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Transformational Leadership and Job Performance: The Mediating Role of Work Engagement:

Transformational Leadership and Job Performance: The Mediating Role of Work Engagement: This study proposed that transformational leaders use various behaviors to provoke followers’ organizationally beneficial behaviors (e.g., better task performance and helping behaviors) through ignition of followers’ work engagement. That is, employees who inspired by transformational leadership are more likely to immerse themselves in the work, and, in turn, this is likely to result in better task performance and helping behaviors. In this study, we adopted a multitemporal and multisource research design to reduce the consideration of common method variance. Hypotheses were tested on a sample of 507 nurses working in 44 teams. The hierarchical linear regression analysis showed that, after controlling for several relevant variables (e.g., leader–member exchange [LMX], role-based self-efficacy, and transactional leadership) and several participants’ demographic variables (e.g., gender, age, and education), work engagement still mediates the positive relationship among transformational leadership, job performance, and helping behavior. Strengths, limitations, practical implications, and directions for future research are discussed. Keywords transformational leadership, work engagement, task performance, helping behavior, motivation behavior. As a prevalent leadership style, all levels of leaders Introduction in the organization can exhibit transformational leadership To deal with an increasingly complex and fast-changing (Fuller et al., 1996; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Through four environment, leaders need organizational members who behaviors (i.e., idealized influence, inspirational motivation, invest their full attention and energy in achieving the formal intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration), job requests documented in the employment contract. transformational leaders can change members’ behaviors, Members must also be willing to invest extra effort and encouraging them to exceed expectations (Bass, 1985). The exceed formal job expectations. Members must go further, effectiveness of transformational leadership has been exam- because when tasks are interdependent, job descriptions do ined in much theoretical and empirical research, which sug- not and cannot include all types of behavior needed to per- gests that it enhances and affects members’ task performance form job requests. For example, the job description cannot and helping behavior (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust et al., specify exactly when and how members ask for help from 2014; G. Wang et al., 2011; W. Zhu et al., 2013). Moreover, peers or help others, because this behavior is discretionary the benefits of transformational leadership for members’ per- (Organ, 1997). Thus, it is important for leaders to understand formance are conveyed through numerous underlying the antecedent and underlying processes that motivate mem- bers to perform their in-role job requests well and make them National Pingtung University of Science & Technology, Pingtung willing to perform beneficial behavior not included in formal I-Shou University, Kaohsiung employment contracts. Shu-Te University, Kaohsiung In the workplace, leaders influence members’ behavior, Corresponding Author: because they are viewed as a representative example of the Szu-Chi Lu, Department of Business Administration, National Pingtung organization and possess the authority to evaluate members’ University of Science & Technology, No. 1, Shuefu Road, Neipu, Pingtung performance or make decisions pertaining to their promo- tion. Therefore, leaders’ behavior may shape members’ Email: ray5202002@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open mechanisms including self-efficacy (e.g., Hannah et al., highly correlated with transformational leadership (Judge & 2016) or leader–member exchange (LMX) (Chun et al., Piccolo, 2004) and might influence members’ task perfor- 2016; Nohe & Hertel, 2017). mance and helping behavior (G. Wang et al., 2011). Although prior research examined the underlying pro- Controlling these variables better clarifies the relationship cesses of the relationships between transformational leader- between transformational leadership, task performance, and ship and beneficial outcomes, few attempted to address how helping behavior, extending this study beyond previous transformational leaders motivate their members (Shamir research (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., 2019). et al., 1993) to help them achieve in-role task requests and Third, we provide concrete practical implications for human exceed expectations (Bass, 1985). Understanding the under- resource managers to design personnel selection and training lying motivation process is important, because motivation is programs for transformational leaders. Finally, regarding considered a critical component that molds members’ behav- methodology, although previous studies examined the rela- ior (e.g., Pinder, 2011). Furthermore, prior research high- tionship between transformational leadership, work engage- lights the positive relationship between motivation and ment, and outcomes (e.g., Salanova et al., 2011; Song et al., members’ performance (e.g., Cerasoil et al., 2014). However, 2012), we followed recommendations (N. Li et al., 2013; Y. research examining this motivation process is limited (e.g., Zhu & Akhtar, 2014) to address concerns regarding common Shamir et al., 1993). W. Zhu et al. (2009) suggested work method variance (CMV; Podsakoff et al., 2012) by adopting engagement (Kahn, 1990, 1992) as an important but a temporal research design and collecting data from two neglected mechanism deserving more attention. Work sources: leaders and members. Moreover, unlike experimen- engagement was proposed as a motivational construct (Kahn, tal investigations (e.g., Kovjanic et al., 2013), our data were 1990) and describes how employees express themselves collected from a real working situation; thus, the findings of physically, cognitively, and emotionally while performing this study are easier to generalize to other organizations. work roles. Moreover, research indicates that enhanced work engagement is related to increased task performance and Theory and Hypotheses helping behaviors (Rich et al., 2010). Therefore, in this study, we adopt a motivation perspective and propose an integrated Work Engagement theoretical model, arguing that transformational leaders can enhance members’ task performance and helping behaviors To maintain high levels of productivity and functional effec- by fostering their work engagement. tiveness, organizations must ensure that their employees are This study extends several aspects of the extant transfor- focused and invest their full energy into accomplishing tasks. mational leadership literature. First, we address the call of Kahn (1990) proposed the concept of work engagement to previous research to investigate the processes underlying assess the extent of an employee’s psychological presence or transformational leadership and beneficial work outcomes absence at work. Work engagement refers to “the simultane- (G. Wang et al., 2011). Although researchers have progressed ous employment and expression of a person’s ‘preferred self ’ in identifying potential mediators, the motivational aspect in task behaviors that promote connections to work and to (i.e., work engagement) of the influence of transformational others, personal presence (physical, cognitive, and emo- leadership still needs attention. Work engagement is worthy tional), and active, full performances” (Kahn, 1990, p. 700). of investigation for two reasons. One is that because motiva- For example, employees who display a high level of work tion shapes employees’ behavior, it is critical that transfor- engagement are psychologically present; fully there; and mational leaders understand how to enhance members’ employ and present themselves physically, cognitively, and performance through motivation. The other is that in a emotionally throughout their role performance. In contrast, dynamic environment, leaders always require and ask that disengaged employees demonstrate withdrawal and defen- members focus their full attention and energy on their tasks. siveness during role performance. Furthermore, engaged Thus, work engagement could be a possible mediator that employees are attentive, connected, integrated, and focused transmits the influence of transformational leadership on on their task performance. They are more open to others, members’ task performance and helping behavior. Second, willing to make connections with others at work, and more unlike prior research (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., likely to bring their whole selves to execute their work roles 2019), this study attempts to clarify the mediation effect of (Kahn, 1992). Moreover, work engagement determines the work engagement and rule out alternate mediating mecha- levels of investment employees are willing to endow during nisms. Therefore, LMX and self-efficacy were controlled as work role performance (Kahn, 1990). possible mediators (Chun et al., 2016; Hannah et al., 2016; Work engagement comprises three components: psycho- Nohe & Hertel, 2017), because they increase members’ task logical meaningfulness, psychological safety, and psycho- performance and helping behavior (e.g., Beauregard, 2012; logical availability. Psychological meaningfulness refers to Chun et al., 2016; Martin et al., 2016; Sitzmann & Yeo, how employees perceive the return on their physical, cogni- 2013). In addition, transactional leadership (i.e., contingent tive, and emotional energy investment in work role perfor- reward; Podsakoff et al., 1990) was controlled, because it is mance (Kahn, 1990). When employees feel worthwhile, Lai et al. 3 useful, and valuable in their current work role, they experi- intrinsic value of goal accomplishment and foster followers’ ence meaningfulness (Kahn, 1990). Psychological safety commitment, attaching a sense of meaningfulness to goals. refers to a safe and trusted situation in which employees can Thus, both idealized influence and inspirational motivation freely express themselves without fears of negative out- might make members believe that collective goals are mean- comes to their self-image, status, or career (Kahn, 1990). ingful (i.e., psychological meaningfulness) and attainable, When situations are unsafe or risky, such as by being unpre- and more willing to present themselves physically, cogni- dictable or threatening, employees’ work engagement suf- tively, and emotionally at work. fers. Psychological availability refers to employees’ sense of Although transformational leaders may successfully divert having enough physical, emotional, or psychological followers from self-serving to holistic and challenging goals, resources to effectively deal with a specific situation (Kahn, some difficulties might arise during this process. For follow- 1990). In the workplace, employees are confronted with vari- ers, challenging and holistic goals imply high risk; thus, ous challenges and demands, and the availability of resources unforeseen failures may occur during work role performance. employees possess or can access affects their degree of work This unsafe feeling and unpredictability of outcomes hinder engagement in role performance. members’ desire to strive for these goals, unless leaders create a safe and supportive environment (Kahn, 1990) in which they can express themselves without fears of negative conse- Transformational Leadership and Work quences. Transformational leaders pay personal attention to Engagement each member, try to understand their needs, and provide emo- According to Bass (1985), transformational leadership com- tional support when they are frustrated at work. These sup- prises four dimensions. First, idealized influence is the portive gestures enhance members’ feelings of safety and degree to which followers realize leaders’ value, confidence, encourage them to present their preferred self when working belief, power, and ethical or moral orientation; their willing- on tasks. For example, earlier research contended that trans- ness to identify with these attributes; and a diversion from formational leadership could increase perceived supervisor self-interest to higher collective goals (Antonakis & House, support (Liaw et al., 2010). Thus, individualized consider- 2002). Second, inspirational motivation describes how lead- ation might make members feel psychological safety and, in ers articulate visions to inspire and motivate subordinates to turn, increase their willingness to fully present themselves at reach desired goals (Antonakis & House, 2002). Third is work (i.e., to be engaged at work). intellectual stimulation, which refers to leaders who chal- Transformational leaders not only comfort members lenge the status quo and underlying assumptions, encourage when dealing with challenging goals but also enhance mem- followers to do so, and are open to new and creative solu- bers’ problem-solving abilities. That is, transformational tions to problems (Antonakis & House, 2002). The final leaders use intellectual stimulation to encourage members to dimension is individualized consideration. Here, like men- question the status quo and approaches, and invite their tors or coaches, leaders provide emotional support and con- opinions or solutions to improve productivity and conserve sideration for each follower (Antonakis & House, 2002). resources (e.g., energy). As such, transformational leaders Through these four dimensions, transformational leaders encourage members to effectively use their intelligence or engage followers and accomplish significant outcomes experience, view problems from various angles (Bass, 1985; (Burns, 1978). House & Shamir, 1993), master the problem-solving pro- Members’ choice regarding when to be fully present and cess, and determine the best solution to improve efficiency. engaged at work is shaped by internal (e.g., meaningful goals This implies that leaders can offer enough resources (e.g., and safety feelings) and external (e.g., availability of physical, emotional, or psychological) to members to try resources) factors (Kahn, 1992). Through these factors, lead- new solutions to task-related problems. This might result in ers may influence how followers choose to be present (not psychological availability and enhance members’ work necessarily physically present) and engaged. In work teams, engagement. transformational leaders provide holistic and challenging but Thus, this study assumes that transformational leaders attainable goals, and encourage followers to look beyond provide holistic and collective goals for followers and con- their self-interests to achieve collective goals. Transformational vince them that these goals are meaningful. Furthermore, leaders infuse these holistic and collective goals with moral acts of individualized consideration support members who purpose and commitment (House & Shamir, 1993; Shamir fear possible negative outcomes if they present their genuine et al., 1993), and convince members that these goals are more selves at work. Moreover, the provision of tangible and meaningful to pursue than their personal ones. Thus, they intangible resources enhances members’ desire to be psycho- deserve the investment of additional energy. Moreover, to logically present at work. In short, this study expects that emphasize the importance of goals, similar to role models through the abovementioned four behaviors, transforma- (House & Shamir, 1993), transformational leaders invest their tional leaders can stimulate their members into becoming full resources in attaining these goals. House and Shamir more engaged in their takes. Prior research (e.g., Chua & (1993) added that transformational leaders increase the Ayoko, 2019; Ghadi et al., 2013; Vila-Vázquez et al., 2018; 4 SAGE Open W. Zhu et al., 2009) suggests that transformational leaders 2015; Rich et al., 2010). Therefore, this study proposes the enhance members’ work engagement through these four following: dimensions. Therefore, this study proposes the following: Hypothesis 2a (H2a): Work engagement is positively Hypothesis 1 (H1): Transformational leadership is posi- related to task performance. tively related to work engagement. Hypothesis 2b (H2b): Work engagement is positively related to helping behaviors. Work Engagement, Task Performance, and The Mediating Role of Work Engagement Helping Behaviors Transformational leadership theory suggests that exceptional Kahn (1990, 1992) argued that once members believe that leaders have an extraordinary influence on their followers goals are meaningful and important, their environment is (Shamir et al., 1993). Such leaders transform followers’ safe, threats of possible negative consequences are absent needs, values, and preferences from self-interest goals to when they express themselves, and resources will be avail- collective-interest goals. Furthermore, they are more likely able when needed, they are more willing to be psychologi- to engage followers in being committed to these goals, will- cally present and more inclined to invest their energies into ing to make personal sacrifices for the interest of collective performing their designated work roles. Engaged members goals, and eventually perform beyond the call of duty. Prior concentrate their physical efforts on pursuing desirable research supports the positive relationship between transfor- goals, and remain focused on tasks and emotionally con- mational leadership and members’ task performance and nected to the role (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995; Kahn, helping behavior (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust et al., 2014; 1990). Specifically, engaged members deploy themselves to G. Wang et al., 2011; W. Zhu et al., 2013). This study sug- the work role and devote their physical energies to behaviors gests that work engagement underlies this positive influence. that directly contribute to accomplishing organizational Specifically, transformational leaders enhance members’ goals for extended periods (Kahn, 1990, 1992). To achieve work engagement through articulating a meaningful goal, organizational goals, they also devote their cognitive ener- offering a safe and supportive environment, and providing gies to behaviors that require vigilance, attention, and con- accessible resources. These engaged members are then more centration (Kahn, 1990). Moreover, the investment of willing to invest their physical, cognitive, and emotional emotional energy promotes emotional connections with energies in performing their work roles. Moreover, because coworkers, facilitates the attainment of organizational goals of a wider variety of work behaviors, engaged members are (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995), and results in better perfor- more likely to help their peers. In summary, this study pro- mance. Therefore, engaged members perform better, because poses that work engagement will mediate the positive rela- they invest more