were taken into consideration in its selection as correlates of work engagement and outcomes. For workoutcomes, employees' job performance and innovative work behavior were considered because of their pertinence to organizational existence and progress. Job performance is the term that academics and practitioners use most commonly and widely. Nonetheless, an aggregate definition of success across jobs and roles is very difficult to conceptualize since employees are engaged in a large number of tasks including even those not listed out in their formal job description ( Demerouti and Cropanzano, 2010 ). On the basis of review of previous studies, Kim (2014) outlined various ways of conceptualizing job performance ranging from overall performance to organizational citizenship behaviour. In the present study, as indicator of employees' job performance, in-role performance is conceptualized as accomplishment of core tasks and activities specified in employee contract document connected to officially defined organizational outcomes (( Demerouti and Cropanzano, 2010 ). In addition to performing main tasks officially listed out, considering the current competitive work environment, employees are pressed to go extra mile beyond those formally recognized in their job description such as being innovative in their workplace. As Ramoorthy et al. (2005) suggested, to succeed organizations are pressuring employees to innovate their methods and operations. Janssen (2000) was of the view that to have a continuous flow of innovation and to achieve goals, individual employees need to be skilled to innovate. What is more, employees’ innovative work behavior is comprehended as a specific form of extra-role performance related to discretionary employee actions in connection to generating idea, promoting, and realizing it.

In spite of evidences on the relationship between styles of leadership and work outcomes such as job performance and innovative work behavior (e.g., Khan et al., 2012 ; Solomon, 2016 ), studies explored the meditational role of work engagement in the link between leadership and work outcomes were insignificant. In connection to work engagement mediation between leadership behaviour and work outcomes, findings of the study are directing to quality of leader-subordinate relationships ( Agarwal et al., 2012 ), transformational leadership ( Salanova et al., 2011 ) and employees affective commitment to their immediate supervisor ( Chughtai, 2013 ) as antecedent factors.

Thus, specifically, in the present study the researchers proposed and tested a model in which work engagement partly mediates relationship between leadership styles (focusing on the pattern of behavior of leaders’ exhibited) and work outcomes labelled by task performance and innovative work behavior. Hence, the conceptual model used in the study is depicted in Figure 1 .

Figure 1

Research model.

Besides, the study also examined the associations among variables of the study and the mediation of work engagement in link between leaders’ style and work outcomes in two independent samples of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals from Ethiopia and South Korea to test for soundness of suggested assumptions across the nations.

2. An overview of the study context

The participants of the study were professional ICT staffs working for for-profit companies engaged in ICT businesses in the two countries: Ethiopia and South Korea. Ethiopia is situated in the Horn of Africa; it has the second biggest populace in the continent, with more than 102 million occupants; however it has the most minimal per capita income ( Ethiopia, 2018 ). Be that as it may, Ethiopia's economy has developed at a remarkable rate over the previous decade. As the International Monetary Fund (2016) revealed, the nation has had a great record of achievement of development and poverty decrease lately and it is portrayed as one of the fastest developing economies on the planet.

With respect to Ethiopia's work culture, on the continuum of Hofstede's dimensions of culture—power distance, collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance—it is characterized by a large power distance, tight social ties and collective action, masculine characteristics, and high uncertainty avoidance ( Beyene et al., 2016 ). Thus, in Ethiopian work culture, it appeared that power centralization is prevalent. Subordinates inclined to be told what to do and managers are expected to be influential and powerful. However, as Wasbeek (2004) indicated, individualism, masculinity, and a long-term orientation have been budding, specifically among the young and educated employees in Ethiopia.

South Korea, on the other hand, is an East Asian country on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula and is home to more than 51 million people. South Korea is the fourth biggest economy in Asia and the eleventh biggest on the planet ( South Korea, 2018 ).

When South Korean culture is examined, regarding power distance, it is a slightly hierarchical society with a collectivist nature and feminine as South Koreans are low on masculine/feminine dimension. Regarding uncertainty avoidance, South Korea might be taken as one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries, where people show a convincing enthusiastic prerequisite for rules, value time, and have an internal tendency to be involved and buckle down. Besides, South Korea's score on long-term orientation is at 100, showing that it is a highly pragmatic and long-term-oriented society ( Compare Countries—Hofstede Insights, n.d. ).

Nevertheless, as Yim (2002) indicated, Korean customary culture has in slight change, and to some level giving way to Western influx. Rapid socioeconomic transformation and the apparently indiscriminate inflow of Western culture were accounted for the change.

3. Previous research and hypotheses

3.1. leadership styles and work-related outcomes.

Leadership is the most commonly discussed topic in the organizational sciences. Lines of research may be delineated along three major approaches: trait, behavioral and inspirational. Trait theorists seek to identify a set of universal leadership traits whereas behaviorists focused on behaviors exhibited by specific leaders. Inspirational approach deliberated on leader as one who moves adherents through their words, thoughts and conduct ( Robbins et al., 2009 ). As Carasco-Saul et al. (2015) suggested in the 1970s and 1980s, the charismatic leadership concept emerged, emphasizing that a charisma leader, a leader who inspires, attracts and influences followers by their personal qualities are considered effective. A typical characteristic of charismatic leadership is that it has the ability to motivate subordinates to concede to goals by imparting a vision, displaying charming behavior, and being a powerful model.

As part of neo-charismatic movement, full range leadership theory, which is also referred to as the Full Range Leadership Theory of Bass and Avolio's distinguished three groups of leaders in behaviors/styles: transformational, transactional and laissez-faire ( Avolio et al., 1999 ; Bass and Riggio, 2006 ; Judge and Piccolo, 2004 ; Solomon, 2016 ). The theory defines a complete range of influencing styles from influential transformational leadership to laissez-faire style.

Based on a review of various studies, Vincent-Hoper et al. (2012) portrayed transformational leaders as managers who advance and propel their followers by anticipating and communicating appealing visions, common goals, and shared values, as well as by setting an illustration of the requested behavior. Facets of transformational leadership are: idealized influence (idealized attribution and idealized behavior), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration ( Bass and Avolio, 1994 ; Bass and Riggo, 2006 ).

Transactional leadership contains among other things, an exchange process (between leader & follower) that results in adherent compliance to leader demands, but it is not expected to create zeal and commitment to an errand objective ( Trottier et al., 2008 ). The transactional leadership style constituted a constructive style labeled “contingent reward” and a corrective style labeled “management-by-exception.”

The last style is laissez-faire, which is characterized by non-involvement, showing indifference, being absent when needed, overlooking achievements and problems as well. It is a style of leadership in which leaders offer very little direction and allow group members to make decisions on their own ( Bass and Riggio, 2006 ; Koech & Namusonge, 2012 ; Solomon, 2016 ).

Several studies (e.g., Judge and Piccolo, 2004 ; Pourbarkhordari et al., 2016 ; Solomon, 2016 ) examined the influence of leadership styles on a number of employee work outcomes critical to an organization's productivity and effectiveness, such as job satisfaction, commitment, performance, and motivation. Judge and Piccolo (2004) carried out a comprehensive meta-analytic review of studies that employed a complete range of leadership from influential transformational to influential laissez-faire style to test their relative validity in predicting a number of leadership criteria: follower job satisfaction, follower satisfaction with the leader, follower motivation, leader job performance, group or organizational performance, and leader effectiveness. The researchers found out an overall positive relationship for transformational leadership and transactional leadership (contingent rewards), but a negative overall relationship between laissez-faire style and the criteria considered.

Other researches in broad leadership literature (e.g, Bass and Avolio, 1994 ; Hayward et al., 2003 ; Kotter, 1988 ; Meyer and Botha, 2000 ) elucidated that transformational leadership style is the most successful in enhancing employee performance and other characteristics. In the studies, transformational leadership is positively related with a range of workplace desirable behaviour such as individual employee's performance, satisfaction and organizational performance. For instance, in South African pharmaceutical industry, Hayward et al., 2003 ) found a significant positive linear relationship between transformational leadership and employee performance but not for transactional leadership and employee performance. In Ethiopian education sector, Solomon (2016) reported positive association of both transformational and transactional styles of leadership with employees' performance while the relations of laissez-fair style with employees' performance failed to reach significance level. Khan et al. (2012) examined leadership styles (transformational, transactional & laissez-fair) assessed with Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, as indicator variables in predicting innovative work behaviour and found out that both transformational and transactional leadership styles had positive relationship while laissez-faire had negative relationship with innovative work behaviour.

In general, it appears that transformational leadership style seems prominent in enhancing employees' work performance and other characteristics such as innovative behavior. The qualities of transformational leaders such as providing intellectual stimulation, inspiring followers through setting appealing vision and setting higher expectations maintains it effectiveness in organizational settings. Moreover, the motivational aspect and the fact that leaders serve as role model make this style to have profound influence on employees’ work outcomes. Because of the goal oriented nature of Transactional leaders focusing on expectations and recognizing achievement characteristics may positively initiate workers to exert higher levels of effort and performance Ejere and Abasilim (2013) ; Bass and Riggio (2006) . Based on the above discussion, the followings were hypothesized:

Transformational leadership style is positively related to (a) innovative work behavior and (b) task performance.

Transactional leadership style is positively related to (a) innovative work behavior and (b) task performance.

Laissez-faire style of leadership is negatively related to (a) innovative work behavior and (b) task performance.

Transformational leadership style is positively related to work engagement.

Transactional leadership style is positively related to work engagement.

Laissez-faire leadership style is negatively related to work engagement.

3.2. Mediating role of work engagement

Kahn (1990) presented an early interpretation of engagement, which conceptualized it as personal involvement in the workplace reflecting a condition in which workers "bring in" their personal selves during job performance, expend personal energy and feel an emotional connection to their jobs. According to Kahn, engaged employees dedicate themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances, while disengaged ones withdraw and guard themselves in all aspects (physically, cognitively & emotionally)in the course of role performances.

