Only When We Agree! How Value Congruence Moderates the Impact of Goal‐Oriented Leadership on Public Service Motivation

Published date01 January 2019
AuthorUlrich Thy Jensen,Lotte Bøgh Andersen,Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen
Date01 January 2019
12 Public Administration Review Janua ry | F ebru ary 20 19
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 1, pp. 12–24. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13008.
Ulrich Thy Jensen
Arizona State University
Lotte Bøgh Andersen
Aarhus University
Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen
Aarhus University
Only When We Agree! How Value Congruence
Moderates the Impact of Goal-Oriented Leadership on
Public Service Motivation
Abstract: Questions of how and when managers can motivate the workforce of public organizations are fundamental
for scholars and practitioners alike. A dominant assertion is that goal-oriented leadership strategies, such as
transformational leadership, foster public service motivation (PSM). However, existing studies rely on designs that are
vulnerable to endogeneity and rarely investigate the scope conditions of the leadership-PSM relationship. Combining
a field experiment with 364 managers and surveys of their 3,470 employees, the authors show that transformational
leadership and transactional leadership, when induced experimentally, do not have the claimed positive effect on
PSM. In fact, the results indicate that goal-oriented leadership can have demotivating effects when employee and
organizational values are incongruent. Public managers should therefore carefully assess existing levels of value (in)
congruence before implementing goal-oriented leadership strategies, and—in case of value conflicts—seek to align
perceptions of the desirable among members of the organization.
Evidence for Practice
• Work motivation is the energy a person is willing to invest in his or her job to achieve certain objectives;
values are conceptions of what is desirable to achieve.
• Stimulating work motivation may be of little contribution to organizational performance, if employees
expend their energy on objectives that are not aligned with organizational goals.
• Goal-oriented leadership can—at worst—have a demotivating effect on individuals’ public service motivation
if employee and organizational values are incongruent.
• To reap the benefits of goal-oriented leadership, it is important to carefully assess existing value conflicts and
align conceptions of the desirable among members of the organization.
How public managers can increase employees’
motivation is an important research question
and a practical challenge (Park and Rainey
2008). In recent years, scholarly attention has centered
on the concept of transformational leadership, which
is argued to stimulate employees’ public service
motivation (PSM) through leadership behaviors such
as articulating a vision that appeals to employees’
higher-order needs (Paarlberg and Lavigna 2010;
Wright, Moynihan, and Pandey 2012). This focus is
warranted, because PSM has been linked to behavioral
dispositions of public service providers (e.g., Jensen
and Vestergaard 2017) and the performance of
public organizations (e.g., Andersen, Heinesen, and
Pedersen 2014). Existing studies have, by and large,
corroborated this assertion, demonstrating positive
correlations between transformational leadership and
PSM (Caillier 2014b; Jensen and Bro 2018; Park
and Rainey 2008; Wright, Moynihan, and Pandey
2012). While studies thus far have made great strides
in starting to explore the relationship between
transformational leadership and PSM and started to
map its relation to other important organizational
outcomes, three critical issues remain unsolved.
First, and in line with calls for greater attention to
context (O’Toole and Meier 2014), core contextual
factors of the leadership-motivation nexus remain
unexplored. As noted by Paarlberg and Perry
(2007), employees are likely to be motivated by
organizational goals to the extent that those goals
fall within employees’ “zone of existing values.” If
values match, employees are more likely to derive
motivation from the organization’s mission. If values
do not match, management interventions may be
necessary (Besley and Ghatak 2005). However, the
effect of managerial initiatives may also depend on
the initial value congruence. In a cross-sectional study,
Krogsgaard, Thomsen, and Andersen (2014) find
that transformational leadership is positively related
to PSM only if employee and organizational values
match. Contrary to the common claim, this indicates
that goal-oriented leadership strategies do not always
increase PSM and challenges the optimistic view
Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen is
associate professor in the Department
of Political Science at Aarhus University,
Denmark. His research focuses on
leadership, motivation, and performance in
public organizations.
Lotte Bøgh Andersen is professor
in the Department of Political Science at
Aarhus University, Denmark. Her research
interests include leadership, motivation,
behavior, and performance of public
employees; she also has contributed to
research concerning economic incentives
and motivation crowding theory. She is
director of Crown Prince Frederik Center for
Public Leadership.
Ulrich Thy Jensen is assistant professor
in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona
State University. His research spans domains
of leadership and organizational behavior.
His recent contributions focus on work
motivation and values among public service
providers and on how leadership behaviors
shape attitudinal and performance
outcomes in public organizations.
Research Article

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT