Transformational leadership and organizational commitment: A study of UNC system business school department chairs
Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables viii List of Figures ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 3 Statement of the Problem 5 Purpose of the Study 5 Research Questions 6 Significance of the Study 6 Assumptions and Limitations 7 Nature of the Study 8 Definition of Terms 9 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 10 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 12 Leadership 12 Organizational Commitment 33 Transformational Leadership and Organizational Commitment 43 Higher Education Leadership 46 Leadership, Organizational Commitment, and Academic Administration 47
CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 51 Research Questions 52 Research Design 52 Variables 53 Sample 54 Instrumentation 55 Data Collection 61 Hypotheses 62 Data Analysis 65 Ethical Considerations 66 CHAPTER 4. RESULTS 68 Background of Participant Recruitment Process 68 Results 75 Summary 85 CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS 88 Summary of Research Findings 88 Limitations 90 Recommendations for Future Research 91 Implications and Conclusion 92 REFERENCES 94 APPENDIX. POST HOC FISCHERʼS LSD TEST 104
List of Tables Table 1: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Commitment 45
Table 2: Descriptive Statistics, MLQ-5X 2004 Normative Sample (Total) 57
Table 3: Descriptive Statistics, MLQ-5X 2004 Normative Sample (Lower) 58
Table 4: MLQ-5X 2004 Reliability Scores (Total) 59
Table 5: MLQ-5X 2004 Reliability Scores (Lower) 60
Table 6: Hypothesis 1 Correlations 75
Table 7: Hypothesis 2 Correlations 76
Table 8: Hypothesis 3 Correlations 77
Table 9: Hypothesis 4 Correlations 78
Table 10: Hypothesis 5 Correlations 79
Table 11: Hypothesis 6 Group Statistics 80
Table 12: Hypothesis 6 Independent Samples Test 80
Table 13: Hypothesis 7 Test of Homogeneity of Variances 82
Table 14: Hypothesis 7 ANOVA 82
Table 15: Hypothesis 8 Correlations 84
List of Figures Figure 1: Three Component Model 36
Figure 2: Antecedents, Correlates, and Consequences 42
Figure 3: Mediating Role of Psychological Empowerment and Moderating 44
Role of Structural Distance
Figure 4: Demographic Items 70
Figure 5: Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ) 73
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem Members of the academic community spend much of their lives working toward earning advanced degrees in their specific fields of expertise. Once those degrees are completed, scholars often seek out professorates at colleges and universities (Lauwerys, 2002). As in any organization, institutions of higher learning operate with a particular structure, and with leaders to oversee the structure. Leaders must go further than simply sitting atop a rigidly designed structure. They must be prepared to provide vision, goals, guidance, and feedback to their subordinates (Lauwerys, 2008). In many cases, the discipline-based instruction received by students earning terminal degrees relates much more closely with the studentsʼ fields than with studies in leadership, and formal training is rarely available for administration (Whitsett, 2007). Thusly, many incoming faculty members at colleges and universities across America may have little or no background in leadership, and may be ill-prepared to assume leadership positions when they arise (Lauwerys, 2007; Whitsett, 2007). Since quality of leadership is directly related to organizational success (Greenberg, 2002), quality leadership in higher education is an important
consideration as well, specifically as it pertains to undergraduate business school chairpersons. Much of the literature concerning faculty administration focuses on leadership from a transactional perspective (Groner, 1978; Knight & Holen, 1985). Transactional leadership is more focused on quid pro quo exchanges (Bass, 1985), and less concerned with the good of followers as well as leaders (Burns, 1978). While it is clear that faculty administration is difficult in that it involves “balancing the demands between administrative control and faculty autonomy” (Brown & Moshavi, 2002, p. 80), research shows that “transformational leadership behaviors are positively associated with faculty satisfaction with department chair supervision, perceptions of organizational effectiveness and willingness to expend extra effort” (p. 88). Leadership has also been defined as an important antecedent to organizational commitment (Lok & Crawford, 2001; Yousef, 2000). The concept of organizational commitment refers to the identification of an individual with his or her organization (Steers, 1977). Further, it has been suggested that organizational commitment contributes to creativeness and innovativeness within an organization, which are known to increase competitiveness of the organization (Katz & Kahn, 1978). The research findings in this study show that undergraduate business school faculty members are more likely to have high levels of organizational
commitment where their chairpersons exhibit transformational leadership characteristics as perceived by their faculty members. Background of the Study Transformational leadership is founded in Bassʼ (1978) work, which introduced the concept of what the author called transforming leadership in the context of its opposite, transactional leadership. Transformational leadership theory signals the seminal leadership work of Weber (1947), who “provided the most well-known definition of charisma” (Northouse, 2007, p. 178). The transformational leadership model (Bass, 1985) focused much more sharply on the needs of followers, pulling support from the seminal work on transformational leadership (Burns, 1978; House, 1971; 1976). Bass and Avolio (1990a) discussed “the implications of transactional and transformational leadership for individual, team, and organizational development” (p. 231), and followed with their own instrument (Bass & Avolio, 1990b) to determine leadership style—the multifactor leadership questionnaire. The effectiveness of the model and the instrument are captured in the literature (Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, 2003; Keller, 1995; Kirkbride, 2006). Organizational commitment, though previously defined through a one- dimensional lens, was redefined with a multidimensional perspective by Meyer and Allen (1991). The researchers separated organizational commitment into three perspectives: affective attachment; perceived costs; and obligation (p. 61).