Based on Kahn's work, researchers—particularly those from the occupational health psychology fields further illuminate the concept of engagement. Early works based themselves on burnout model to clarify the concept of employee engagement ( Maslach and Leiter, 1997 ; Maslach et al., 2001 ). To Maslach and Leiter, for instance, elements of engagement are energy, involvement, and efficacy, which are in stark contrast to the three burnout dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of accomplishment, respectively. In the same burnout framework, an alternative view that considered work engagement as a unique concept stands by its own and negatively related to burnout appeared. As a concept by its own right work engagement, consequently, defined as a positive, fulfilling, work related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption ( Schaufeli, Salanova, González-Romá and Bakker, 2002 ). Here, Vigor refers to a high amount of drive and mental toughness while working, a willingness to invest effort in one's work, and sustain the determination even in the face of challenges. Dedication refers to a robust engagement in one's work and experiencing a sense of purpose and being enthusiastic, and absorption refers to fully and happily absorbed in one's work, such that time passes without notice while on work.

Despite some criticisms on confounding nature of some sub-constructs, the Schaufeli et al., 2002a , Schaufeli et al., 2002b model is hailed as a representative conceptualization of engagement and has been widely used in many fields ( Jeung, 2011 ).

The distinctive essence of work engagement was described in various works using constructs, such as employee engagement, job engagement, and role engagement in line with Kahn's conceptualization ( Rich, Lepine & Crawford, 2010 ; Rothbard, 2001 ; Saks, 2006 ). Among the different terms for engagement, work engagement and employee engagement are frequently and sometimes interchangeably used in literature. However the two terms vary in range in that work engagement focuses on the relationship between an individual employee and his or her work, while employee engagement applies to the relationships between the employee and the work and between the employee and the organization ( Schaufeli and Bakker, 2010 ). In the current study, since the focus was on the specific relationship between an individual employee and his her work, the term “work engagement” and conceptualization of Schaufeli et al., 2002a , Schaufeli et al., 2002b which connotes work engagement as ‘ a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption ’ was utilized.

Regarding the links among leadership styles, work engagement, and employee outcome behaviors, a closer look at the related literature showed that the quality of leader–subordinate relationships (LMX), empowering leadership, and transformational leadership behavior were the most frequently discussed topics ( Agarwal et al., 2012 ; Park et al., 2013 ; Zhang and Bartol, 2010 ). For instance, Agarwal et al. (2012) pointed out that the excellence of leader-member exchange influences engagement, and work engagement in turn correlates positively with innovative work behavior and negatively with intention to quit. The researchers asserted the meditational role of work engagement in the relationship between LMX as predictor and innovative work behavior and intention to quit as outcomes.

Park et al. (2013) also investigated the mediating effect of work engagement on the relationship between learning organizations and innovative behavior in the Korean context. The researchers found that a culture of learning organizations characterized by a positive learning environment, specific learning processes and procedures, and premeditated leadership behaviors through work engagement had direct and indirect impacts on the innovative work behaviors of employees.

In connection to transformational leadership and its link with various individual/organizational outcome behaviors, the mediating role of work engagement has been documented in various studies. Work engagement was found to mediate the link between transformational leadership and employees’ subjective occupational success designated by career satisfaction, social and career successes ( Vincent-Höper et al., 2012 ), staff nurse extra-role performance ( Salanova et al., 2011 ), organizational performance ( Evelyn and Hazel, 2015 ), and organizational knowledge creation practices ( Song et al., 2012 ). Thus, the researchers hypothesized:

Work engagement is positively related to (a) innovative work behavior and (b) task performance.

Work engagement partly mediates the relationship between leadership styles and work outcomes (task performance & innovative work behavior).

3.3. Cross-national aspects of leadership styles and work engagement

Despite some authors' claims that leadership styles are common across cultures, results are inconsistent with the degree to which leadership styles reign and their impact across cultures on followers. Shahin and Wright (2004) investigated the appropriateness of Bass and Avolio's leadership model in non-western country such as Egypt. They found that only certain factors that were considered as ideal leadership styles corresponded with U.S. factors, suggesting the influence of culture in labeling best leadership. Contrary to this finding, Walumbwa et al. (2007) made comparison based on data from China, India, Kenya, and the U.S. and found a robust manifestation of transformational and/or transactional leadership in these countries.

Ardichvili and Kuchinke (2002) carried out a comparative study on leadership styles and cultural values of managerial and non-managerial employees across culture by taking into account 10 business organizations in Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, and the U.S., countries that differ widely in socio-economic and political orientation. The researchers elucidated that cross-cultural human resource development matters cannot be seen in terms of simplified dichotomies of East and West or developed versus developing economies.

In terms of the influences of leadership styles on work outcomes, it appeared that transformational-related behavior of leaders had a universally positive impact on followers’ behaviors ( Dorfman et al., 1997 ; Walumbwa et al., 2005 ). For instance, Walumbwa et al. (2005) examined influence of transformational leadership on two work-related attitudes: organizational commitment and job satisfaction based on data from Kenya and the U.S. and obtained its strong positive effect on both indicators and in both countries. Dunn et al. (2012) also reported similar results on the association of transformational leadership with organizational commitment based on data collected from two countries: the U.S. and Israel.

With regard to work engagement as a psychological construct, cross-cultural investigations are scant. However, existing evidence reveals invariance in the construct—at least, in Western countries. For instance, Schaufeli et al., 2002a , Schaufeli et al., 2002b observed the invariance of the UWES, consisting of vigor, dedication, and absorption, on a sample of students from three countries: Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Salanova and Schaufeli (2008) also reported the mediation model of work engagement in the link between job resources and managers’ proactive behavior at work in two independent samples drawn from Spain and the Netherland reflecting the consistence of the assertion across culture. In the current study, hence it was hypothesized that:

The proposed relationships among study variables and thus the interceding of work engagement between leadership styles and work outcomes are consistent for the two national samples.

4. Materials and method

The study partly used a cross-sectional method of online survey research. As pointed out by Nasbary (2000) , using an electronic format for a survey study does not pose any threat to the validity or reliability of the survey results, but rather has advantages such as low cost and rapid delivery.

4.1. Participants’ selection procedure

The target population for the study comprised of full-time professional ICT staff (with at least a college education) from for-profit companies engaged in ICT-related activities in Ethiopia and South Korea. Professionals in the ICT field were chosen mainly because of their crucial role in modern economic development in the least developed and advanced countries. Furthermore, the online survey was easily accessible due to their frequent contact to the internet. Additionally, selecting single industry enabled researchers to minimize errors emanating from industry-type. To collect data, Amharic (for Ethiopians) and Korean (for Koreans) versions of questionnaires were utilized for the study. In South Koreaa a survey company administered the questionnaire using random sampling approach in March–April, 2018. Using the company database, the questionnaire was sent to 500 staff, of which 300 replied. In Ethiopia, however, considering network quality and poor habit of using web, a hard-copy questionnaire was administered to 200 professionals selected by availability sampling in which 151 usable data were obtained. During data screening, nine extreme outliers (below or above 1.5 interquartile ranges of Q 1 & Q 3 respectively . ) from South Korea and four from Ethiopia were removed. Thus, the analyses were based on 291 (Males = 229 [78.7%], Females = 62 [21.3%]) participants from South Korea and 147 (Males = 98 [66.7%], Females = 49 [33.3%]) from Ethiopia.

The School Scientific Committee for Research and Publication (School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Adama Science & Technology University) approved the proposal of the study. The purpose of the research was also clearly explained for the participants to obtain their consent for participation.

For the South Korean participants, the average age was 37 years, with 58 being the highest age and 24 the lowest. The average tenure was seven years. Qualification wise, 16 (5.5%) had a diploma, 226 (77.7%) a bachelor’ degree, 43 (14.8%) a master's degree, and six (2.1%) were PhD holders. With respect to work position, 182 (62.5%) worked as staff, while 95 (32.6%) and 14 (4.8%) South Korean participants worked as team leaders and department heads respectively. A total of 176 (59.5%) worked for companies engaged in software development, followed by 86 (29.1%) who worked in telecom services. For the Ethiopian participants, the average age was 32, with 21 being the lowest age and 55 the highest. Average work experience was 5.6 years. In terms of educational qualifications, four (2.1%) had a diploma, 110 (74.8%) a first degree, 31 (21.1%) a second degree, and 2 (1.4%) of them were third degree holders. With regard to their work position, 129 (87.8%) worked as staff, while 12 (8.2%) and 6 (4.8%) of the Ethiopian participants worked as team leaders and department heads respectively. Most of (80%) the Ethiopian participants work for a telecom service company.

4.2. Measures

The study variables were measured using extensively used and validated instruments.

4.2.1. Leadership style

To measure the three leadership styles, participants ' impressions of the leadership behavior of their immediate supervisor were retrieved using the short form of the Multi-Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ-5X), a measure built based on the full range leadership model of Avolio and Bass ( Avolio et al., 1999 ) and commonly used and evaluated in different cultures ( Trottier et al., 2008 ; Solomon, 2016 ). The short form of the MLQ 5X consists of 36 items measuring nine outcomes of leadership: idealized influence (attributed), idealized influence (behavioral), inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, contingent rewards, management-by-exception (active), management-by-exception (passive), and laissez-faire. The response are rated using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 0 “not at all” to 4 “frequently, if not always.”

4.2.2. Work engagement

The UWES which was initially designed by Schaufeli et al., 2002a , Schaufeli et al., 2002b and subsequently reviewed by Schaufeli et al. (2006) , has been used to measure the level of work engagement of the individual employees The scale was validated in many studies ( Schaufeli and Bakker, 2010 ) and utilized in non-Western countries such as South Korea ( Kim, 2014 ; Song et al., 2012 ). The short form of UWES is called the UWES-9; it has nine items, three for each dimension: vigor, dedication, and absorption. It is a self-report scale. All items of the UWES-9 were presented with a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (“never”) to 6 (“always”). Through analyzing data from various countries via CFA and test-retest reliability, Schaufeli et al. (2006) reported that the Cronbach's alpha for the UWES-9 ranged between 0 .85 and 0.92. Besides, other studies also confirmed its acceptable applicability in terms of the items' homogeneity and the construct factor structure (e.g., Park et al., 2013 ; Seppala et al., 2009 ).