physical energy with greater intensity for a tionship between transformational leadership, task longer period, cognitive energy with greater attention and performance, and helping behavior: focus on goal-related behaviors, and emotional energy to connect with work roles. Hypothesis 3a (H3a): Work engagement mediates the Role theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978) suggests that work roles positive relationship between transformational leadership comprise task and social roles. Social roles often require and task performance. extra-role behaviors from members, which are not written in Hypothesis 3b (H3b): Work engagement mediates the a formal contract but are good for the organization (Van positive relationship between transformational leadership Dyne et al., 1995). Although these behaviors do not link and helping behaviors. directly to organizational rewards, they benefit the whole team, as they enable members to work more smoothly and Method effectively together (Organ, 1988). To the extent that engaged members should be more willing to invest their energies and Sample and Procedure step outside formally defined role behaviors, their wider array of work behaviors (including extra-role behaviors) is Data were collected from two hospitals in Taiwan. To reduce more likely to contribute to achieving organizational goals concerns pertaining to CMV (Podsakoff et al., 2012), we col- (Rich et al., 2010). Moreover, Van Dyne et al. (1995) suggest lected data from leaders and members, and adopted a multi- that members with high job involvement perform more help- temporal research design with three-wave data collection ing behaviors. points spaced 3 months apart. Essentially, earlier studies demonstrated that engaged Before administering the surveys, we contacted the head members are more likely to obtain a higher rating for task nurses and explained the aims of the study. After obtaining performance (e.g., Owen et al., 2015; Rich et al., 2010) and their approval, we visited and showed them how to administer are more willing to help their peers (e.g., Demerouti et al., the three-wave questionnaires. In the first wave, nurses rated Lai et al. 5 the transformational leadership of head nurses and their and role-based self-efficacy (Hannah et al., 2016). We used demographic information (e.g., gender, age, and education). Scandura and Graen’s (1984) seven-item scale to measure In the second wave, nurses were asked to report their work LMX (the alpha coefficient was .94). To measure role-based engagement. In the final wave, nurses’ task performance and self-efficacy, we adopted the seven-item scale developed by helping behaviors were assessed by their head nurses. The Parker et al. (2006) (the alpha coefficient was .92). In addi- questionnaires were completed during nurses’ morning meet- tion, for two reasons, we also controlled for transactional ings and returned to us in a sealed envelope. To match each leadership, which following prior research (Podsakoff et al., wave of questionnaires, we assigned each nurse and head 1990), we defined as contingent reward. The first reason is nurse an identification number written on the questionnaire. that transactional leadership is highly associated with trans- In total, 566 nurses participated in the three-wave data col- formational leadership (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Second, it lection; however, after eliminating invalid questionnaires influences members’ task performance and helping behavior (e.g., missing data), the final sample size was 507 nurses (G. Wang et al., 2011). We adopted a five-item contingent working in 44 teams. Of the participants, 98.9% were female, reward scale (Podsakoff et al., 1990) to measure transac- the average age was 31.43 (SD = 7.17) years, and nearly all tional leadership (the alpha coefficient was .90). Furthermore, participants have a junior college diploma (99.1%). In addi- consistent with prior research (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust tion, the average work experience was 8.32 (SD = 6.69) years et al., 2014; W. Zhu et al., 2013), we controlled several and average tenure in the current ward was 3.89 (SD = 3.03) demographic variables (e.g., age, gender, and education). We years. The average team size was 13 (ranging from 2 to 41). also controlled for nurses’ work experience and tenure in the Furthermore, all head nurses are female and have a junior col- current ward, because these variables might influence task lege diploma. Their average age was 41.4 (SD = 6.91) years performance and helping behavior (Bauer & Green, 1996; and average work experience 18.58 (SD = 5.39) years. Duchon et al., 1986; Ng & Feldman, 2010). Measures Analysis All measures were rated on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 Given the nested structure of our data and the potential con- (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). sideration of nonindependence (Bliese & Hanges, 2004), we conducted a multilevel path analysis (Kaplan, 1998) in Transformational leadership. In this study, nurses were Mplus 7.4 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2012) to test the instructed to rate their perceptions of head nurses’ transfor- hypotheses. We then separately calculated the intraclass cor- mational leadership on a 14-item transformational leadership relation coefficient (e.g., ICC1; Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) scale (Podsakoff et al., 1990). This scale was also adopted in for task performance and helping behavior. According to the other studies (MacKenzie et al., 2001). The overall alpha results, the coefficient of ICC1 for task performance was coefficient was .94. 0.31, and 0.32 for helping behavior, both larger than the rec- ommended cutoff point of 0.12. This supports the appropri- Work engagement. Nurses completed an 18-item work ateness of using multilevel modeling to test the hypotheses engagement scale (Rich et al., 2010). This scale has been (Bliese, 2000). adopted in earlier studies (Alfes et al., 2013). We used the scale to measure nurses’ work engagement. The overall alpha Results coefficient was .93. Table 1 presents the mean values, standard deviations, and Task performance. Head nurses were asked to report each correlations between the variables employed in this study. In nurse’s task performance on a three-item scale (Farh et al., addition, the alpha coefficients are shown on the diagonal. 1991). The scale has been adopted in previous work (A. C. Before testing the hypotheses, we conducted a series of Wang et al., 2013). The alpha coefficient was .90. confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) to ensure the discrimi- nant validity of the measures. In addition, because Table 1 Helping behaviors. Head nurses were asked to rate nurses’ indicates that some control variables (such as LMX and helping behaviors on a four-item scale (Van Dyne & LePine, transactional leadership) have high correlations with the 1998), which Chen et al. (2015) adopted in their study. The main variables (such as transformational leadership), we alpha coefficient was .93. included these variables in CFA. Table 2 shows that the two- factor model, in which transformational leadership, LMX, role-based self-efficacy, transactional leadership, and work Control Variables engagement were combined into one factor (reported by Prior research indicated that transformational leadership nurses) and task performance and helping behavior into influences follower behaviors through several mechanisms another (both reported by head nurses), is better than the null (e.g., LMX and self-efficacy). Therefore, we controlled for model (Δχ = 5,293.38; df = 1; p < .001). Finally, the participants’ LMX (Chun et al., 2016; Nohe & Hertel, 2017) seven-factor baseline model is better than the two-factor 6 SAGE Open Table 1. Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations Matrix of the Study Variables (n = 507). Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1. Gender 1.01 0.11 2. Age 30.90 7.03 –.03 3. Education 2.57 0.072 .07 .04 4. Work experience 7.94 6.48 –.04 .91*** .01 5. Tenure in the current ward 3.90 3.06 –.01 .31*** .05 .38*** 6. Transformational leadership 3.57 0.60 –.01 –.13*** –.03 –.08 –.04 (.94) 7. Transactional leadership 3.57 0.67 –.01 –.11* .01 –.07 –.03 .83*** (.90) 8. Leader–member exchange 3.49 0.68 .01 –.08 –.01 –.05 –.02 .83*** .82*** (.94) 9. Role-based self-efficacy 2.98 0.61 .04 .11* .08 .12* .10* .19*** .18*** .28*** (.92) 10. Work engagement 3.47 0.46 –.04 .15** .07 .18*** .04 .22*** .19*** .18*** .25*** (.93) 11. Task performance 3.14 0.54 .05 .30*** .09 .30*** –.02 –.01 –.04 –.01 .07 .18*** (.90) 12. Helping behavior 3.21 0.56 .08 .31*** .06 .28*** –.07 –.04 –.05 –.03 .04 .16*** .89*** (.93) Note. Cronbach’s alphas appear across the diagonal in parentheses. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. Table 2. Confirmatory Factor Analysis. 2 2 Fit index Factors χ df Δχ (df) RMSEA SRMR NNFI CFI AIC Null model One factor 11,610.35 1,595 0.12 0.18 0.36 0.39 45,929.34 Baseline model Seven-factor model 3,166.87 1,567 6,578.55(27)*** 0.05 0.06 0.9 0.9 34,545.63 Alternative model Two-factor model 9,745.42 1,594 5,293.38(1)*** 0.11 0.16 0.48 0.5 43,097.24 Two factors: transformational leadership, LMX, role-based self-efficacy, transactional leadership, and work engagement were combined into one factor, and task performance and helping behavior were combined into the other. RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation; SRMR = standardized root mean squared error; NNFI = non-normed fit index; CFI = comparative fit index; AIC = Akaike information criterion. ***p < .001. model (Δχ = 6,578.55; df = 27; p < .001). As such, the but work engagement was significantly related to task per- results of the CFA provide support for the discriminant valid- formance (unstandardized b = .23, SE = .07; p < .001). ity of our measures. Thus, Hypothesis 3a was supported. Hypothesis 1 postulated that transformational leadership In Hypothesis 3b, we predicted that work engagement has a positive relationship with work engagement. The mediates the relationship between transformational leader- results are provided in Table 3. After controlling for several ship and helping behavior. The results are reported in Table 3. variables in Model 1, the results significantly relate transfor- Similarly, the results showed that transformational leadership mational leadership with work engagement (unstandardized was not significantly related to helping behavior (unstandard- b = .18, SE = .06; p < .01), supporting Hypothesis 1. ized b = .10, SE = .07; ns), although work engagement was In Hypotheses 2a and 2b, we proposed that work engage- significantly related to helping behavior (unstandardized b = ment is positively related to followers’ task performance and .24, SE = .07; p < .001). As such, Hypothesis 3b was helping behavior. For task performance, the results in Table 3 supported. are shown in Model 2. Similarly, after controlling several vari- We also conducted the Sobel test to analyze the media- ables, work engagement was significantly and positively tion effect. The results of the Sobel test on helping behavior related to task performance (unstandardized b = .23, SE = and task performance were both significant (p < .05). In .07; p < .001). For helping behavior, the results are provided addition, Preacher and Hayes (2004) suggest conducting a in Model 3, and work engagement was significantly related to bootstrapping analysis as a supportive test for the mediat- helping behavior (unstandardized b = .24, SE = .07; p < ing effect of work engagement. The results of the boot- .001). Therefore, both Hypotheses 2a and 2b were supported. strapping test show that the relationships between In Hypothesis 3a, we postulated that work engagement transformational leadership, work engagement, helping mediates the relationship between transformational leader- behavior, and task performance are all significant (for task ship and task performance. The results are provided in performance, ab = .04, 95% confidence interval [CI] = Table 3. In model 2, the results indicated that the relationship [0.01, 0.08], p < .05; for helping behavior, ab = .04, 95% between transformational leadership and task performance CI = [0.01, 0.09], p < .05). Thus, Hypotheses 3a and 3b was not significant (unstandardized b = .12, SE = .08; ns), were supported. Lai et al. 7 Table 3. Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling of the Meditation Effect (n = 507). Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Work engagement Task performance Helping behavior Control variables Gender −0.14 (0.15) 0.29 (0.13)* 0.38 (0.15)** Age 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) Education 0.05 (0.03) 0.03 (0.04) 0.03 (0.03) Work experience 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) Tenure in the current ward −0.01 (0.01) −0.02 (0.01) −0.02 (0.01)* Role-based self-efficacy 0.15 (0.03)*** −0.02 (0.05) −0.02 (0.06) Leader–member exchange −0.07 (0.04) −0.02 (0.06) −0.01 (0.06) Transactional leadership 0.08 (0.05) −0.07 (0.07) −0.06 (0.07) Independent variable Transformational leadership 0.18 (0.06)** 0.12 (0.08) 0.10 (0.07) Mediator Work engagement 0.23 (0.07)*** 0.24(0.07)*** *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. 2011) to examine the process underlying the influence of Discussion transformational leadership on desirable outcomes. In this This study addressed the influence of transformational lead- study, we argue that transformational leaders could change ership on followers’ task performance and helping behavior member behaviors through developing employee work by investigating work engagement as one possible underly- engagement. Transformational leaders offer meaningful goals ing mechanism. Specifically, we propose that transforma- and switch member concerns from their self-interests to col- tional leaders exhibit various behaviors to nurture and lective goals. They also provide a safe and supportive envi- enhance the psychological states that contribute to members’ ronment that encourages followers to invest their energy in work engagement. Members fully involved in their current current tasks. Moreover, transformational leaders provide tasks psychologically and physically are more likely to useful resources members can easily access. When followers receive higher performance ratings and more willing to help are motivated to be engaged at work, they stay focused on others achieve goals. Therefore, transformational leaders can their current role and tasks and invest their full energy in enhance followers’ performance and foster their helping behaviors that directly or indirectly contribute to achieving behaviors, because they induce members’ work engagement organizational goals. Our findings reveal that after control- and enable them to exceed expectations. Our findings sup- ling for LMX, role-based self-efficacy, and transactional port these statements and are consistent with earlier research leadership, work engagement fully mediated the positive rela- on transformational leadership (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; tionship between transformational leadership and members’ H. Li et al., 2019; Salanova et al., 2011; Song et al., 2012) task performance and helping behaviors. Thus, these findings that examine work engagement as the process underlying the indicate that work engagement is a meaningful and insightful effect of transformational leadership on members’ behaviors. motivation mechanism and worthy of more attention in future However, unlike prior research, this study adopted a more research on transformational and other types of leadership. rigorous research design to examine these relationships. The second contribution of this study is that we expand Specifically, after controlling several relevant variables and previous transformational leadership research (e.g., Salanova adopting a multitemporal and multisource research design, et al., 2011; Song et al., 2012; W. Zhu et al., 2009) by includ- work engagement still mediates the relationship between ing transactional leadership as an important control variable, transformational leadership and employees’ task perfor- which is generally highly correlated with transformational mance and helping behavior. leadership (G. Wang et al., 2011). Bass (1998) argues that “transformational leadership styles build on the transactional base in contributing the extra effort and performance of fol- Theoretical Implications lowers” (p. 5), and true transformational leaders should The findings of this study make several contributions in terms exhibit both types of leadership behaviors. Thus, it is reason- of expanding previous models of transformational leadership able to consider transactional leadership as a control variable to more prominently explicate the role of motivation in mem- when examining the relationship between transformational bers’ beneficial behaviors. The first contribution of this study leadership and members’ outcomes. Our results are consistent is that we echo other researchers’ appeals (G. Wang et al., with this argument, and reveal the augmentation effect of 8 SAGE Open transformational leadership on transactional leadership in interview questions on transformational leadership experi- predicting members’ work engagement. That is, compared ences. For instance, open-ended questions should focus on with transactional leadership, which emphasizes the equity the manager’s experience of providing subordinates with between efforts and rewards, transformational leadership— intellectual stimulation when they encounter difficult tasks which emphasizes the inspirational vision and collective or soothing them when they feel frustrated and confused. goal—could motivate employees to invest more of their These interview questions may help practitioners select the energy in becoming fully engaged in their current tasks. These right candidate with the potential to be a transformational results also indicate the augmentation effect of transforma- leader. tional leadership on employees’ performance (e.g., G. Wang For leadership training, research highlights that transfor- et al., 2011) and motivation over transactional leadership. mational leadership skills can be learned and developed Therefore, when examining transformational leadership, through training programs (Barling et al., 1996). Through future research should consider transactional leadership as a these programs, leaders may enhance their coaching skills control variable. Moreover, our results coincide with the idea including how to set unit goals, communicate with members of Lowe et al. (1996), namely, that lower level leaders are about these goals, motivate members to achieve goals, invent more likely to be perceived as transformational leaders than new methods for problem-solving, and cheer up members higher level leaders. Lower level leaders (i.e., head nurses) when they experience setbacks. Moreover, according to our who interact with members (i.e., nurses) daily have more findings, trained transformational leaders are likely to ele- opportunities to showcase transformational leadership behav- vate members’ level of work engagement and engage in iors and thus have a greater influence on work unit outcomes organizationally beneficial behaviors that directly or indi- (Lowe et al., 1996). rectly enhance organizational effectiveness. The third contribution of this study is that after control- ling several variables that positively affect employees’ task Strengths, Limitations, and Future Research performance and helping behavior, our results reveal that engaged members are more likely to be rated for higher task An important methodological strength of this study is that performance and helping behavior than disengaged mem- unlike prior research that adopted cross-sectional research bers. That is, engaged employees are more likely to invest designs (e.g., N. Li et al., 2013; Salanova et al., 2011; Song their full physical, cognitive, and emotional energies in over- et al., 2012; Y. Zhu & Akhtar, 2014), we used a multitempo- coming the difficulties of assigned tasks and to accomplish ral data collection design to test our theoretical model. them. Moreover, because engaged employees possess a Moreover, our data came from two sources, which may wider range of work behavior, they are more likely to will- reduce concerns regarding CMV (Podsakoff et al., 2012). ingly offer their assistance to and help peers when requested. The second strength of this study was that unlike prior These findings are consistent with the statement that motiva- research (Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., 2019), we ruled tion shapes employees’ behavior (Pinder, 2011). out the possible influences of LMX, role-based self-efficacy, and transactional leadership. Controlling for these variables improves the predictive validity of our theoretical model, Practical Implications which proposed that work engagement mediates the relation- For practitioners, the findings of this study provide concrete ship between transformational leadership and followers’ implications for personnel selection and leadership training. behavior. The results suggest that lower level transformational leaders Despite the strengths, our study is not without limitations. (i.e., ward head nurses) can influence members’ (i.e., nurses) First, we only considered two outcomes. It is important for performance by enhancing their work engagement. That is, future research to examine beneficial outcomes. For exam- during day-to-day interaction, lower level transformational ple, transformational leaders encourage members to chal- leaders, who have more contact with members, might have lenge the status quo and provide a safe, supportive, and more opportunities to instill in members the organization’s resourceful environment. Thus, engaged followers may be vision and collective goals. Moreover, in daily interaction, more likely to engage in creative behaviors. In addition, they can also offer emotional support when members feel because engaged followers focus their full attention on cur- frustration or help them overcome difficult tasks with new rent tasks, they may be better able to find hidden problems solutions immediately. Thus, through day-to-day interactions and be more courageous in voicing issues than their disen- and these behaviors, lower level transformational leaders can gaged counterparts. Thus, we encourage future researchers increase members’ engagement in their tasks. This result is to examine various outcomes that may be influenced by consistent with prior research (Lowe et al., 1996), but may work engagement. contradict traditional practices. In general, the selection pro- The second limitation is the scope of the generalizability cess for hiring a lower level manager focuses on technical of our findings. Although the generalizability of our findings expertise and is less concerned with interpersonal ability. might be better than previous experimental investigations Lowe et al. (1996) recommend that human resources include (e.g., Kovjanic et al., 2013) in a real work situation, we only Lai et al. 9 collected data from one profession, namely, medical staff. Funding This may hinder the validity of our findings when general- The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- izing to other occupational groups and industries. Thus, ship, and/or publication of this article. researchers should be cautious when applying our findings to the effectiveness of transformational leadership in other ORCID iD occupational groups and industries. In addition, because our Szu-Chi Lu https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3418-519X participants are mostly female, the explanation of our find- ings should be generalized with caution to other occupations References and industries that may not have an unbalanced male–female Alfes, K., Shantz, A. D., Truss, C., & Soane, E. C. (2013). The ratio. Thus, we encourage future researchers to replicate our link between perceived human resource management practices, study and collect data from different occupations and engagement and employee behavior: A moderated media- industries. tion model. The International Journal of Human Resource The third limitation is the research design of our theoreti- Management, 24(2), 330–351. cal model. 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Extra- Hui-Chuan Tang is a PhD candidate of postgraduate programs in role behaviors: In pursuit of construct and definitional clarity. Management of I-Shou University. Her research interests include Research in Organizational Behavior, 17, 215–285. high-performance work systems, proactive behaviors, job crafting, Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra- and knowledge-intensive service industries. role behavior: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Szu-Chi Lu is a postdoctoral fellow of Department of Business Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108–119. Administration at the National Pingtung University of Science & Vila-Vázquez, G., Castro-Casal, C., Álvarez-Pérez, D., & Del Technology. His research interests include leadership (leader– Río-Araújo, L. (2018). Promoting the sustainability of orga- member exchange) and organizational behavior. nizations: Contribution of transformational leadership to job engagement. Sustainability, 10(11), 4109–4126. Yu-Chin Lee is an assistant professor of distribution management Wang, A. C., Chiang, J. T. J., Tsai, C. Y., Lin, T. T., & Cheng, B. at the Shu-Te University. Her research interests include customer S. (2013). Gender makes the difference: The moderating role mistreatment and stress. of leader gender on the relationship between leadership styles and subordinate performance. Organizational Behavior and Cheng-Chen Lin is a professor of Department of Business Human Decision Processes, 122(2), 101–113. Administration at the National Pingtung University of Science and Wang, G., Oh, I. S., Courtright, S. H., & Colbert, A. E. (2011). Technology. His research interests include organizational citizen- Transformational leadership and performance across criteria ship behavior, counterproductive behavior, and leadership. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SAGE Open SAGE

Transformational Leadership and Job Performance: The Mediating Role of Work Engagement:

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Abstract

This study proposed that transformational leaders use various behaviors to provoke followers’ organizationally beneficial behaviors (e.g., better task performance and helping behaviors) through ignition of followers’ work engagement. That is, employees who inspired by transformational leadership are more likely to immerse themselves in the work, and, in turn, this is likely to result in better task performance and helping behaviors. In this study, we adopted a multitemporal and multisource research design to reduce the consideration of common method variance. Hypotheses were tested on a sample of 507 nurses working in 44 teams. The hierarchical linear regression analysis showed that, after controlling for several relevant variables (e.g., leader–member exchange [LMX], role-based self-efficacy, and transactional leadership) and several participants’ demographic variables (e.g., gender, age, and education), work engagement still mediates the positive relationship among transformational leadership, job performance, and helping behavior. Strengths, limitations, practical implications, and directions for future research are discussed. Keywords transformational leadership, work engagement, task performance, helping behavior, motivation behavior. As a prevalent leadership style, all levels of leaders Introduction in the organization can exhibit transformational leadership To deal with an increasingly complex and fast-changing (Fuller et al., 1996; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Through four environment, leaders need organizational members who behaviors (i.e., idealized influence, inspirational motivation, invest their full attention and energy in achieving the formal intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration), job requests documented in the employment contract. transformational leaders can change members’ behaviors, Members must also be willing to invest extra effort and encouraging them to exceed expectations (Bass, 1985). The exceed formal job expectations. Members must go further, effectiveness of transformational leadership has been exam- because when tasks are interdependent, job descriptions do ined in much theoretical and empirical research, which sug- not and cannot include all types of behavior needed to per- gests that it enhances and affects members’ task performance form job requests. For example, the job description cannot and helping behavior (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust et al., specify exactly when and how members ask for help from 2014; G. Wang et al., 2011; W. Zhu et al., 2013). Moreover, peers or help others, because this behavior is discretionary the benefits of transformational leadership for members’ per- (Organ, 1997). Thus, it is important for leaders to understand formance are conveyed through numerous underlying the antecedent and underlying processes that motivate mem- bers to perform their in-role job requests well and make them National Pingtung University of Science & Technology, Pingtung willing to perform beneficial behavior not included in formal I-Shou University, Kaohsiung employment contracts. Shu-Te University, Kaohsiung In the workplace, leaders influence members’ behavior, Corresponding Author: because they are viewed as a representative example of the Szu-Chi Lu, Department of Business Administration, National Pingtung organization and possess the authority to evaluate members’ University of Science & Technology, No. 1, Shuefu Road, Neipu, Pingtung performance or make decisions pertaining to their promo- tion. Therefore, leaders’ behavior may shape members’ Email: ray5202002@gmail.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open mechanisms including self-efficacy (e.g., Hannah et al., highly correlated with transformational leadership (Judge & 2016) or leader–member exchange (LMX) (Chun et al., Piccolo, 2004) and might influence members’ task perfor- 2016; Nohe & Hertel, 2017). mance and helping behavior (G. Wang et al., 2011). Although prior research examined the underlying pro- Controlling these variables better clarifies the relationship cesses of the relationships between transformational leader- between transformational leadership, task performance, and ship and beneficial outcomes, few attempted to address how helping behavior, extending this study beyond previous transformational leaders motivate their members (Shamir research (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., 2019). et al., 1993) to help them achieve in-role task requests and Third, we provide concrete practical implications for human exceed expectations (Bass, 1985). Understanding the under- resource managers to design personnel selection and training lying motivation process is important, because motivation is programs for transformational leaders. Finally, regarding considered a critical component that molds members’ behav- methodology, although previous studies examined the rela- ior (e.g., Pinder, 2011). Furthermore, prior research high- tionship between transformational leadership, work engage- lights the positive relationship between motivation and ment, and outcomes (e.g., Salanova et al., 2011; Song et al., members’ performance (e.g., Cerasoil et al., 2014). However, 2012), we followed recommendations (N. Li et al., 2013; Y. research examining this motivation process is limited (e.g., Zhu & Akhtar, 2014) to address concerns regarding common Shamir et al., 1993). W. Zhu et al. (2009) suggested work method variance (CMV; Podsakoff et al., 2012) by adopting engagement (Kahn, 1990, 1992) as an important but a temporal research design and collecting data from two neglected mechanism deserving more attention. Work sources: leaders and members. Moreover, unlike experimen- engagement was proposed as a motivational construct (Kahn, tal investigations (e.g., Kovjanic et al., 2013), our data were 1990) and describes how employees express themselves collected from a real working situation; thus, the findings of physically, cognitively, and emotionally while performing this study are easier to generalize to other organizations. work roles. Moreover, research indicates that enhanced work engagement is related to increased task performance and Theory and Hypotheses helping behaviors (Rich et al., 2010). Therefore, in this study, we adopt a motivation perspective and propose an integrated Work Engagement theoretical model, arguing that transformational leaders can enhance members’ task performance and helping behaviors To maintain high levels of productivity and functional effec- by fostering their work engagement. tiveness, organizations must ensure that their employees are This study extends several aspects of the extant transfor- focused and invest their full energy into accomplishing tasks. mational leadership literature. First, we address the call of Kahn (1990) proposed the concept of work engagement to previous research to investigate the processes underlying assess the extent of an employee’s psychological presence or transformational leadership and beneficial work outcomes absence at work. Work engagement refers to “the simultane- (G. Wang et al., 2011). Although researchers have progressed ous employment and expression of a person’s ‘preferred self ’ in identifying potential mediators, the motivational aspect in task behaviors that promote connections to work and to (i.e., work engagement) of the influence of transformational others, personal presence (physical, cognitive, and emo- leadership still needs attention. Work engagement is worthy tional), and active, full performances” (Kahn, 1990, p. 700). of investigation for two reasons. One is that because motiva- For example, employees who display a high level of work tion shapes employees’ behavior, it is critical that transfor- engagement are psychologically present; fully there; and mational leaders understand how to enhance members’ employ and present themselves physically, cognitively, and performance through motivation. The other is that in a emotionally throughout their role performance. In contrast, dynamic environment, leaders always require and ask that disengaged employees demonstrate withdrawal and defen- members focus their full attention and energy on their tasks. siveness during role performance. Furthermore, engaged Thus, work engagement could be a possible mediator that employees are attentive, connected, integrated, and focused transmits the influence of transformational leadership on on their task performance. They are more open to others, members’ task performance and helping behavior. Second, willing to make connections with others at work, and more unlike prior research (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., likely to bring their whole selves to execute their work roles 2019), this study attempts to clarify the mediation effect of (Kahn, 1992). Moreover, work engagement determines the work engagement and rule out alternate mediating mecha- levels of investment employees are willing to endow during nisms. Therefore, LMX and self-efficacy were controlled as work role performance (Kahn, 1990). possible mediators (Chun et al., 2016; Hannah et al., 2016; Work engagement comprises three components: psycho- Nohe & Hertel, 2017), because they increase members’ task logical meaningfulness, psychological safety, and psycho- performance and helping behavior (e.g., Beauregard, 2012; logical availability. Psychological meaningfulness refers to Chun et al., 2016; Martin et al., 2016; Sitzmann & Yeo, how employees perceive the return on their physical, cogni- 2013). In addition, transactional leadership (i.e., contingent tive, and emotional energy investment in work role perfor- reward; Podsakoff et al., 1990) was controlled, because it is mance (Kahn, 1990). When employees feel worthwhile, Lai et al. 3 useful, and valuable in their current work role, they experi- intrinsic value of goal accomplishment and foster followers’ ence meaningfulness (Kahn, 1990). Psychological safety commitment, attaching a sense of meaningfulness to goals. refers to a safe and trusted situation in which employees can Thus, both idealized influence and inspirational motivation freely express themselves without fears of negative out- might make members believe that collective goals are mean- comes to their self-image, status, or career (Kahn, 1990). ingful (i.e., psychological meaningfulness) and attainable, When situations are unsafe or risky, such as by being unpre- and more willing to present themselves physically, cogni- dictable or threatening, employees’ work engagement suf- tively, and emotionally at work. fers. Psychological availability refers to employees’ sense of Although transformational leaders may successfully divert having enough physical, emotional, or psychological followers from self-serving to holistic and challenging goals, resources to effectively deal with a specific situation (Kahn, some difficulties might arise during this process. For follow- 1990). In the workplace, employees are confronted with vari- ers, challenging and holistic goals imply high risk; thus, ous challenges and demands, and the availability of resources unforeseen failures may occur during work role performance. employees possess or can access affects their degree of work This unsafe feeling and unpredictability of outcomes hinder engagement in role performance. members’ desire to strive for these goals, unless leaders create a safe and supportive environment (Kahn, 1990) in which they can express themselves without fears of negative conse- Transformational Leadership and Work quences. Transformational leaders pay personal attention to Engagement each member, try to understand their needs, and provide emo- According to Bass (1985), transformational leadership com- tional support when they are frustrated at work. These sup- prises four dimensions. First, idealized influence is the portive gestures enhance members’ feelings of safety and degree to which followers realize leaders’ value, confidence, encourage them to present their preferred self when working belief, power, and ethical or moral orientation; their willing- on tasks. For example, earlier