Topic: Leadership, Creativity
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment (MAY 2010)
Author: A. Nederveen Pieterse, D. van Knippenberg, M. Schippers, & D. Stam
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague
In recent years, the role of creativity and innovation in the workplace has grown exponentially. Being innovative is often considered a competitive advantage in terms of both product outcomes (e.g. new designs) and people processes (e.g. employee recruitment). It has been argued that innovative behavior is more contingent on motivation rather than ability (Amabile, 1988). Assuming this is the case, leadership should play a pivotal role in fostering innovation. In particular, two types of leadership come into play.
Transformational leadership is conceptualized as influencing followers to “rise above their self-interest” and focus their efforts on higher-level goals (i.g. group- or organization-level). A great deal of the current literature posits that transformational leadership should have a profound impact on innovation. Alternately, transactional leadership centers on clarifying expectations and monitoring follower performance, and this style is generally thought to seriously detract from innovation. However, empirical inconsistencies suggested a need to investigate potential boundary conditions. To this end, the authors of the present study were interested in psychological empowerment (PE; i.e. “active orientation towards a work goal” that encompasses self-efficacy). They propose that PE is relevant, because it gives people a feeling of capability; the “can-do” aspect of behavioral intent.
Accordingly, the current study sought to investigate the impact of psychological empowerment on the relationship between these two different types of leadership (transformational and transactional) on employee innovation. The authors predicted a main effect for transactional leadership on employee innovation but no effect for transformational. Additionally, they predicted that psychological empowerment (PE) would moderate the relationship between leadership style and innovation.
Specifically, transformational leadership would be more effective in driving innovation and that transactional leadership would be more detrimental to it among employees high in PE. Results confirm these predictions.
Taken together, the results of the current study would suggest that we may have been thinking too simply about the nature of transformational versus transactional leadership – at least with respect to innovation. It seems as though neither style of leadership makes much difference in employee innovation unless those employees are high in psychological empowerment. The authors suggest that organizations would do well to focus on building development programs (for both leaders and followers) that seek to foster a culture of psychological empowerment (i.e. perceived participation, self-efficacy, impact, and meaningfulness). Assuming successful empowerment, additional programs to develop transformational leadership could have added benefit.
“Giving people self confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do because then they will act.” — Jack Welch
Pieterse, A. N., van Knippenberg, D., Schippers, M., & Stam, S. (2010). Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(4), 609-623.