4.2.3. Innovative work behavior

Innovative work behavior was measured using Janssen (2000) 9-item test with a 7-point Likert scale ranging from (1) “never” to (7) “always.” The instrument measures three aspects of innovative work behavior: breeding a new idea, gaining support from others for its implementation, and turning an idea into an application. The respondents were asked how often creative tasks relevant to these three fields were performed. To create measure of innovative work behavior, scores of the three aspects were summed up. With respect to its internal consistency, Agarwal et al. (2012) , reported Cronbach's alpha coefficient of 0.92.

4.2.4. Task performance

In order to assess in-role task performance, a three-item self-report scale which is utilized widely in recent studies (e.g., Kim, 2014 ), has been used. Responses were recorded on seven-point Likert scale ranging from (1) “strongly disagree” to (7) “strongly agree.” Drawing on review of different studies that had employed the scale, Kim (2014) reported its reliability ranging from 0.77 to 0.87.

All the scales that became part of the questionnaire used in this analysis were in English. Hence, to suit the current study, forward-then-backward translation procedures (English to Amharic and English to Korean) were performed on all instruments by independent bilingual professionals. This procedure ensures linguistic equivalence between the original language of the instrument and the language used for its administration ( McGorry, 2000 ).

4.3. Data analysis

In order to examine the data, descriptive statistics, Cronbach's alpha, Pearson's product momentum correlation, and linear multiple regression analysis were employed. To assess the amount of variability explained by the predictors, coefficient of determination ( R 2 ) and to determine the magnitude of the path effects, standardized path coefficient estimates were considered. For the sake of comparison, analyses were made for the two national samples separately.

Prior to the analyses, basic assumptions of multivariate data analysis such as normality, linearity, and multicollinearity were tested. Data from the two national samples showed approximately normal distributions. The assumption of linearity was also met. With respect to multicollinearity, the high bivariate correlation between transformational leadership style and transactional leadership style, particularly for South Korean participants, resulted in a relatively high variance inflation factor (VIF) of 5.33 for the variable transactional leadership worrisome as per the suggestion by Hair et al. (2010) .

5.1. Descriptive analyses

Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations for the variables included in the study are presented in Table 1 . The bivariate correlations are indicated by a Pearson's product momentum correlation coefficient ( r) . Among the background factors, weak negative correlations between sex and work engagement ( r = - 0.18, p < 0.01) and sex and task performance ( r = -0.17, p < 0.01) were obtained for the South Korean sample, while for Ethiopia they failed to reach significance. Work position was weakly negatively correlated with work engagement ( r = -0.22, p < 0.01 for South Korea and r = -0.16, p < 0.05 for Ethiopia) and innovative work behavior ( r = -0.19, p < 0.01 for South Korea and r = -0 .24, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia). Transformational and transactional leadership styles were positively correlated with work engagement and indicators of work outcomes in both countries, with the exception of the relationship between the transactional leadership style and work engagement in Ethiopia, which failed to reach significance. Laissez-faire leadership was weakly positively correlated with work engagement ( r = 0.13, p < 0.05) and innovative work behavior ( r = 0.17, p < 0.01) in South Korea, while in Ethiopia it was negatively correlated with work engagement ( r = -0.21, p < 0.05) and innovative work behavior ( r = -0.16, p < 0.05). Its correlation with task performance failed to reach the significance level in both countries. Work engagement was moderately positively related with measures of outcome indicators —innovative work behavior ( r = 0.57, p < 0.01, and r = 0.66, p < 0.01) and task performance ( r = 0.46 , p < 0.01, and r = 0.54, p < 0.01) for Ethiopia and South Korea, respectively. With respect to internal consistency, all measures for both samples demonstrated traditionally acceptable internal reliability levels ( α ranged from 0.77 to 0.95).

Table 1

Bivariate correlation, mean (M), standard deviation (SD), and internal consistencies (Cronbach'sα) of the study variables for the South Korean (n = 291) and Ethiopian (n = 147) samples.

Notes: ∗p < .05, ∗∗p < .01 (two tailed).

The coding scheme was as follows: Gender: 1 = male, 2 = female; Education: 1 = diploma, 2 = BSc, 3 = MSc, 4 = PhD; work position: 1 = director/division head/assistant head, 2 = team leader, 3 = staff.

TRF - transformational, TRA - transactional, LAF - laissez-faire, WE - work engagement, IWB - innovative work behavior, TP - task performance.

Values below the diagonals are correlation coefficients for the South Korean sample, while those above the diagonals are values for the Ethiopian sample, along with internal consistency measures (Cronbach's alpha values).

5.2. Influence of leadership styles on work-related behaviors

To ascertain the proposed hypotheses related to the relationships between leadership styles and the measures of work outcomes and work engagement, a series of multiple linear regression analyses was performed, in which each indicator of work outcomes and work engagement was regressed on styles of leadership consecutively for the two countries separately. In the analyses, the background variables of the participants were controlled to remove their effects. As shown in Table 2 , the outputs indicated that the three leadership styles taken together explained a significant amount of the variability in innovative work behavior (Δ R 2 = 0.26, F (8,138) = 8.82 , p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; Δ R 2 = 0.48, F (8,182) = 47.1, p < 0.01 for South Korea), task performance (Δ R 2 = 0.20, F (8,138) = 5.55, p < .0.05 for Ethiopia; Δ R 2 = 0.21, F (8,182) = 10.46, p < 0.01 for South Korea), and work engagement (Δ R 2 = 0.24, F (8,138) = 8.82, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; Δ R 2 = 0.32, F (8,182) = 23.2, p < 0.01 for South Korea). However, when the path coefficient estimates were taken into account, the path effects of the transformational leadership style on innovative work behavior ( β = 0.47, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; β = 0. 54, p < 0. 01 for South Korea) and work engagement ( β = 0.52, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; β = 0.45, p < 0.01 for South Korea) were significant, while its effect on task performance failed to reach the significance level in both countries. The effect of the transactional leadership style was significant only for task performance ( β = 0.29, p < 0. 01 for Ethiopia; β = 0.35, p < 0.01 for South Korea), not for innovative work behavior. Similarly, laissez-faire leadership's negative effect also reached significance level for task performance only ( β = -0.19, p < 0.05 for Ethiopia; β = - 0.17, p < 0.01 for South Korea).

Table 2

Regression results for predicting innovative work behavior, task performance, and work engagement from leadership styles.

Notes: ∗p < .05, ∗∗p < .01 (two tailed). ETH - Ethiopia, KOR - South Korea.

The results in Table 2 provided support for H1 (a), H2 (b), H3 (b), and H4 but not for H5 and H6 .

To test the hypothesis related to the relationship between work engagement and the measures of work outcomes: innovative work behavior and task performance were regressed on work engagement consecutively and separately for the two countries. The results in Table 3 showed that a significant proportion of the variance in innovative work behavior (Δ R 2 = 0.28, F (6,140) = 13.10, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; Δ R 2 = 0.38, F (6,140) = 38.04, p < 0.01 for South Korea) and task performance (Δ R 2 = 0.18, F (6,140) = 6.74, p < 0.01 for Ethiopia; Δ R 2 = 0. 29, F (6,284) = 21.95, p < 0 .01 for South Korea) were explained by work engagement. The standardized path coefficients of work engagement on innovative work behavior ( β = 0.56, p < 0.01 and β = 0.64, p < 0.01) and on task performance ( β = 0. 45, p < 0.01 and β = 0.56, p < 0.01) for Ethiopia and South Korea, respectively, indicated positive and significant relationships of work engagement with innovative work behavior and task performance and thus provided support for H7 .

Table 3

Regression results for predicting innovative work behavior and task performance from work engagement.

Note: ∗p < .05, ∗∗p < .01 (two tailed).

5.3. Mediational role of work engagement

In testing the hypothesis related to the partial mediational role of work engagement in the link between leadership styles and indicators of outcome behavior, as per Baron and Kenny's (1986) suggestion, certain conditions need to be met for mediation establishment. First, the predictor variable(s) had to be related to the mediator variable. Second, the mediator had to be related to the predicted variable(s). Third, a significant relationship between the predictor variable(s) and predicted variable(s) was to be reduced for partial mediation to operate when controlling for the mediator variable. As described earlier, the first two conditions were partly met. Thus, for the mediation test, the two indicators of work outcomes were regressed over leadership styles consecutively while controlling for background factors and work engagement. As the results in Table 4 showed, the amount of variance in innovative work behavior explained by leadership styles was reduced from 26% to 9% ( Δ R 2 = 0. 09, F (9,137) = 12.56, p < 0.01) for Ethiopia and from 48% to 16% (Δ R 2 = 0.16, F (9,281) = 48.62, p < 0.01) for South Korea, while for task performance reduction was from 20% to 10% (Δ R 2 = .10, F (9,137) = 7.63, p < 0.01) for Ethiopia and from 21% to 4% (Δ R 2 = 0.04, F (9,281) = 17.44, p < 0.01) for South Korea. Thus, H8 is supported.

Table 4

Regression results for predicting work outcomes (innovative work behavior and task performance) from leadership styles while controlling work engagement.

With respect to hypothesis 9, (nature of relationships & mediation model across the two national samples), the separately presented results elucidated that the relationships among styles of leadership, work engagement and work outcomes were more or less consistent across Ethiopia and South Korea samples. Work engagement also partly mediated the relationship between leadership styles and work outcomes in both samples. Hence, H9 is supported.

6. Discussion

The present study investigated relationships among leadership styles, employee work engagement and some indicators of work outcomes and tested a mediation model of work engagement in the link between styles of leadership and work outcomes among ICT professionals. The model viewed leadership styles (the behavior of leaders varying from powerful transformation to "non-leadership") as antecedent to work engagement and innovative work behavior and task performance were taken as work outcomes. It also investigated the nature of relationships among variables and cross-national validity of the proposed model in two independent samples from Ethiopia and South Korea, countries that differ in their social, cultural, economic, and technological levels. The obtained results were as follows:

First, the transformational leadership style had significant positive relationships with employees' work engagement and innovative work behavior, while the transactional leadership style had a significant positive relationship with employee task performance. Laissez-faire leadership had a significant negative relationship with task performance. These associations were consistent across the two national samples. The assumed positive links of transformational leadership style with task performance and transactional leadership style with employees’ innovative work behavior, and the negative relationship of the laissez-faire style with innovative behavior were not supported in both national samples. The relationships obtained have shown that leaders who stimulate and inspire followers by articulating visions, goals, and shared values and engaged in building capacity via coaching and challenging employees promote innovative behavior, while leaders who emphasize compliance of followers through supervision may have influence on task performance.

Second, as expected, work engagement had significant positive relationships with the indicators of work outcomes (innovative work behavior and task performance) among ICT professionals in both countries. This suggests that, employees who psychologically identify with their work or “bring in” their personal selves to work, devoting and experiencing an emotional connection to their work, appear to be innovative and put discretionary effort into performance of tasks.

Third, work engagement partially mediated the relationships between leadership styles and indicators of outcomes. Specifically, the relationship between transformational leadership and professionals’ innovative work behavior was partially mediated by work engagement in both countries. This implies that transformational leaders influence innovative behavior of staff directly and indirectly through influencing their level of work engagement.

Work outcomes such as task performance and innovative work behavior are influenced by a number of factors of which leadership is an important one. Consistent to current study results, previous studies (e.g. Khan et al., 2012 ; Ejere and Abasilim, 2013 ; Judge and Piccolo, 2004 ; Solomon, 2016 ) underscored the significant contributions of transactional and transformational styles of leadership for employees’ performance.

Specifically, the association of transformational leadership style with innovative work behavior and transactional leadership style with task performance observed in the current study may be explained in terms of peculiar characteristics of these styles. With respect to innovative work behaviour, transformational leadership style is considered as a suitable style of leadership as in this style followers are encouraged to commence new ideas and challenge old ways of doing things ( Bass and Avolio, 2000 ). For innovative behaviour transformational leaders' behaviour such as being role model by engaging in needed change, stimulating followers to challenge the status quo and be inspirational while leading others are all vital qualities. In addition, transformative leadership style demanding alignment of the needs and desires of followers with the organization's one ( Bass, 1999 ), may encourage employees to go additional mile necessary for creative behaviour. On the other hand, transactional leadership can be argued to be significant for task performance of employees' as it is focused more on immediate outcomes, monitor performance and correct mistakes. Additionally, transactional leaders make clear expectations and give feedback about meeting expectations may push employees to focus on tasks listed in job description.

The findings related to linkages among leadership styles, work engagement and work outcomes obtained in the current study are also consistent with some earlier studies (e.g., Bakker and Bal, 2010 ; Salanova et al., 2011 ; Song et al., 2012 ). Bakker and Bal (2010) reported on weekly work engagement as a predictor of performance among starting teachers. With respect to leadership styles, Song et al. (2012) affirmed the significant impact of transformational leadership on employee work engagement and organizational knowledge creation practices, and partial mediation of employee work engagement in the link between those two constructs. Salanova et al. (2011) also reported a relationship between transformational leadership and work engagement where, contrary to the findings of the current study, work engagement fully mediated the relationship between transformational leadership and nurses’ extra-role performance.

The observed mediation of work engagement across independent samples found in the current study is also consistent with some previous studies ( Dorfman et al., 1997 ; Walumbwa et al., 2005 ; Salanova and Schaufeli, 2008 ). While the consistency of the mediation model observed here across the two independent national samples does not justify either its utility or its contribution, it may add confidence in the generalizability of the findings.

6.1. Implications

The results of this study have some theoretical and practical implications in HR-related fields for researchers and practitioners. The study provides insights into the ongoing investigations of correlates of employees' work engagement. In particular, the study may shed light on the nature of associations among leadership styles, work engagement, and critical work outcomes such as task performance and innovative work behavior among ICT professionals. It may also disentangle the role of transformational leadership, particularly when it comes to employees personally committing themselves to role performance and innovation efforts. Besides, the study elucidated the cross-national aspect of the relationships among the variables it considered. Despite a number of background differences, it appeared that styles of leadership had more or less similar links with work engagement and outcome behaviors among participants from Ethiopia and South Korea. Specifically, the invariance in the mediating role of work engagement in the link between transformational leadership and employees’ discretionary actions with respect to idea generation, promotion, and realization among ICT professionals working in different countries solidify the existing understanding of the importance of this leadership style.

Practically, the results of the study highlight the need to improve leadership by applying a transformational style, as it is essential for organizations to have ICT workforces that perform their roles and are willing to demonstrate discretionary efforts. Thus, practitioners in the field should develop strategies and training programs targeting transformational leadership skills such as being supportive and intellectually stimulating, and conveying a vision to employees so that leaders can influence their staff. In particular, to strengthen the ICT sector's human resources in Ethiopia so that it can contribute significantly to the development of the country, more attention should be given to leadership development.

Furthermore, practitioners could closely scrutinize employees' work engagement by assessing it using well-established scales such as the UWES or a locally developed one. For ICT companies to be competitive, collecting information on the work engagement level of staff should be part of employees' opinion surveys, and identifying practices and policies that promote their staff's work engagement behavior is imperative.

6.2. Limitations and future research

Notwithstanding its important theoretical and practical contributions, there are some drawbacks to this study. The cross-sectional research design used primarily did not allow researchers to establish causality among variables. This means that the suggested associations among the variables should not be interpreted as causal relationships, but as associations that suggest causal ordering, which needs to be confirmed by longitudinal research. Secondly, the data for the study were gathered using a self-report questionnaire with its own inherent pros and cons, particularly when it comes to the participants’ assessments of their immediate supervisor. Thirdly, as antecedent variables, the study limited to full range of leadership model consists of transformational, transactional and laissez fair styles. That is, there are also other potential aspects of leadership nature that might be relevant that are not included in the current study. Finally, the relatively high VIF of the transactional leadership style could undermine the role of this variable in the web. Thus, for future research, the researchers suggest a longitudinal research design and outcomes measured through methods other than self-reports.


Author contribution statement.

Habtamu Kebu Gemeda, Jaesik Lee: Conceived and designed the experiments; Performed the experiments; Analyzed and interpreted the data; Wrote the paper.

Funding statement

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Additional information

No additional information is available for this paper.

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Opinion article, leadership styles and the process of organizational change during the pandemic.

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  • 1 College of Teacher Education, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China
  • 2 Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  • 3 Center for Teacher Education Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China


Principals are accustomed to resolving minor crises, confrontations, daily annoyances, and frustrations involving kids, parents, and their own staff. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 epidemic is unique, and the majority of school principals lack experience managing a lengthy and complicated situation ( Varela and Fedynich, 2020 ). Following the proclamation of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic a pandemic in March 2020 by WHO, normal educational scheduling, activities, and procedures were unexpectedly disrupted and substituted with incertitude. Schools were required to develop new measures to minimize the spread of the infections and safeguard the safety of children and employees ( Bailey and Breslin, 2021 ).

As schools shuttered, countries made a swift shift to online learning ( Taglietti et al., 2021 ). Not only is the school critical for knowledge acquisition and general education, but it is also an integral aspect of the contemporary world ( O'Connell and Clarke, 2020 ). The school system was critical in maintaining the safety and providing care for pupils and their families during the pandemic. Nonetheless, there existed few standardized operational protocols for managing schools in the event of a pandemic and principals were forced to innovate and navigate their schools' activities with or without assistance. Prior leadership research during educational crises has mostly concentrated on how principals respond to severe crises, events, school violence ( Pepper et al., 2010 ).

The global crisis reshaped educational activities, emphasizing more flexible and distributed leadership attributes founded on consensual trust in order to promote both independent and cooperative resilience ( Fernandez and Shaw, 2020 ). Numerous school administrators have been left to juggle the demands of responsible guidance, rapid decision-making, and the need to remain watchful in an unstable circumstances ( Netolicky, 2020 ).

The school institution was woefully unprepared to deal with the pandemic's disruptive impacts. There is a high chance that during a prolonged crisis, the long-term pressure will surpass individual capabilities and available employment resources ( Bakker and Demerouti, 2017 ). Additionally, during the pandemic, the possibility of excessive roles and family-related work conflicts as a result of work-from-home surfaced as a burnout-risk-factor and weariness ( Kniffin et al., 2021 ). Regardless, there is a conjecture that principals are human resource managers and mentors ( Wicher, 2017 ), are obliged to comprehend stakeholders' expectations in varying situations ( Brauckmann et al., 2020 ), and endeavor to meet the ever-increasing and changing needs of students and the community ( Gumus et al., 2018 ), suggesting society looks up to principals during this pandemic.

These expectations around school leaders' resourcefulness during the crisis have resulted in inconsistencies in sustaining a counterbalance of principals' roles that may hamper the optimal school functionality ( Huber, 2004 ), thus, prompted empirical investigations and evidence on crisis of novice ( Pineda-Báez et al., 2019 ), public schools ( Mansor et al., 2020 ), female school leaders ( Cruz-González et al., 2020 ), as well as diversifying stakeholders' expectations ( Wong and Liu, 2018 ). However, none of these empirical evidences suggest path ways for organizations in times of pandemics, there is little or no evidence on the principals' challenges in times of pandemic and how they coped with the changes. Therefore, our review is centered on the rationale that there exists a considerable gap on how principals respond to the process of organizational change ( Tamadoni et al., 2021 ) in pandemic times and in different contexts ( Tintoré et al., 2020 ).

For many firms, organizational transformation has been the norm other than the exemption ( Kieselbach et al., 2009 ). Alterations have been linked to the tendency to discontinue ( Oreg, 2006 ; Holt et al., 2007 ), decrease productivity, and higher healthcare costs ( Mack et al., 1998 ) and absenteeism ( Martin et al., 2005 ). Instances of change is established to have shown an effect on time constraint, psycho-social wellbeing of followers ( Probst, 2003 ), satisfaction at work ( Amiot et al., 2006 ; Holt et al., 2007 ), and individual stress ( Axtell et al., 2002 ). However, the pandemic necessitated organizational changes in schools as institutions among all odds where such organizational transformation can bring forth a number of potential consequences ( Holten and Brenner, 2015 ).