The affective perspective is well-supported in the literature (Buchanan, 1974; Kanter, 1968; Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979). The perceived cost perspective also has significant research support (Becker, 1960; Etzioni, 1975; Farrell & Rusbult, 1981; Hrebiniak & Alutton, 1972; Kanter, 1968; Salancik, 1977; Stebbins, 1970; Stevens, Beyer, & Trice, 1978). The obligation perspective finds adequate support as well (Marsh & Mannari, 1977; Meyer & Allen, 1991; Prestholdt, Lane, & Matthews, 1987; Schwartz, 1973; Schwartz & Tessler, 1972). Antecedents of organizational commitment are well documented, as well as correlates and consequences (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Mowday & Boulian, 1974; Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch & Topolnytsky, 2002; Steers, 1977). A positive relationship between transformational leadership and commitment with specific antecedents of organizational commitment is documented in the literature (Dumdum, Lowe, & Avolio, 2002; Lowe et al., 1996). Mediators and moderators of the relationships between transformational leadership and organizational commitment are also offered (Avolio, Zhu, Koh, & Bhatia, 2004). The researchers offered a new model, based on their study, suggesting that “psychological empowerment mediate(s) the relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment” and that “structural distance between the leader and follower moderates the relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment” (p. 951).
Statement of the Problem Ample evidence is available citing a positive relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment (Boerner et al., 2007; Bono & Judge, 2003; Bycio, Hackett, & Allen, 1995; Chen, 2004; Emery & Barker, 2007; Walumbwa, Orwa, Wang, & Lawler, 2005). The majority of research on leadership in higher education, however, is based on transactional theory instead of transformational theory (Brown & Moshavi, 2002; Groner, 1978; Knight & Holen, 1985). As such, the problem addressed in this study was that there is a lack of sufficient evidence as to the relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment among undergraduate business school chairpersons. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between the leadership styles of undergraduate business school chairpersons in the University of North Carolina (UNC) System as perceived by their faculty and the self-reported organizational commitment of their faculty. Organizational commitment is an important consideration in higher education, especially given the likelihood of committed individuals to be more reliable, less likely for absenteeism (Herscovitch & Topolnytsky, 2002; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990), and more likely to be creative and innovative (Katz & Kahn, 1978), three essential qualities of successful higher education faculty.
This study was designed to provide a greater understanding of leadership in higher education, particularly with regard to UNC undergraduate business school chairpersons. The results provide insight for academics as leadership practitioners in higher education, which sheds light on which leadership practices are most effective at achieving greater levels of organizational commitment. Research Questions 1. What is the relationship between a faculty member's perceived leadership style of his or her undergraduate business department chairperson and the same faculty member's self-reported commitment to the organization?
2. What is the relationship between an undergraduate business department chairperson's transformational leadership behaviors as perceived by subordinate faculty members and high levels of organizational commitment as self-reported by the faculty members?
