Transformational Leadership and Project Success: A Mediating Role of Public Service Motivation

AuthorQin Su,Muhammad Zeeshan Fareed
Published date01 April 2022
Date01 April 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2022, Vol. 54(4) 690 –713
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997211040466
Leadership and Project
Success: A Mediating
Role of Public Service
Muhammad Zeeshan Fareed1
and Qin Su1
Previous studies have linked public-sector employees’ motivation to
desired results such as higher performance and improved quality of public
services. However, questions about the impact of employee motivation
on public projects have received less attention. This article uses work
motivation theory to explore the fundamental processes by which
transformational leadership (TL) and public service motivation (PSM)
engender public project success (PS). Analysis of 296 public servants’
data working on Pakistan public projects showed a positive correlation
between TL, PSM, and PS. It also showed that PSM partially mediates the
relationship between TL and PS.
public service motivation, transformational leadership, public administration,
project management, project success
1School of Management, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.
Corresponding Author:
Muhammad Zeeshan Fareed, School of Management, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049,
1040466AAS0010.1177/00953997211040466Administration & SocietyFareed and Su
Fareed and Su 691
Governments in high-income and low-income countries invest large capitals
each year in public projects (Flyvbjerg, 2014). According to the U.K. National
Audit Office (NAO, 2011, p. 5) reports, “the evidence shows that two-thirds
of public sector projects are completed late, over budget or do not deliver the
outcomes expected.” A project management survey performed by KPMG in
2020 showed that the project success (PS) rate was about 25% in 2020
(KPMG, 2020). Furthermore, the literature apprises that the project failure
rate is more than the worldwide PS (Raziq et al., 2018; Ul Musawir et al.,
2017). Project management literature indicates that 80% of the project fails
due to poor leadership (Maqbool et al., 2017; Naeem & Khanzada, 2017;
Srića, 2008). In Pakistan, the PS rate is 8%, according to Asian Development
Bank’s (2005) report. Moreover, leadership is one of the significant factors
responsible for project failure (Riaz & Noor, 2014). Despite the fact that lead-
ership has been a hot topic for academic research for years, there is a dearth
of empirical research in the context of project management (Söderlund, 2011;
Turner & Müller, 2005; Tyssen et al., 2013).
Public administration literature also shows that improving leadership is
the key to improving employee and organizational performance (Moynihan
et al., 2012; Rainey, 2014; Van Wart, 2013). Transformational leadership
(TL) is the most studied leadership theory in both public administration lit-
erature (Vogel & Masal, 2015) and general leadership research (Judge &
Piccolo, 2004). It has been found that goal-oriented leadership (e.g., transfor-
mational) positively affects employee productivity (Avolio et al., 2009;
Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015; Wright et al., 2012). TL’s features have always
been acknowledged as significant in public-sector administration (Corson &
Paul, 1966; Selznick, 1957; Stone, 1945, 1981; Trottier et al., 2008). TL
attempts to align followers’ objectives with organizational objectives and
improves performance by persuading followers and their behavior (Fjendbo,
2020; Jensen, 2018).
Goal-oriented leadership approaches increase employees’ achievement
of goals through direction and motivation (Jacobsen & Andersen, 2015;
Jensen et al., 2019; Oberfield, 2014). Motivation is a goal in itself and an
essential phase in improving performance results such as productivity,
well-being, commitment, and increased throughput (Bellé, 2012; Bright,
2008; Kjeldsen & Andersen, 2013; Vandenabeele, 2009). Knowing how a
team member’s characteristics contribute to the leader’s effectiveness is
tremendously important for project managers intended to raise motivation
through leadership (Fjendbo, 2020). The skill to motivate others is an
essential leadership competency (Hughes et al., 2009) and a project

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