With the frequency and breadth of institutional change increasing due to the pandemic, it becomes prudent to explore processes that may lead to good responses to change. While much of the literature on change focuses on the impacts of change, our review focuses completely on how school principals embrace the processes of change. Understanding these pathways will have implications for practice and research. By concentrating only on the process of change; the link between ascendants and denotative reactions, we reply to Semmer (2006) need for assessments of change-intervention-processes since few empirical research have examined favorable receptive reactions to institutional alterations, with the bulk concentrating on the areas where change fails ( Oreg et al., 2011 ). We review the links between transactional and transformational leadership styles as well as change appraisals among followers. In this regard, the present study mainly seeks to address how should principals responded to the institutional change process during the pandemic. To comprehensively understand this concept of change appraisal, the following specific research questions addressed:

• What leadership styles should principals adopt in response to the change process?

• What change mechanisms could guide principals to navigate institutional change?

Research framework

To comprehensively review and address the change process among teachers and institutional organizations during the pandemic, we adopted Oreg et al. (2011 , p. 464) Change Recipient Reactions model which comprises four aspects: the antecedents of pre-change (change characteristics of the recipient, interior context), antecedents of change (process of change, anticipated consequence, change content), explicit responses (behavioral, cognitive, and affective reactions), and lastly, the consequences of change (personal and work-relative). While most studies investigated the negative consequences of change ( Oreg et al., 2011 ), our review focused on antecedent-pathways toward teachers' positive change appraisal development.

With regards to positive teachers' change appraisal development in the process of organizational change, the review strictly followed the suggestions of Holten and Brenner (2015) that leadership styles and change appraisal among followers is directly and indirectly affected by leaders' engagement (derived from the brother framework of Oreg et al., 2011 ). On the basis of Holten and Brenner (2015) , our review projects that the process of organizational change is reinforced by the principals' engagement changes and teachers' direct and indirect change appraisal mechanisms in an attempt to develop positive change appraisal (see Figure 1 ).


Figure 1 . Research framework derived from Holten and Brenner (2015) .

Positive appraisal change development

Many studies have focused on the antecedents of the change recipient reactions model, which include affective, cognitive, and change readiness expectations, as well as change consequences; job and satisfaction, tendency to quit, and health issues, and depression for instance ( Grunberg et al., 2008 ; Oreg et al., 2011 ). There are neither pre-change antecedents or post-change consequences addressed in this study, but rather the change intermediate phases, such as the explicit reactions arising from change and the antecedents to change. We reviewed the attitudes and reactions of followers to change ( Oreg, 2006 ; Parish et al., 2008 ) from the lens of change process. The importance of leadership style and leaders' engagement in fostering favorable views of change is something we reviewed in this study, which builds on previous work. In order to do this, we use the concept of a follower's evaluation of change to investigate both cognitive and behavioral changes. We believe that rather than focusing on the negative effects of change, it is important to keep an eye on people's attitudes about it, how they view the manager leading the change, and how they behave in relation to their daily routines and working methods and traditions.

This review focuses solely on the evaluations and perceptions of teachers as followers. Rather from simply being recipients of change, followers play an active role in influencing it and its effects, therefore, a positive change assessment by followers is thus seen as a necessity for a succeeding in a change process and sustaining positive consequences of change in persons and organizations ( Herold et al., 2008 ; Crawford et al., 2022 ).

Leadership styles and engagement changes

Four components define a transformational leadership style: idealized influence, inspiring motivation, independent concern, and intellectual stimulation ( Bass, 1985 ). Transformational leaders serve such as teachers role-model students, foster cooperative goals, encourage confidence, and faith among followers, and inspire them with their leadership style as well as motivate them by encouraging followers to reflect on their traditional practices and beliefs, and provide personal orientations and recognition of personal needs ( Bass, 1999 ).

Two concepts are attributed to transactional leadership style: dependent management and compensation exemption ( Bass, 1985 ) where management by exception factor is subdivided into passive and active management ( Lowe et al., 1996 ). The transactional leadership feature is characterized by an exchange connection between leader and followers where corrective measures are rare and followers get reinforced with rewards for fulfilling certain objectives. Whereas transformational leadership focuses on ideals and visionary leadership, transactional leadership focuses on acknowledging and crediting individual follower-successes.

Transformational vs. transactional leadership literature in most cases examines gender and organizational type patterns: while research on gender dyads indicates that female leaders become more transformative ( Bass, 1999 ; Lien et al., 2022 ), it also indicates that female followers under female leaders reported higher usage of transformational leadership as compared to their male competitors ( Ayman et al., 2009 ). Lowe et al. (1996) discovered that contrary to their assumptions, transformational leadership and management-by-exception (a type of transactional leadership) are more frequently recorded in public enterprises. The researchers contended if these findings replicate differences in the transformational leadership adopted, the functional requirements, or assessment standards of operation within organizations in the private sector are essential.

Management behavior has an effect on followers' well-being ( Skakon et al., 2010 ), an effect that is amplified during institutional change, during which leaders serve as role models and drivers of change ( Kieselbach et al., 2009 ). Positive responses to change have been demonstrated in organizational change research when administrators become resilient to change, takes a participatory, informed measures, and is viewed as accepted ( Oreg et al., 2011 ). Thus, school principals as managers play a critical role in school transformation, promoting its effectiveness and determining the level at which followers accept non-traditional situations ( Armenakis et al., 2007 ).

We especially present the influence of leadership and changes involving the process through which followers (teachers) generate such favorable assessments of change. Transformational leadership is noted as an effective type of leadership that appreciate navigating organizational transformation ( Eisenbach et al., 1999 ; Lien et al., 2022 ). The leadership approach enables followers to contain non-conventional situations more effectively ( Callan, 1993 ) and strengthens commitment of followers and empower self-efficacy in times of transition ( Bommer et al., 2005 ).

The transformational and transactional approaches to leadership are distinct but compatible: the transformational approach, in terms of augmenting effect of ideas, provides the foundation for and enhances the effects derived from the transactional approach to leadership ( Avolio, 1999 ; Lien et al., 2022 ). In transitional times, charismatic (transformational) approach to leadership serves as a mental anchor for followers by role-modeling who demonstrates acceptable behaviors.

Instrumental (transactional) approach to leadership assures the commitment produced by charismatic leadership behavior, adhered to and maintained ( Nadler and Tushman, 1990 ). We enhance existing pragmatic research by extending the notion hence establishing trend of literature on principals (managers engagement).

Indirect factors underlying followers' change appraisal

To ensure change is effective, leaders should strive to connect their stated and implemented principles ( Eisenbach et al., 1999 ). Such alignment is referred to as behavioral integrity ( Simons, 2002 ). Within the framework of integrity theory on behavior, transformational and transactional approaches to leadership are viewed as the stated values of managers, whereas change engagement is viewed as the practiced values of managers. Thus, both leadership approaches within the frame of the professed values, would match with distinguished change engagement of particular managers within the structure of enacted values in effective change processes.

During times of organizational transition, like in the pandemic instance, transformational and transactional leadership styles complement each other ( Nadler and Tushman, 1990 ). By Simons (2002) , transformational leadership enables successful alteration through fostering trustworthiness and credibility, which are fostered by integrity of behavior. As a result, we argue that transformational approach to leadership will significantly impact change-oriented engagement of managers. Transactional approach to leadership is instrumental and provides a tangible fountain where leaders may actively involve followers in achieving the desired change. Transactional leadership self-empowering and crediting attribute underlies some engagement attitudes including information dissemination and defining personal impact.

Much study on leadership behaviors associated with organizational transformation has concentrated on the acceptance and commitment of followers. Herold et al. (2008) discovered a positive correlation between change management and followers' commitment to change, whereas Aarons (2006) discovered that receptivity may increase in situations where there is a local opinion leader who is viewed positively, initiate and foster change conditions. The study of Kavanagh and Ashkanasy (2006) discovered that acceptance and or objection to change among followers was affected by the change management technique.

By examining the evolution of followers' change evaluation, we improve past studies. Developing a positive change assessment system would be a critical indication of tendencies of effectiveness of processes of change and, consequently, of good human and cooperative results. Thus, the methods preceding this metric are critical and interesting for companies that are planning and executing change.

Direct mechanisms underlying followers' evaluation of change

Additionally, this article reviewed how leadership directly affect the perceptions of change among followers. While transformational approach to leadership is associated with effective change implementation ( Oreg et al., 2011 ), the transactional approach is appropriate in situations when the status quo is maintained while particular goals are achieved ( Gersick, 1994 ). According to Eisenbach et al. (1999) , the transformational type of leadership is appropriate for organizational change and possesses favorable impact on the reactions of followers to institutional changes ( Oreg et al., 2011 ).

The process of transformational leadership motivates followers to alter their attitudes and assumptions while fostering devotion to corporate goals ( Yukl, 1989 ). Studies of Holten and Brenner (2015) claimed that transformational approach to leadership correlates with maximizing the process of change, as certified by the modification of schedules and methods, the elimination of inefficient work practices, and the modification of attitudes toward the team and its ability to manage institutional changes. Thus, we suggest that transformational approach to leadership will result in a significant shift in the perceptions of followers toward change.

While the transformational type is associated with a favorable assessment of change among followers, the transactional type, which is largely motivated by extrinsic motivation, encourages compliance of followers in duties via bonuses and inducements ( Bass, 1985 ).

Through reinforcement and incentive, transactional approach to leadership is presumed to motivate change acceptance throughout organizational transition. Such instances, however, would be a means to an end rather than attitude-oriented. Whereas the transactional type of leadership is appropriate for businesses that prefer to retain the situation ( Gersick, 1994 ), it is not expected of the transactional approach to have a favorable effect on followers' perceptions of change. In situations where the transactional leadership implies a failing to drive followers across the anticipated goals, it would appear impossible to influence a positive evaluation during times of uncertainty.

Our review was centered on the leadership styles of school principals in the process of organizational change during the pandemic. The review suggested that the process of organizational change is reinforced by followers' development of positive appraisal about change, including both indirect and direct mechanisms to followers' change appraisal as leadership styles and leaders' engagement during the change is eminent. The studies of Holten and Brenner (2015) , Edelbroek et al. (2019) , and Azizaha et al. (2020) suggest both transactional and transformational leadership styles positively correlate with the change engagement of leaders during the process of organizational change implying. This implies, the success of organizational change among teachers during the pandemic depends on the leadership styles of their respective schools – thus, if their principals employed either transactional or transformational types of leadership, they were more likely to smoothly transition through organizational change.

