Transformational leadership and work commitment: an empirical study of plastic and chemical exporting firms in Thailand.

Author:Pataraarechachai, Veeraya


The pace of change organizations confronting today has resulted in more adaptive and flexible leadership. Adaptive leaders work more effectively in rapidly changing environments by helping to make sense of the challenges confronted by both leaders and followers and accordingly appropriately responding to those challenges. Adaptive leaders work with their followers to generate creative solutions to complex problems, while also developing them to handle a broader range of leadership responsibilities (Bennie, 2001). Bass, 1985 labeled the type of adaptive leadership described above transformational. Transformational leaders concentrate their efforts on longer term goals; value and emphasize developing a vision and inspiring followers to pursue the vision; change or align systems to accommodate their vision rather than work within existing systems; and coach followers to take on greater responsibility for both their own and others' development (Howell & avolio,1993). Transformational leadership is the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organization members and building commitment for the organization's mission or objectives (Yukl, 1999). Effective leaders in this context have been found to create a climate for innovation and learning, often through transformational leadership. Specifically, they provide visions of successful innovation, intellectual stimulation to enhance creativity, feelings of involvement and a willingness to disagree, and resources that allow needed autonomy and freedom to innovate (Elkins & Keller, 2003). Based on the results of this, it appears that leadership style may be the imperfectly mobile asset linked to follower's commitment. Mata et al. (1995) states that if an organization has an asset that is imperfectly mobile, it will have a sustained competitive advantage.

Although the literature on transformational leadership has grown up rapidly over the past 20 years, only a handful of studies have examined how a leader can influence followers to make self-sacrifices, commit to difficult objectives, and achieve much more than what was initially expected. However, these notions have only recently been refined in the literature of organization behavior (Ilies, Judge, & Wagner, 2006). We focus on their conceptual standpoint, the influence that transformational leaders have on the behavioral component of followers' motivation through affective and cognitive processes. It follows that by influencing followers' emotional experiences and their affective states, transformational leaders can induce changes in followers' behavior--influencing them to exert effort on tasks that are important for the organization. Our model aims to consider of the relevant antecedents of commitment by basing on Ilies, Judge, & Wagner, 2006 model to the whole chain of relationships among transformational leadership, learning climate, learning enthusiasm and work commitment. This relationship has been under--researched in the literature. The basic relationship between these several constructs in our model is as follows. Transformational leadership influences learning climate, learning enthusiasm, and work commitment. Learning climate and learning enthusiasm, in turn, affect work commitment, which then leads to behavioral outcomes (See Figurel). To the best of our knowledge, no previous study has examined these mediated influences of transformational leadership on work commitment. To the extent that such indirect paths are identified, the impact of transformational leadership on work commitment might be stronger than previously thought.

The main goal of this study is to validate the relationships among transformational leadership, learning climate, and learning enthusiasm and work commitment. In sum, what is needed is a richer conceptualization of the transformational leadership--to--work commitment relationship and empirical validation test of these constructs in a real world organizational study to identify the condition under which transformational leadership is most effective. OLS regression was used to analyze the research model. We conclude with a discussion about the implications of this model and reflect briefly on the limitations of this study. Directions for future research are also presented.


This section briefly outlines some of the background literature. Evidence supporting the integration of stimulus--response process, transformational leadership, learning climate, learning enthusiasm, and work commitment constructs into a single research model came from a variety of research studies. In this section the definitions of these variables are discussed first, and subsequently the relationships between variables in the current study are hypothesized. Thus, our conceptual model presents the relationship among transformational leadership and work commitment, as shown in Figure 1.


2.1 Transformational leadership

Researchers define leadership in terms of group process, traits, behaviors, or as an instrument of goal achievement (see Bass, 1990 for a detailed review). Leadership definitions include social influence and the leader's role is setting a purpose or vision of change (e.g., Bass, 1985; Zaleznik, 1977). Yukl (2006) defined leadership as a process of influencing and teaching others to understand why and how certain activities and goals need to be accomplished. As such, it constitutes a process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to learn and accomplish shared goals in organizations.

The traditional paradigm incorporates an implicit unidirectional stimulus--response mechanism to explain the reaction of leaders and their subordinates to management actions (Arndt, 1979). The dyadic exchange paradigm focuses on transactional relations between leaders and their subordinates. The outcome of this relationship depends on followers' commitment or the effectiveness of leaders to motivate their subordinates to commit.

The term charisma (Greek for 'gift') has a distinguished history. The first theory formally linking charisma to leadership was House's (1977), which argues that leaders promote organizational change by articulating a clear vision and creating a strong bond with followers that leads to acceptance of the vision. According to Burns (1978), transformational leaders motivate followers by appealing to common ideals and moral values. Bass (1985) extended Burns's concept further, and argued that transformational leadership is comprised of four distinct dimensions: (1) Idealized influence (charisma) can be defined as serving as a charismatic role model to followers. This dimension, often simply referred to as "charisma," is the most prototypic and often the single most important dimension. (2) Inspirational motivation involves articulation of a clear, appealing, and inspiring vision to followers. Although vision is conceptually distinct from charisma, research has found that inspirational motivation is highly correlated with idealized influence; they are often combined in practice (Bass, 1998).(3) Intellectual stimulation involves stimulating follower creativity by questioning assumptions and challenging the status quo. As Bass (1985) noted, "By the transformational leader's intellectual stimulation, we mean the arousal and change in followers of problem awareness and problem solving, of thought and imagination, and of beliefs and values" (p. 99). (4) Individualized consideration is similar to the consideration dimension from the Ohio State-Michigan studies (Yukl, 1998) and involves attending to and supporting the individual needs of followers. Unlike the traditional consideration factor, however, individualized consideration focuses more on a follower's development and less on participative decision making (Bass, 1995).

Transformational or charismatic leadership is associated with perceptions of effective leadership (Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 1998) and objective measures of group (Sosik, Avolio, & Kahai, 1997), work unit (Avolio, Howell, & Sosik, 1999), and organizational (Geyer & Steyrer, 1998) performance. From Ilies, Judge, and Wagner, 2006 conceptual standpoint, we focus on the influence that transformational leaders have on the behavioral component of followers' motivation through affective and cognitive processes. It follows that by influencing followers' emotional experiences and their affective states, transformational leaders can induce changes in followers' behavior--influencing them to exert effort on tasks that are important for the organization.

2.2 Learning climate

Climate is defined as the recurring patterns of behavior, attitudes and feeling that characterize life in the organization. At the individual level of analysis, the concept is called psychological climate (Isaksen & Lauer, 1999; James & sells, 1981). At this level, the concept of climate refers to the intrapersonal perception of the patterns of behavior, attitudes and feelings as experienced by the individual. When aggregated, the concept is called work unit or organizational climate (Joyce & Slocum, 1984; Turnipseed, 1994). These are the objectively shared perceptions that characterize life within a defined work unit or in the large organization. Climate is distinct form culture in that it is more observable at a surface level within the organization and more amenable to change and improvement efforts (McNabb & Sepic, 1995). Organizational climate is an intervening variable that affects individual and organizational performance due to its modifying effect on organizational and psychological processes. The climate is influenced by many factors within the organization and, in turn, affects organizational and psychological processes include learning, individual problem solving, creating, motivating and committing. These components exert a direct influence on the performance and outcomes in...

To continue reading