research contended that trans- ness to identify with these attributes; and a diversion from formational leadership could increase perceived supervisor self-interest to higher collective goals (Antonakis & House, support (Liaw et al., 2010). Thus, individualized consider- 2002). Second, inspirational motivation describes how lead- ation might make members feel psychological safety and, in ers articulate visions to inspire and motivate subordinates to turn, increase their willingness to fully present themselves at reach desired goals (Antonakis & House, 2002). Third is work (i.e., to be engaged at work). intellectual stimulation, which refers to leaders who chal- Transformational leaders not only comfort members lenge the status quo and underlying assumptions, encourage when dealing with challenging goals but also enhance mem- followers to do so, and are open to new and creative solu- bers’ problem-solving abilities. That is, transformational tions to problems (Antonakis & House, 2002). The final leaders use intellectual stimulation to encourage members to dimension is individualized consideration. Here, like men- question the status quo and approaches, and invite their tors or coaches, leaders provide emotional support and con- opinions or solutions to improve productivity and conserve sideration for each follower (Antonakis & House, 2002). resources (e.g., energy). As such, transformational leaders Through these four dimensions, transformational leaders encourage members to effectively use their intelligence or engage followers and accomplish significant outcomes experience, view problems from various angles (Bass, 1985; (Burns, 1978). House & Shamir, 1993), master the problem-solving pro- Members’ choice regarding when to be fully present and cess, and determine the best solution to improve efficiency. engaged at work is shaped by internal (e.g., meaningful goals This implies that leaders can offer enough resources (e.g., and safety feelings) and external (e.g., availability of physical, emotional, or psychological) to members to try resources) factors (Kahn, 1992). Through these factors, lead- new solutions to task-related problems. This might result in ers may influence how followers choose to be present (not psychological availability and enhance members’ work necessarily physically present) and engaged. In work teams, engagement. transformational leaders provide holistic and challenging but Thus, this study assumes that transformational leaders attainable goals, and encourage followers to look beyond provide holistic and collective goals for followers and con- their self-interests to achieve collective goals. Transformational vince them that these goals are meaningful. Furthermore, leaders infuse these holistic and collective goals with moral acts of individualized consideration support members who purpose and commitment (House & Shamir, 1993; Shamir fear possible negative outcomes if they present their genuine et al., 1993), and convince members that these goals are more selves at work. Moreover, the provision of tangible and meaningful to pursue than their personal ones. Thus, they intangible resources enhances members’ desire to be psycho- deserve the investment of additional energy. Moreover, to logically present at work. In short, this study expects that emphasize the importance of goals, similar to role models through the abovementioned four behaviors, transforma- (House & Shamir, 1993), transformational leaders invest their tional leaders can stimulate their members into becoming full resources in attaining these goals. House and Shamir more engaged in their takes. Prior research (e.g., Chua & (1993) added that transformational leaders increase the Ayoko, 2019; Ghadi et al., 2013; Vila-Vázquez et al., 2018; 4 SAGE Open W. Zhu et al., 2009) suggests that transformational leaders 2015; Rich et al., 2010). Therefore, this study proposes the enhance members’ work engagement through these four following: dimensions. Therefore, this study proposes the following: Hypothesis 2a (H2a): Work engagement is positively Hypothesis 1 (H1): Transformational leadership is posi- related to task performance. tively related to work engagement. Hypothesis 2b (H2b): Work engagement is positively related to helping behaviors. Work Engagement, Task Performance, and The Mediating Role of Work Engagement Helping Behaviors Transformational leadership theory suggests that exceptional Kahn (1990, 1992) argued that once members believe that leaders have an extraordinary influence on their followers goals are meaningful and important, their environment is (Shamir et al., 1993). Such leaders transform followers’ safe, threats of possible negative consequences are absent needs, values, and preferences from self-interest goals to when they express themselves, and resources will be avail- collective-interest goals. Furthermore, they are more likely able when needed, they are more willing to be psychologi- to engage followers in being committed to these goals, will- cally present and more inclined to invest their energies into ing to make personal sacrifices for the interest of collective performing their designated work roles. Engaged members goals, and eventually perform beyond the call of duty. Prior concentrate their physical efforts on pursuing desirable research supports the positive relationship between transfor- goals, and remain focused on tasks and emotionally con- mational leadership and members’ task performance and nected to the role (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995; Kahn, helping behavior (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust et al., 2014; 1990). Specifically, engaged members deploy themselves to G. Wang et al., 2011; W. Zhu et al., 2013). This study sug- the work role and devote their physical energies to behaviors gests that work engagement underlies this positive influence. that directly contribute to accomplishing organizational Specifically, transformational leaders enhance members’ goals for extended periods (Kahn, 1990, 1992). To achieve work engagement through articulating a meaningful goal, organizational goals, they also devote their cognitive ener- offering a safe and supportive environment, and providing gies to behaviors that require vigilance, attention, and con- accessible resources. These engaged members are then more centration (Kahn, 1990). Moreover, the investment of willing to invest their physical, cognitive, and emotional emotional energy promotes emotional connections with energies in performing their work roles. Moreover, because coworkers, facilitates the attainment of organizational goals of a wider variety of work behaviors, engaged members are (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995), and results in better perfor- more likely to help their peers. In summary, this study pro- mance. Therefore, engaged members perform better, because poses that work engagement will mediate the positive rela- they invest more physical energy with greater intensity for a tionship between transformational leadership, task longer period, cognitive energy with greater attention and performance, and helping behavior: focus on goal-related behaviors, and emotional energy to connect with work roles. Hypothesis 3a (H3a): Work engagement mediates the Role theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978) suggests that work roles positive relationship between transformational leadership comprise task and social roles. Social roles often require and task performance. extra-role behaviors from members, which are not written in Hypothesis 3b (H3b): Work engagement mediates the a formal contract but are good for the organization (Van positive relationship between transformational leadership Dyne et al., 1995). Although these behaviors do not link and helping behaviors. directly to organizational rewards, they benefit the whole team, as they enable members to work more smoothly and Method effectively together (Organ, 1988). To the extent that engaged members should be more willing to invest their energies and Sample and Procedure step outside formally defined role behaviors, their wider array of work behaviors (including extra-role behaviors) is Data were collected from two hospitals in Taiwan. To reduce more likely to contribute to achieving organizational goals concerns pertaining to CMV (Podsakoff et al., 2012), we col- (Rich et al., 2010). Moreover, Van Dyne et al. (1995) suggest lected data from leaders and members, and adopted a multi- that members with high job involvement perform more help- temporal research design with three-wave data collection ing behaviors. points spaced 3 months apart. Essentially, earlier studies demonstrated that engaged Before administering the surveys, we contacted the head members are more likely to obtain a higher rating for task nurses and explained the aims of the study. After obtaining performance (e.g., Owen et al., 2015; Rich et al., 2010) and their approval, we visited and showed them how to administer are more willing to help their peers (e.g., Demerouti et al., the three-wave questionnaires. In the first wave, nurses rated Lai et al. 5 the transformational leadership of head nurses and their and role-based self-efficacy (Hannah et al., 2016). We used demographic information (e.g., gender, age, and education). Scandura and Graen’s (1984) seven-item scale to measure In the second wave, nurses were asked to report their work LMX (the alpha coefficient was .94). To measure role-based engagement. In the final wave, nurses’ task performance and self-efficacy, we adopted the seven-item scale developed by helping behaviors were assessed by their head