In congruence with Oreg et al. (2011) and Herrmann et al. (2012) , organizational change is considered a consequence of transformational leadership as it assumed to reinforce leadership and follower attitudes through active and conservative urge for change in the change process as suggested by Herscovitch and Meyer (2002) . Evidence of such characteristics pushes both leaders and followers to perform beyond expectations in view of the Bass (1999) conceptualization during the change process although Vakola and Nikolaou (2005) indicated it can be psychologically difficult to adapt. On basis of transformational leadership, both principals and teachers are deemed to perform above expectations in attempts to embrace change.

In addition, the review reported the process of organizational change among teachers were determinable by both indirect and direct mechanisms to appraisal of change; commitment, and receptivity of followers ( Aarons, 2006 ; Herold et al., 2008 ), rewards and incentives ( Saqib et al., 2015 ; Khan et al., 2018 ). Implacably, for school principals and teachers to undergo the sudden change as a consequence of the pandemic, the teachers as followers should be willing to be committing and reaccepting which indirectly reinforce the success of the change process.

On the other hand, school principals can directly influence the change process by using rewards and incentives to motivate teachers to be committed and receptive in the change process. It can be concluded organizational change can be attained through transactional and transformational leadership as well as the use of rewards and incentives. In view of Faupel and Süß (2019 ), followers perceptive captivating change consequences in the transformational leadership paradigm motivates them (followers and employees) to actively embrace and foster change through leadership-follower behavior. That is, followers' tendency to perceive that there is significant outcome in a change process, Faupel and Süß (2019 ), indicated they (followers) are more likely to behave in the direction of change.

In sum, the experiences of school principals during a prolonged crisis demonstrate that effective situational management requires a variety of managerial duties, including honest communication, dispersed leadership, acquiring knowledge from uncertainties, and making of decisions ambiguously. In an eventual scenario comprising the pandemic, principals of school were forced to adjust their leadership approaches to meet extraneous obligations as well as the teachers and pupils' internal needs. As a result, the roles of the school principals grew more complicated. School principals became managers of their institutions and acted out managerial roles. The loneliness of command became apparent during the crises, highlighting the need of crisis planning and the ways in which school organizations and authorities might learn and grow from the pandemic experience. To respond to such crises, principals adopted transformational and transactional leadership strategies alongside both direct and indirect change mechanisms to foster.

However, as an opinion paper, the discursive review is the researchers' viewpoint of analytical literature and might not applicable in empirical contexts. In light of this, we therefore recommend that future studies should adopt empirical methods and quantitative approaches to measure the level of effect that transactional and transformational leadership styles exert on organizational change. Such studies can also examine the impact of incentives and rewards on organizational change when used in either transactional or transformational leadership.

Author contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication.

This study was funded by the International Joint Research Project of Huiyan International College, Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University (ICER202001).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: leadership, school principals, pandemic, organizational change, COVID-19

Citation: Saleem A, Dare PS and Sang G (2022) Leadership styles and the process of organizational change during the pandemic. Front. Psychol. 13:920495. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.920495

Received: 14 April 2022; Accepted: 20 July 2022; Published: 12 September 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Saleem, Dare and Sang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Guoyuan Sang, guoyuan.sang@bnu.edu.cn ; Philip Saagyum Dare, Philip.Dare@monash.edu

† These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship

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Research Article

“Impact of leadership styles on innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities”

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Methodology, Validation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation School of Education, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, 710062, PR China

ORCID logo

Roles Resources

Roles Investigation

Roles Writing – review & editing

Roles Funding acquisition, Methodology

* E-mail: [email protected]

  • Uzma Sarwar, 
  • Samina Zamir, 
  • Kiran Fazal, 
  • Yang Hong, 
  • Qi Zhan Yong


  • Published: May 12, 2022
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0266956
  • Reader Comments

Fig 1

Leadership plays a significant role in the performance of individuals and organizations. This paper investigates the impact of leadership styles on the innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities using a survey approach. This paper aimed to (a) discover a leadership style practiced by females and (b) discover the relationship between leadership style and the innovative performance of female leaders. Several female leaders, including faculty members, heads of departments, deans, coordinators, and directors, from public and private universities of Punjab (a province of Pakistan), were involved in this study. A sample of one hundred female leaders was selected using a multistage sampling method. In the first stage, five public and five private sector universities were selected through a simple random method. In the second stage, ten female leaders (five from each of the social science and basic science departments) were selected from each university through a purposive sampling method. The researchers adopted a reliable instrument to collect the survey data. The collected data were analyzed using SPSS (Version 26). Mean scores and Pearson correlation coefficients were used to discover the relationship between various variables. The investigation revealed that most female leaders practice the transactional leadership style in their universities. This study also discovered a moderate positive relationship between both leadership styles, namely transactional and transformational, and innovative performance. The study recommends that various workshops and seminars may be conducted to increase the practices of both leadership styles to enhance innovation in Pakistani Universities.

Citation: Sarwar U, Zamir S, Fazal K, Hong Y, Yong QZ (2022) “Impact of leadership styles on innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities”. PLoS ONE 17(5): e0266956. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0266956

Editor: Abroon Qazi, American University of Sharjah, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Received: October 20, 2021; Accepted: March 31, 2022; Published: May 12, 2022

Copyright: © 2022 Sarwar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All data is within the paper and Supporting Information files.

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

1. Introduction

Organizations are operating in a dynamic environment in this era of technological developments, with rapid technological progress demanding organizations contribute creativity and innovation to their products and services. The importance of employee creativity for innovation has been widely stressed in literature [ 1 ]. It has been proven that encouraging individual innovation is critical for businesses to be economical and survive in the marketplace. Additionally, numerous firms are also continuously observing and adopting new techniques to motivate their personnel to be more creative and come up with new ideas [ 2 ]. One approach is through leadership, regarded as one of the most important variables influencing employee creativity and organizational innovation. Leadership has also been identified in terms of a significant component of corporate innovation [ 3 ].

Leadership has played a significant role in human history, and leadership style played a vital role in building a conducive working environment and culture inside organizations. The leadership style, in particular, motivates people to struggle eagerly to achieve the organization’s goals [ 4 ]. A leader’s role is to impart knowledge by displaying learning behavior to motivate staff to develop fresh ideas. Hurduzue [ 5 ] argued that an effective leadership style might develop various competencies of individuals working in an organization. Leaders and their practiced leadership styles have been recognized as the most explored subjects in the literature. A leadership style is documented as the leader’s behavior and strategies, formulation and implementation of strategies for providing a vision and a runway to achieve that vision through utilizing available resources. Every leader working in any organization has a style of leadership. Individuals use their leadership styles considering the nature of the situation, and there are many differences in the leadership styles practiced by individuals.

Moreover, there are many leadership theories, and each approach demarcates the components of leadership according to their concepts [ 6 ]. Traditional leadership theories include the Great Man Theory (1840–1910), trait theory (1910–1948), behavioral theory (1950–1970), and contingency theory (1967–1990), while modern leadership philosophies include transformational and transactional leadership (1985–2010) [ 6 ]. The transactional and transformational leadership styles have stimulated the curiosity of countless scholars and researchers [ 7 , 8 ].

In this competitive atmosphere, an organization’s primary purpose is to improve employee work performance to improve productivity and the quality of life [ 9 ]. Effective leadership and better collaboration between leaders and workers are the key drivers of organizational success. The primary responsibility of a leader is to support their organization by exhibiting positive behavior and adopting an appropriate strategy to achieve the organization’s mission in a short period. There is much evidence regarding the importance of leaders and their leadership style and its association with job performance, commitment, and organization’s performance. Many studies have discovered that leadership styles are essential determinants of job performance. Several investigations covering leadership styles have been carried out in developed as well as developing countries [ 10 – 14 ].

Innovation is the process that enables a person to generate and apply new ideas or innovation to perform better in their job and meet organizational goals, which is known as innovative job performance [ 15 ]. According to [ 16 ], innovation is the ability of an individual to perceive issues and provide unique ideas for a solution. It is the competency to implement their ideas appropriately [ 16 ]. Many factors influence innovation and the innovative performance of employees. These factors include an individual’s motivation, personality, and organizational support [ 17 , 18 ]. According to [ 19 ], innovation is a multi-stage process. Leaders play their role in implementing this multi-stage process in businesses and turn ideas into better products and services to compete, progress, and sustain in the market. An organization’s products, services, manufacturing and distribution systems, organizational procedures, marketing, and design processes are different application areas where innovation can be found.

Employees’ innovative behaviors and activities are becoming increasingly important in enhancing the excellence and performance of systems and institutions, demanding the measurement of these behaviors and actions. Most of the educational systems recognized the importance of assessing innovation and innovative performance in education. They have given a top priority to this subject with the collaboration of critical international agencies actively involved in promoting innovation in this field [ 20 – 22 ]. The OECD [ 23 ] recently proposed a survey for measuring innovation in the education sector to its members’ countries. The European Commission has expressed strong support for this initiative. The initiative proposed by OECD [ 23 ] demands innovation and innovative performance in education at a global level.

Despite the importance of an individual’s leadership style and its impact on job performance in terms of innovation, there is limited research in the literature regarding discovering the effect of transactional and transformational leadership styles on the innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities. Keeping given the enlightenment above about the importance of leadership style and its association with innovation performance, this study aims to discover the impact of leadership style on the innovative performance of female leaders’ working in the universities of Pakistan.