Significance of the Study This study is significant for two main reasons. First, it expands the body of knowledge with respect to transformational leadership, organizational commitment, and their interrelationships. While several studies have been done in these areas, researchers have noted the need for further research, especially in different professions (Gunter, 1997; Metscher, 2005). Second, the study is significant because it provides insight regarding the specific leadership styles needed by university business school chairpersons. Quality leadership is an important ingredient for successful organizations (Greenberg, 2002), and university business school chairpersons need to be
particularly good at balancing administrative leadership with faculty autonomy (Brown & Moshavi, 2002). Finally, given the bent of current literature dealing with leadership in higher education administration toward transactional leadership (Groner, 1978; Knight & Holen, 1985), and given that “the reliance on developing transactional leadership styles will clearly fall short of the leadership challenges confronting most organizations today” (Bass & Avolio, 1990b, p. 1), considerably more work in the area of transformational leadership and higher education administration needs to be done. Assumptions and Limitations Assumptions One assumption for this study was that participants in the surveys would respond as honestly as possible to both the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) and the organizational commitment questionnaire (OCQ). Another assumption for the study was that the validity and reliability constructs found through previous research using the same surveys would be equal in this study. Further, it was assumed that for this study the participants in the surveys would fully understand the questions posed in the surveys. Finally, it was the assumption of the researcher that the participants were familiar with the leadership style of the chairpersons they would be rating, and that they were able to easily articulate the leadership style of their chairpersons in the context of this survey.
Limitations Certain limitations of this study were pointed out at the outset. For instance, the sample for the study was limited to university business school chairpersons and, therefore, generalization beyond that scope was limited. Second, although confidentiality and anonymity were guaranteed to participants, it is possible that some of their responses were biased due to fear of retribution from their supervisors. Third, it is important to note that researcher inexperience could have led to some form of bias or mistake. All possible precautions were taken throughout the study in order to prevent such a limitation from having an impact on the results. Fourth, the MLQ and OCQ do not measure all aspects of leadership style and organizational commitment, respectively. As such, the study is not limitless in the types of information about leaders and commitment that it yields. Finally, it is possible that, although the researcher searched the literature exhaustively, one or more of the research questions has been previously answered without the researcherʼs knowledge. Nature of the Study The study utilized two existing survey instruments, the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) and the organizational commitment questionnaire (OCQ). These instruments use Likert-style scales to measure variables. The MLQ (Bass & Avolio, 1990b), is the most popular and most commonly used instrument for measuring transactional and transformational
leadership. The MLQ-5X-Short form has 45 items, which measure leadership behaviors and outcomes (Bass & Avolio, 1990b). This instrument was introduced in 1985, and has well-established reliability and validity, which will be discussed in Chapter 3. The OCQ (Mowday et al., 1979) consists of 15 items designed to determine the level of the participantsʼ commitment to their organizations. This was a quantitative study, which was analyzed using correlations and ANOVA (analysis of variance) testing. Based on the data collected, the hypotheses posed in Chapter 3 were supported or rejected (Creswell, 2003). Definition of Terms Affective Commitment: Deals specifically with a personʼs commitment to an organization based on emotion, or emotional attachment. Continuance Commitment: Based on an employeeʼs perceived costs of leaving an organization and also the perceived benefits of continuing with an organization. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ): An instrument designed by Bass and Avolio (1990b) and used to measure leadership behaviors. The scale of the instrument classifies leaders as transformational, transactional, or passive/avoidant. Normative Commitment: A less common commitment, based on obligation. This form of commitment exists when people feel obligated or have strong internal feelings against leaving an organization.
Organizational Commitment: a psychological term describing an individualʼs attachment to an organization. A strong commitment signifies a more efficient employee and a positive relationship with job performance (Becker, Billings, Eveleth, & Gilbert, 1996; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer, Paunonen, Gellatly, Goffin, & Jackson, 1989; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Turner & Chelladurai, 2005). Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ): A survey instrument written by Mowday et al. (1979), designed to measure the following: belief and acceptance of organizational goals and values; willingness to make strong efforts for the benefit of the organization; and the desire to continue as a member of the organization (OʼReilly & Chatman, 1986). Other measures for organizational commitment exist, such as Balfour and Wechslerʼs (1996) organizational commitment survey (OCS). The organizational commitment questionnaire is generally the most accepted instrument for assessing organizational commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991). Organization of the Remainder of the Study This dissertation is organized into five chapters. This chapter is comprised of an introduction to the study, including the introduction to the problem, the background of the study, the statement of the problem, the purpose of the study, the research questions, the significance of the study, the definition of terms, the assumptions and limitations of the study, and the nature of the study.
Chapter 2 is a review of the pertinent literature, organized into categories by subject. Chapter 3 outlines the research methodology for the study. Chapter 4 includes the data collection and analysis of the study. Chapter 5 provides results, conclusions, and suggestions for further research.
CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Leadership Disparate definitions of leadership pepper the literature. They are characteristic of a plethora of academics that cannot agree on a standard line with respect to a discipline so young in the research world, yet so old in the world of organization and management. In order to fully understand leadership, it is necessary to delve into the history of leadership, the different approaches to leadership, and the vastly contrasting styles of leaders throughout the ages. Prior to a dissection of leadership models, it is necessary to establish a working definition for leadership itself. Leadership, according to Charnov and Montana (2000), is “the process by which one individual influences others to accomplish desired goals” (p. 254). This is a simplified definition of leadership, which more closely resembles accepted definitions of management. In contrast, Blake and McCanse (1991) held that “leadership requires resources, relationships, and results” (p. 2). This definition deals more with a broad vision seen by one person, and made to be seen by others in order to accomplish shared goals, and further explains the vastness of leadership and the leader.
Major Leadership Approaches Trait Approach At the foundation of leadership study, and at one extreme of the leadership continuum, is the trait approach to leadership. The inclusion of an analysis of trait leadership is important in answering the research question at hand for several reasons. First, an overview of trait theory enables the reader to understand the foundations of leadership, specifically with respect to early thought on what makes a good leader. Second, trait theory forms the basis for comparison between early leadership thought and transactional and transformational leadership, which exit from trait theory, favoring style theory instead. In early leadership theory creation, the idea that different leadership traits were predictors of excellent leadership was widespread, particularly because of the possession of those traits by the most famous political and military leaders (Northouse, 2007). Specific traits such as extroversion and height are examples of those traits thought to predict the ability to lead. Because of these beliefs, early theorists in leadership attempted to build bridges between traits of leaders and effective leadership practices. Research in the mid-20th century, however, posed a serious challenge to trait theories by questioning “the universality of leadership traits” (p. 15).
According to Stogdill (1948), the average filler of the leadership role differed from the average follower through the following factors, which are less associated with traits than with skills: Intelligence. Originally offered by Stogdill (1948) as a trait associated with leadership, intelligence was found by Zaccaro, Kemp, and Bader (2004) to be a skill more likely to be possessed by leaders than by non-leaders. Self-confidence. Another trait that is helpful for leaders is alertness. This trait enables the leader to be more certain about his or her skills and abilities (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Stogdill, 1948). Determination. The importance of being willing to see a task through to the finish, and of refusing to give up in the face of adversity, is manifested in a leaderʼs determination (Northouse, 2007). Determination is a skill commonly more associated with leaders than with non-leaders (Stogdill, 1948). Integrity. Though it is not necessarily a prevalent trait among leaders today (Northouse, 2007), integrity is a trait that lends itself to a much more effective leader, especially when it comes to the motivational requirements of leaders and the need to establish trust with followers (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004). Sociability. According to Northouse (2007), sociability is defined as “a leaderʼs inclination to seek out pleasant social relationships” (p. 20). This particular leadership trait has been represented in the literature as one that is essential to effective leaders (Stogdill, 1948; Stogdill, 1974).
Some additional characteristics associated with leaders according to research are “drive, the desire to lead, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, and knowledge of the business” (Northouse, 2007, p. 17). Eden and Leviatan (1975) hold that factors of good leadership originate in followersʼ minds. No substantial evidence has been offered to prove that those factors are anything more than stigmas in the minds of followers. While the authors attempted to shift the focus of leadership from the leader to the follower, they focused on perception of leadership, which gives particular credibility to traits as leadership determinants. Countless additional leadership traits are presented in various other scholarly works. The traits presented above, and many others not listed, can be easily associated with leaders in a positive way. Many of them provide leaders with a complete set of tools with which to run all or part of an organization. This research lends some support to trait theories since an important requisite of effective leadership is the willingness of followers to accept the leadership. However, the notion that leader candidates with specific traits are qualified to lead based on those traits has been challenged in volumes of subsequent research, particularly that of Burns (1978) and Bass and Avolio (1990a; 1990b). An important secondary review of pertinent theories requires a look into the skills-based approach and theory of leadership. As a successor of many theories of trait, a skills-based leadership review builds an important bridge from
trait theories to modern style theories, including those proposed by Burns (1978) and Bass and Avolio (1990a; 1990b). Skills Approach The skills approach focuses on skills and abilities that potential leaders can learn and develop in order to better fit the leadership mold. The skills approach fills an important role in answering the research question at hand for several important reasons. First, the skills approach fills a gap between early trait-based leadership thought and later skills-based leadership thought. Second, the skills-based approach to leadership posits that specific abilities of leadership candidates better qualify them for assuming roles of leadership and succeeding in those roles. Katzʼs (1955) work presented the three-skill approach, which holds that top management needs fewer technical skills and more human and conceptual— but particularly conceptual—skills. The work stated that middle management needs technical, human, and conceptual skills, but particularly human skills. The work also stated that supervisory management needs technical and human skills, but particularly technical skills (p. 41). Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, and Fleishman (2000) hold that leaders who can solve complex problems, both social and non-social, present themselves in organizations are truly effective leaders. This idea adds support to
