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Leadership styles and organizational commitment: literature review

March 1, 2016 • Leadership Styles, Transformational Leadership

What is Transformational Leadership?

First introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978 in his book “Leadership”, transforming leadership is a process in which “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.” Bernard M. Bass (1985), extended the work of Burns. He explored the psychological mechanisms behind transformational and transactional leadership. You can learn more about transformational leadership and review examples of transformational leaders in this excellent slideshare presentation by Douglas Bush. (Also review the additional resources below.)



Bass developed the Full Range Leadership Model (shown below) and an accompanying Multi Factor Leadership Questionnaire (also known as MLQ 5X short or the standard MLQ) that measures leadership types ranging from passive to active leaders and effective versus ineffective styles. This paper provides an overview of each of the three leadership dimensions in Bass’s model and the research studies associated with each.

This literature review examines the relationship between Bass’s (1985) leadership dimensions (transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire) and several outcome variables (employee extra effort, employee satisfaction with leader, leadership effectiveness) and organizational commitment.

full-range-of-leadership-modelOrganizational Commitment

In this paper, the authors draw attention to the connection between leadership styles and organizational commitment levels, pointing out that the MLQ has been used with the “Organizational Commitment Questionnaire” (OCG) to assess the impact on leadership styles on employee/organizational commitment. The second half of this literature review explores the many definitions of organizational commitment, suggesting a lack of agreed definition may account for the difficultly in understanding research results. Meyer and Allen identified three common themes from the various definitions:

  • Affective Commitment – an emotional attachment to an organization.
  • Normative Commitment – a feeling of obligation to an organization.
  • Continuance Commitment – a lack of perceived alternative employment choices.

The Antecedents of Organizational Commitment include congruency, interesting work, clarity of purpose, equity and fairness, feedback and recognition, empowerment, and autonomy. The paper also explores demographic factors that play a role in organizational commitment (positively and negatively). E.g. Age, gender, marital status, educational level, length of service and leadership style. They conclude with studies that confirm the link between organizational commitment and individual/organizational performance.

Findings: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Commitment

The authors review several studies that show a positive relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment, suggesting that transformational leaders are likely to gain commitment from subordinates, whereas transactional and laissez-faire leaders are not.

Practical Implications

The study contributes to an understanding of what constitutes organizational commitment and the importance of transformational leadership behaviors in securing commitment that ultimately delivers superior organizational results. The two assessments (MLQ and OCG) provide tools for the practitioner to perform an organizational diagnostic.

Full Article Link

Recommended Reading

Cherry, Kendra. “How Do Transformational Leaders Inspire?” Verywell. N.p., 20 Apr. 2016. Web.
Transformational Leadership: Becoming an Inspirational Leader. In this Mindtools overview, transformational leadership is defined; a process for becoming a transformational leader is outlined; and tools to develop your transformational leadership skills are offered.

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