2. Literature review

Burns [ 24 ] was the first to propose the idea of transformational leadership, and later [ 25 ] extended it by explaining how transformational leadership contributes to inspiring employees to work diligently and achieve the organization’s goals. Initially, three characteristics of transformational leadership, namely idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, were used to measure the leader’s qualities. Later, another element of transformational leadership, inspirational motivation, was introduced by [ 26 ]. Subsequently, [ 26 ] further explored four characteristics of transformative leadership, including idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. The idealized influence deals with how leaders can inspire their workers to follow them as their role models. Inspirational motivation deals with the leader’s strategies for stimulating and motivating their employees outside of their presumptions to attain organizational and personal goals [ 26 ]. Intellectual stimulation refers to the leader’s approaches to encourage employees to renew their minds and look outside the box during problem-solving activities. The individual consideration refers to the leader’s personal qualities and gives close attention to each of their employees, listening to their problems and providing help. Several studies have investigated the association of transformational leadership towards workers’ creativity, commitment, and innovative performance [ 27 ] and discovered a positive association between leadership styles and employees’ creativity, dedication, and performance. These findings also contributed to a better understanding of workforce management for creativity and innovation. Beyond self-interest, transformational leaders focus on employees, companies, and societies [ 28 ]. Employees are motivated to work for long hours and produce more than estimated by the leaders who practice transformational leadership style [ 26 ]. According to an investigation, transformational leaders can stimulate and urge their followers to go above and beyond their typical expectations and develop a strong sense of commitment and togetherness among employees to enhance performance [ 29 ]. Transformational leadership, according to past research, had a favorable influence on the success of the employees and well as future promotion [ 30 , 31 ].

According to Burns [ 24 ], as referenced in [ 32 ], transformational leadership encourages, inspires, and motivates followers to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the firm’s future success. According to [ 32 ], leaders must display transformative leadership behaviors to gain their people’s trust, loyalty, and respect. Workers are motivated to go above and beyond what is anticipated due to the transformational leadership style. Through transformative leadership behaviors, employees can understand the importance of job outcomes. Based on the significance of the job’s results, employees work towards sacrificing self-interest for the company’s sake and activating their higher-order necessities. Leaders practicing transformative leadership styles, according to [ 33 ], contribute to enhancing workers’ performance, whereas leaders practicing transactional leadership styles produce predictable outcomes.

In comparison to other styles of leadership, the transformational leadership style has gained more comprehensive favor among leadership researchers due to its unique ways of motivating employee innovation [ 34 – 38 ]. Furthermore, researchers believe that the transformational leadership style significantly impacts workers’ creativity and is well-suited to identifying new opportunities and developing organizational competencies. Transformational leaders boost employees’ confidence and values, and because of this, the worker’s output exceeds expectations [ 39 ]. Transformational leaders exchange knowledge and inspire their staff to develop new ideas to boost an individual’s creativity. Leaders practicing transformational style in their administration course inspire people to initiate unique thinking to generate innovative solutions through intellectual inspiration. According to [ 40 ], one of the primary components of inspirational motivation is formulating and articulating a shared vision that encourages people towards creativity. The traits of these transformative leaders can assist employees in performing creatively. Employees who are innovative and creative are a valuable source of new ideas. Transformational leaders create an environment where individuals are encouraged to learn, share, and try out new ideas. Thus, transformational leaders of various organizations focused on the encouragement of an employee towards creativity to turn ideas into new products and services for getting a competitive advantage in the marketplace [ 41 ].

Wilkes et al. [ 42 ] and Jiang et al. [ 31 ] reported that transformational leadership had gained traction as a powerful leadership style that all leaders should employ. As a result of this leadership behavior, employees are anticipated to be motivated and inspired to go beyond the intended objectives and to modify their behaviors and beliefs [ 43 ]. Previous research discovered a strong association between transformative leadership and workers’ performance [ 31 , 44 , 45 ]. Likewise, Wang et al. [ 45 ] discovered that transformative leadership is an essential predictor of workers’ contextual and job performance. Additionally, [ 44 ] explored the role of transformational leadership style on employees’ innovative performance and discovered a significant relationship between the two variables. They reported that all four characteristics of transformational leadership, including inspiring motivation, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and idealized influence, were significant determinants of employees’ contextual performance and success.

The transactional leadership style is recognized and used in a typical managerial function. During the end of the 1970s, leadership theory research focused on improving organizational performance, and most executives adopted a style of leadership known as a transactional leadership style. The transactional leadership style is still the most well-known leadership technique in today’s enterprises. Transactional leaders lead by providing particular incentives and motivating others by trading one thing for another [ 46 ]. Employee responsibilities and job requirements are clarified by transactional leaders, who begin structure, give rewards, and exhibit employee attention. Transactional leaders enjoy ensuring that things operate quickly and efficiently, and they generally adhere to established rules and regulations. As a result of their position, the transactional leader implements policies, maintains the status quo, and gains authority. According to [ 47 ], transactional leadership emphasizes the paths necessary for managing the status quo and maintaining the day-to-day procedures of a business. This leadership style does not emphasize identifying the organization’s directional goals and how workers can work toward achieving those goals, increasing their productivity in alignment with these goals, thus increasing organizational profitability. Transactional leadership prioritizes control over adaptation. Transactional leadership is limited because it does not consider the jam-packed issue, workers, or the organization’s future when awarding rewards. Transactional leadership is almost ineffective in today’s competitive climate when innovation and originality are vital requirements for business success [ 48 , 49 ].

Employee morale standards are thought to be compatible with transactional leadership. It raises the employee’s awareness of ethical issues while generating energy and resources. Employees are driven by transactional leadership because it appeals towards workers’ self-interest and provides incentives and benefits. Transactional leadership is a type of leadership that focuses on the interactions between a leader and their workforce. Employees who comply with the leader’s requests are rewarded [ 33 , 32 ]. As a result, transactional leaders’ styles and behaviors are centered on the contractual agreements of the employees and the benefits that come with them [ 24 ]. According to Northouse [ 33 ], transactional leadership is based on the compensation and fulfillment of a contractual responsibility by employees. Transactional behaviors include contingent reward, passive management by exception, and passive management by exception, according to [ 25 ], as quoted by [ 32 ]. Additionally, [ 26 ], as mentioned by [ 32 ] added another transactional behavior known as active management via an exception. Moreover, transactional leadership, on the other hand, does not promote employee engagement [ 32 ].

According to [ 25 ], the theory regarding transactional leadership comprises three dimensions: (a) contingent reward, which focuses on clarifying the labor necessary to get the reward, and incentive and contingent reward to influence motivation. These leaders aid people in exchange for their efforts. They set clear expectations and offer praise when objectives are met, (b) management by exception (passive), which deals with the utilization through contingent punishments and other corrective actions in response to worker’s deviations from satisfactory performance criteria, and (c) management by exception (active), which deals through monitoring employees and taking action when they are not performing as per defined criteria. In addition, it means that a leader takes notice of & workers’ deviation from the rules and regulations and takes corrective actions [ 50 ]. Leaders who practice the passive management-by-exception strategy wait for the problem to occur before intervening [ 8 ]. When a leader pays or punishes their employees based on how well they perform, this is known as the transactional leadership style [ 51 ]. As a result, a transactional leader’s priorities are to encourage individual’s towards their self-interest through announcing incentives [ 52 ]. According to transactional leadership theory, compensation is recognized as an essential element for motivating employees. As a result, two types of transactional leader tactics for managing individuals have emerged: the first one is contingency reward, and the second one is management-by-exception [ 26 ].

According to [ 34 ], leaders practicing transactional style focus to inspire and empower their followers to take chances and own their outcomes, which connects the creative environment and encourages followers towards creative work. In addition, transformational leaders encourage their people to produce unique and innovative ideas by encouraging them to find alternate ways to complete their tasks. According to [ 34 ], leaders practicing transactional style have to value creativity and innovative work and support innovation to influence followers’ creativity and innovation favorably. In addition, transformational leaders encourage people to develop new ideas and apply creative problem-solving strategies to boost employee creativity and achieve organizational innovation. To motivate and promote their innovative performance, transformational leaders set performance standards and display trust in their workers.

The transactional leadership style primarily focuses on supervision, organization, and performance of employees. This form of leadership was appeared through the industrial revolution and considered a source of economic advantage. Transactional leadership has some typical management strategies such as efficiency goals, economies of scale, and quality differentiation. Transactional leaders always focus on performance-relevant tasks and goals [ 53 ]. Moreover, [ 24 ] highlighted the role of transactional leadership, such as leaders practicing this style always stimulate compliance by followers through reward and punishment system. Transactional leaders practice reward and punishment systems for keeping workers motivated for the short term. Leaders practicing the transactional method dislike transformational leaders, as they are not trying to influence the future. Therefore, it can be said that the central theme of transactional leadership is to provide valuable exchange rewards for the achievement of the company’s goals.

According to [ 54 ], the transactional leadership style is mainly considered adequate during situations of crisis and emergencies. This style has two recognized mechanisms; the first one is a contingent reward, and the second is management by exception. The first element is an efficient and constructive relationship between leaders and subordinates. The subordinates of the company meet specific goals of the company and achieve bonuses, merits, or recognition within the company. These rewards are purely based on an agreement among the leaders and subordinates. While the second component, transactional leadership, is management by exception. According to this component, a leader can be active or passive as a dynamic leader always observing to measure the performance of an employee, whereas, a passive leader only assesses after the completion of work and will inform you of issues after they have happened [ 55 ].

Previous researchers have discovered a positive and negative relationship between transactional leadership behaviors and employee performance [ 56 – 58 ]. According to a study conducted by [ 56 ] among banking employees, transactional leadership behaviors positively and significantly impact employee performance and productivity. The working environment affects employee performance. According to [ 58 ], transactional leadership has a solid and positive relationship with employee performance. Contingent rewards have a positive and immediate impact on employee performance, according to [ 59 ], through giving a safe and enjoyable working environment, autonomy, and leadership support. Yang and Yang [ 60 ] explained that rivalry and competitiveness could affect leadership effectiveness. When there is no competition, transactional leadership will significantly impact workers’ innovation and performance.

On the other hand, [ 61 ] discovered that transactional leadership was not a strong predictor of employee performance. Educators and scholars have also stated that no single leadership style is beneficial in all situations [ 62 ]. An individual’s leadership style should be appropriate for the context or circumstance in which they interact with his or her staff, described by [ 63 ].

Furthermore, some investigations have observed the impact of different leadership styles on employee performance, creativity, and innovation [ 64 ]. The majority of them have contributed to the literature and provided important insights. Moreover, the impact of transformational leadership in enhancing creativity was the main direction of these investigations. Because of its significant effects on employees, transformational leadership has become a well-known type of leadership among researchers. The favorable and noteworthy impact of transactional leadership in predicting creativity has also been shown in recent studies [ 35 , 36 , 65 ]. Furthermore, according to the investigation’s outcome of [ 66 ], transformational leadership has a more significant impact on employee performance as compared to transactional leadership.