the skills approach because of the importance of skills and problem-solving abilities in leaders. The skills approach takes its place along the continuum of leadership theory and thought because of its essential contribution to a more developed and mature body of leadership theory. As a successor to earlier theories including trait-based and skills-based leadership, modern research lends strength to the style theories of leadership, which hold that style can be perhaps more effective than traits and skills in good leadership. Style Approach Style-based leadership theory ties tightly into the research question at hand and weaves a much stronger bond between the old and new leadership theories for several reasons. First, style can be as effective as traits in seeking follower willingness due to certain stylesʼ abilities to inspire a strong following. Second, style is assumable and not merely potluck in nature. To clarify, styles can be learned and utilized, as can skills, while traits are purely inherent. According to Northouse (2007), style differs from trait in that it is based on the study of how individuals behaved in the act of leading a group in a study (p. 70). Researchers at Ohio State developed the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire (LBDQ). A shorter version was published and became more widely used in research than any other leader behavior questionnaire. The research
showed that some recurring leadership behaviors included initiating structure, which focuses on task design and implementation, and consideration, which were relationship behaviors based on “camaraderie, respect, trust, and liking between leaders and followers” (Northouse, 2007, p. 71). University of Michigan researchers, at the same time, were working on the impact of leadership in small groups. The researchers found that two major types of leadership were exhibited: employee orientation and production orientation (p. 71). Employee orientation was geared toward human relations while production orientation focused on technical aspects of work. Other styles include the leadership grid, which is still in use today. Major Leadership Models Fiedlerʼs Contingency Model Leadership scholars and practitioners have long debated what distinguishes a good leader from a great leader. A sound argument can be made that, indeed, consistent effectiveness makes the best leader. Leadership theory and practice were enriched and changed when Fiedler (1964) introduced a new model of leadership in his article, A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness. The work served as a pivotal point in leadership theory and thought as it outlined the basic concepts of Fiedlerʼs contingency model, a work widely recognized as the premier work in contingency theory as a whole.
Following his article introducing his contingency model, Fiedler (1967) published a book, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness, expounding upon and further explaining the model. This work represents a substantive seminal contribution to Fiedlerʼs model, further exploring the idea of leader-match theory, which tries “to match leaders to appropriate situations” (Northouse, 2007, p. 113). Fiedlerʼs theory was grounded in a study of leaders with different styles in different situations, and of judging the effectiveness of the respective leaders (and their styles) in their respective situations. Fiedlerʼs model characterizes three situational variables—leader member relations, task structure, and position power (Fiedler, 1967). The leader-member relations variable is composed “of the group atmosphere and the degree of confidence, loyalty, and attraction that followers feel for their leader” (Northouse, 2007, p. 114). The task structure variable is based on how well the tasks required of subordinates are articulated and understood, based on the leaderʼs explanation and instructions. The position power variable is based on legitimate power, or power a leader inherently possesses due to his or her position in the organization (Fiedler, 1967). Fiedlerʼs model also introduced an instrument called the least preferred coworker (LPC) measure, where the participant is asked to think of the person, past or present, with which he or she has had or has the most difficult time
accomplishing tasks. With that person in mind, the participant is asked to rate that person based on the characteristics provided (Northouse, 2007). As time goes by, models develop and change into new iterations of themselves, or they are phased out in favor of more appropriate or better models. In the case of Fiedlerʼs contingency model, others have emerged and gone into different directions, but contingency theory itself has remained relevant because it “is backed by a large amount of research, it is the first leadership theory to emphasize the impact of situations on leaders, it is predictive of leadership effectiveness,” and it makes a specific allowance for leaders to not necessarily be all things to all people at all times (Northouse, 2007, p. 125). The development of Fiedlerʼs contingency model occurred markedly in two specific articles. Hillʼs (1969) intentions were both to validate and expand upon Fiedlerʼs contingency model. The work admits that “we know little about what makes a supervisor effective or why a supervisor is effective in one situation but not in another” (p. 33). The article presented a large group of validation evidence from the literature and went on to make an “extension of The Contingency Model to coacting groups” (p. 38). The second article constituted development of Fiedlerʼs contingency model in that it detailed leadership training utilizing leader-match theory, a critical pillar of Fiedlerʼs contingency model. Leister, Borden, and Fiedler (1977) applied Fiedlerʼs contingency model to leadership training and validated it as an effective