In their study, [ 67 ] found a good and substantial association between transformational leadership style and inventive employee performance. Furthermore, according to a recent South African study, inspiring motivation and intellectual stimulation are positively related to innovation and innovative performance [ 52 ]. Moreover, [ 68 ] found that intellectual stimulation had a favorable impact on innovation. In addition, transformational leaders develop strong relationships with their staff, which leads to improved job performance [ 69 ].

3. Statement of the problem

Leadership style plays an essential role in the progress of all organizations. There is a lack of understanding about the leadership style practiced by the leaders working in the educational sector. In Pakistani’ culture where males dominate most of the fields, including education, compared to females. Literature has much evidence about leadership and its impact on leaders’ performance, but there is a shortage of studies in the available literature that investigated the impact of transactional and transformational leadership styles on innovative performance, especially female leaders’ focusing Pakistani educational field.

4. Research objectives

The research objectives were to:

  • Explore which and to what extent a leadership style is practiced by female leaders in Pakistani Universities?
  • Investigate the relationship between transactional leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities?
  • Discover the relationship between transformational leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders in Pakistani Universities?

5. Research methodology

The present investigation aims to discover the relationship between transactional and transformational leadership styles and the innovative performance of female leaders working in public and private universities of Pakistan. Based on the abovementioned purpose, the current study utilized a correlational investigation. Females working as deans, heads of departments, directors, and senior faculty members of public and private universities located in the Punjab province of Pakistan constituted the population of this investigation. A sample of one hundred female leaders was selected using the multistage sampling method. Ten universities (5 public and five private sectors) were chosen in the first stage through the simple random process. At the second stage, ten female leaders (5 from the social science department and five from the basic science department) from each university were chosen through the purposive sampling method. An instrument in the shape of a questionnaire based on a five-point Likert scale was adopted to collect quantitative data from the female leaders. The questionnaire has four sections: section one was about demographic information, section two was about the items of transactional leadership style, section three was about the items of transformational leadership style, and section four was about the items of innovative performance. In this way, there were 33 items in the questionnaire. Sections two and three of the questionnaire were adopted [ 26 ], and the first author herself developed the remaining sections. The face, content, and construct validity of the research instrument were established by obtaining expert opinions from the supervisor and experts. Later on, pilot testing was carried out to confirm the reliability of the questionnaire.

Data collected in the pilot testing phase was assessed in SPSS, and a scale reliability test was used. The results of the scale reliability test (α = .896) proved that the instrument is reliable and suitable for data collection. Later on, the actual data were collected with a research assistant’s help and an online technique using Google Form. The collected data were analyzed in SPSS (Version 26). Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to explore the level of agreement and relationship between independent and dependent variables. The outcomes of the data analysis and research model used for this investigation is presented below.

5.1 Research framework

Based on the previous discussion, a conceptual framework was developed as shown in Fig 1 .


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5.2 Ethical considerations

This research study was carried out in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The researcher met ethical requirements at each step of the research process. A permission letter was obtained from the supervisor and the Ethics Committee members of the school of education at Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China. This research involves the completion of a questionnaire that comprises questions related to leadership styles and innovative performance. The participants of this study include deans, heads of departments, directors, coordinators, and senior faculty members of public and private universities. The researcher enclosed the participant consent form with the questionnaire. All the study participants were informed about the purpose of the research, and the necessary permission was taken before data collection. The information collected was used only for academic purposes and kept confidential.

6. Results/Findings

The data were collected from female leaders working in Pakistani Universities through a questionnaire. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to discover the relationship between independent and dependent variables. Descriptive statistics were used to measure the female leaders’ level of agreement towards the practice of transformational and transitional leadership styles. The below criteria were adopted to measure the level of agreement or disagreement.

Table 1 : shows the criteria adopted for assessing the level of practicing females’ leadership styles.



RQ1: Which and to what extent a leadership style is practiced by female leaders in Pakistani Universities?

Table 2 : shows that indicator wise female leaders’ perception. The statistical information demonstrated in Table 2 shows the perceptions of female leaders about transformational and transactional leadership styles and their innovative performance. The results indicate that majority of the female leaders practice transformational leadership style with a mean score of 3.79 and transactional leadership style with a mean score of 3.20. Moreover, female leaders have a high perception of innovative performance with a mean score of 4.02. Based on the results, it has been concluded that the majority of the female leaders working in Pakistani universities practice a transformational leadership style. It is worth mentioning that female leaders working in Pakistani universities exhibit a different leadership style while performing their daily activities. It means that female leaders practice transformational leadership styles which focus on employees’ idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. Moreover, it is noteworthy that males are generally performing as leaders in the educational field in Pakistani culture. There is very low participation of females in administrative roles compared to males.

Fig 2 : Overall Mean Scores and SDs of Female Leaders towards their Leadership Styles and Innovative Performance in Pakistani Universities.





Table 3 : demonstrates the factor-wise means and standard deviations of both leadership styles practiced by female leaders in Pakistani Universities. According to the results, the mean score of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, individual consideration, contingent reward, management by exception, and innovative performance are 3.74, 3.88, 3.74, 3.80, 3.43, and 3.06, respectively. All the mean values of the factors of both leadership styles were above 3.0, which confirmed that the majority of the female leader practices both leadership styles in the organizations. According to the above results, there is a significant difference according to the factor-wise analysis of both leadership styles. While in the case of innovative performance, females showed a high level of agreement. It was revealed that Pakistani female leaders understand innovation and innovative performance inside their universities. It means that the majority of the female leaders are practicing transformational leadership style compared to transactional leadership style in their routine work with a bit of modification to achieve innovative performance at their workplace.



Fig 3 : Factors wise means and standards deviations of the both leadership style practised by female leaders in Pakistani universities.



RQ: 2: Is there any significant relationship between transactional leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders?

Table 4 : To investigate the relationship between transactional leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders working in Pakistani Universities, a test known as Pearson correlation was applied. One hundred female leaders working as deans, heads of departments, directors, faculty members, and coordinators were surveyed to discover the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. The results presented in Table 2 indicate a moderate positive relationship between transactional leadership style and innovative performance (r = .380). Moreover, the results of the p-value confirmed a statistically significant positive relationship between the independent variable (transactional leadership) and the dependent variable (innovative performance). Therefore, it is concluded that when female leaders increase the practice of transactional leadership style, their innovative performance also increases.



RQ: 3: Is there any significant relationship between Transformational leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders?

Table 5 : Pearson r correlation test was conducted to explore the relationship between transformational leadership style and innovative performance of female leaders working in Pakistani Universities. In this regard, one hundred female leaders working as deans, heads of departments, directors, faculty members, and coordinators were surveyed to investigate the relationship between independent and dependent variables. The results presented in Table 5 show a moderate positive relationship between transformational leadership style and innovative performance (r = .472). Moreover, the results of the p-value confirmed a significant positive relationship between the independent variable (transformational leadership) and the dependent variable (innovative performance). Therefore, it is concluded that when female leaders increase the practice of transformational leadership style, their innovative performance also increases.



7. Results and discussion

According to the findings of this study, most female leaders in Pakistani universities were practicing transformational leadership style while the minority were practicing transactional leadership style. It seems that female leaders modify their style according to the nature of the situation. As in the Pakistani culture where males dominate, females have to alter their leadership style considering their circumstances to achieve the goals of their institutions. Furthermore, female executives exhibited a positive attitude towards innovation and innovative performance. Moreover, this research discovered a moderate positive association between the transformational leadership style and innovative performance.

Similarly, this study revealed a moderate positive association between the transactional leadership style and innovative performance. Based on the results, it is perceived that female leaders working in Pakistani universities do not significantly differ between their leadership styles. Moreover, they have a high perception of innovation and innovative performance inside their organizations. These findings are consistent with those of [ 67 ], who discovered a strong positive association between transformational leadership style and innovative employee performance in their study. Another discovery by [ 52 ] showed transformational factors, such as inspiring motivation and intellectual stimulation, were positively associated with innovation and innovative performance supports the findings of this study.

Furthermore, Yasin et al. [ 68 ] found that intellectual stimulation has a beneficial impact on innovation, consistent with this study’s findings.

Similarly, several studies have demonstrated the favorable and significant influence of transactional leadership in predicting creativity [ 35 , 36 ], corroborating the findings of this study. Likewise [ 70 ] discovered in Pakistan that there is a significant positive association between employee performance and transformative/ transactional leaders. The study also revealed that in the case of transformational leadership, the strength of the association between leadership and employee performance was high, supporting our study’s findings. These findings are consistent with another research [ 71 ], which identifies women as more transformational rather than transactional.

8. Conclusion

This study concludes that most female leaders of Pakistani universities practice transformational leadership style compared to transactional leadership style. Moreover, most female leaders exhibited the factors of both leadership styles, such as idealized influence, motivation, intellectual stimulation, individual consideration, contingent reward, and management by exception (active/passive). Similarly, female leaders were inclined towards innovative performance. So, it has been revealed that female leaders have more attitudes towards practicing transformational leadership style than transactional leadership style. Furthermore, a moderate positive relationship was observed between the transformational leadership style and innovative performance.

Similarly, this investigation has revealed a moderate positive relationship between the transactional leadership style and innovative performance. It means that both leadership styles have a moderate relationship with the innovation performance of the female leaders working in the Universities of Pakistan. Based on the outcomes, this investigation recommends that various courses, workshops, and seminars may be planned to equip the female leaders in both leadership styles working in public and private sector universities to enhance innovation and innovative performance.

9. Limitation and study forward

This research study is limited to investigating the two leadership styles, transactional and transformational, practiced by the female leaders of Pakistani public and private sector universities located in Punjab only. A comprehensive research study can be conducted by exploring other leadership styles and provinces of Pakistan.

Supporting information




The first author would like to thank her parents, who supported her in this work. We thank the anonymous reviewers whose comments/suggestions helped to improve the quality and readability of this manuscript.

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