nurses. The Parker et al. (2006) (the alpha coefficient was .92). In addi- questionnaires were completed during nurses’ morning meet- tion, for two reasons, we also controlled for transactional ings and returned to us in a sealed envelope. To match each leadership, which following prior research (Podsakoff et al., wave of questionnaires, we assigned each nurse and head 1990), we defined as contingent reward. The first reason is nurse an identification number written on the questionnaire. that transactional leadership is highly associated with trans- In total, 566 nurses participated in the three-wave data col- formational leadership (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Second, it lection; however, after eliminating invalid questionnaires influences members’ task performance and helping behavior (e.g., missing data), the final sample size was 507 nurses (G. Wang et al., 2011). We adopted a five-item contingent working in 44 teams. Of the participants, 98.9% were female, reward scale (Podsakoff et al., 1990) to measure transac- the average age was 31.43 (SD = 7.17) years, and nearly all tional leadership (the alpha coefficient was .90). Furthermore, participants have a junior college diploma (99.1%). In addi- consistent with prior research (e.g., Chun et al., 2016; Dust tion, the average work experience was 8.32 (SD = 6.69) years et al., 2014; W. Zhu et al., 2013), we controlled several and average tenure in the current ward was 3.89 (SD = 3.03) demographic variables (e.g., age, gender, and education). We years. The average team size was 13 (ranging from 2 to 41). also controlled for nurses’ work experience and tenure in the Furthermore, all head nurses are female and have a junior col- current ward, because these variables might influence task lege diploma. Their average age was 41.4 (SD = 6.91) years performance and helping behavior (Bauer & Green, 1996; and average work experience 18.58 (SD = 5.39) years. Duchon et al., 1986; Ng & Feldman, 2010). Measures Analysis All measures were rated on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 Given the nested structure of our data and the potential con- (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). sideration of nonindependence (Bliese & Hanges, 2004), we conducted a multilevel path analysis (Kaplan, 1998) in Transformational leadership. In this study, nurses were Mplus 7.4 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2012) to test the instructed to rate their perceptions of head nurses’ transfor- hypotheses. We then separately calculated the intraclass cor- mational leadership on a 14-item transformational leadership relation coefficient (e.g., ICC1; Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) scale (Podsakoff et al., 1990). This scale was also adopted in for task performance and helping behavior. According to the other studies (MacKenzie et al., 2001). The overall alpha results, the coefficient of ICC1 for task performance was coefficient was .94. 0.31, and 0.32 for helping behavior, both larger than the rec- ommended cutoff point of 0.12. This supports the appropri- Work engagement. Nurses completed an 18-item work ateness of using multilevel modeling to test the hypotheses engagement scale (Rich et al., 2010). This scale has been (Bliese, 2000). adopted in earlier studies (Alfes et al., 2013). We used the scale to measure nurses’ work engagement. The overall alpha Results coefficient was .93. Table 1 presents the mean values, standard deviations, and Task performance. Head nurses were asked to report each correlations between the variables employed in this study. In nurse’s task performance on a three-item scale (Farh et al., addition, the alpha coefficients are shown on the diagonal. 1991). The scale has been adopted in previous work (A. C. Before testing the hypotheses, we conducted a series of Wang et al., 2013). The alpha coefficient was .90. confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) to ensure the discrimi- nant validity of the measures. In addition, because Table 1 Helping behaviors. Head nurses were asked to rate nurses’ indicates that some control variables (such as LMX and helping behaviors on a four-item scale (Van Dyne & LePine, transactional leadership) have high correlations with the 1998), which Chen et al. (2015) adopted in their study. The main variables (such as transformational leadership), we alpha coefficient was .93. included these variables in CFA. Table 2 shows that the two- factor model, in which transformational leadership, LMX, role-based self-efficacy, transactional leadership, and work Control Variables engagement were combined into one factor (reported by Prior research indicated that transformational leadership nurses) and task performance and helping behavior into influences follower behaviors through several mechanisms another (both reported by head nurses), is better than the null (e.g., LMX and self-efficacy). Therefore, we controlled for model (Δχ = 5,293.38; df = 1; p < .001). Finally, the participants’ LMX (Chun et al., 2016; Nohe & Hertel, 2017) seven-factor baseline model is better than the two-factor 6 SAGE Open Table 1. Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations Matrix of the Study Variables (n = 507). Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1. Gender 1.01 0.11 2. Age 30.90 7.03 –.03 3. Education 2.57 0.072 .07 .04 4. Work experience 7.94 6.48 –.04 .91*** .01 5. Tenure in the current ward 3.90 3.06 –.01 .31*** .05 .38*** 6. Transformational leadership 3.57 0.60 –.01 –.13*** –.03 –.08 –.04 (.94) 7. Transactional leadership 3.57 0.67 –.01 –.11* .01 –.07 –.03 .83*** (.90) 8. Leader–member exchange 3.49 0.68 .01 –.08 –.01 –.05 –.02 .83*** .82*** (.94) 9. Role-based self-efficacy 2.98 0.61 .04 .11* .08 .12* .10* .19*** .18*** .28*** (.92) 10. Work engagement 3.47 0.46 –.04 .15** .07 .18*** .04 .22*** .19*** .18*** .25*** (.93) 11. Task performance 3.14 0.54 .05 .30*** .09 .30*** –.02 –.01 –.04 –.01 .07 .18*** (.90) 12. Helping behavior 3.21 0.56 .08 .31*** .06 .28*** –.07 –.04 –.05 –.03 .04 .16*** .89*** (.93) Note. Cronbach’s alphas appear across the diagonal in parentheses. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. Table 2. Confirmatory Factor Analysis. 2 2 Fit index Factors χ df Δχ (df) RMSEA SRMR NNFI CFI AIC Null model One factor 11,610.35 1,595 0.12 0.18 0.36 0.39 45,929.34 Baseline model Seven-factor model 3,166.87 1,567 6,578.55(27)*** 0.05 0.06 0.9 0.9 34,545.63 Alternative model Two-factor model 9,745.42 1,594 5,293.38(1)*** 0.11 0.16 0.48 0.5 43,097.24 Two factors: transformational leadership, LMX, role-based self-efficacy, transactional leadership, and work engagement were combined into one factor, and task performance and helping behavior were combined into the other. RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation; SRMR = standardized root mean squared error; NNFI = non-normed fit index; CFI = comparative fit index; AIC = Akaike information criterion. ***p < .001. model (Δχ = 6,578.55; df = 27; p < .001). As such, the but work engagement was significantly related to task per- results of the CFA provide support for the discriminant valid- formance (unstandardized b = .23, SE = .07; p < .001). ity of our measures. Thus, Hypothesis 3a was supported. Hypothesis 1 postulated that transformational leadership In Hypothesis 3b, we predicted that work engagement has a positive relationship with work engagement. The mediates the relationship between transformational leader- results are provided in Table 3. After controlling for several ship and helping behavior. The results are reported in Table 3. variables in Model 1, the results significantly relate transfor- Similarly, the results showed that transformational leadership mational leadership with work engagement (unstandardized was not significantly related to helping behavior (unstandard- b = .18, SE = .06; p < .01), supporting Hypothesis 1. ized b = .10, SE = .07; ns), although work engagement was In Hypotheses 2a and 2b, we proposed that work engage- significantly related to helping behavior (unstandardized b = ment is positively related to followers’ task performance and .24, SE = .07; p < .001). As such, Hypothesis 3b was helping behavior. For task performance, the results in Table 3 supported. are shown in Model 2. Similarly, after controlling several vari- We also conducted the Sobel test to analyze the media- ables, work engagement was significantly and positively tion effect. The results of the Sobel test on helping behavior related to task performance (unstandardized b = .23, SE = and task performance were both significant (p < .05). In .07; p < .001). For helping behavior, the results are provided addition, Preacher and Hayes (2004) suggest conducting a in Model 3, and work engagement was significantly related to bootstrapping analysis as a supportive test for the mediat- helping behavior (unstandardized b = .24, SE = .07; p < ing effect of work engagement. The results of the boot- .001). Therefore, both Hypotheses 2a and 2b were supported. strapping test show that the relationships between In Hypothesis 3a, we postulated that work engagement transformational leadership, work engagement, helping mediates the relationship between transformational leader- behavior, and task performance are all significant (for task ship and task performance. The results are provided in performance, ab = .04, 95% confidence interval [CI] = Table 3. In model 2, the results indicated that the relationship [0.01, 0.08], p < .05; for helping behavior, ab = .04, 95% between transformational leadership and task performance CI = [0.01, 0.09], p < .05). Thus, Hypotheses 3a and 3b was not significant (unstandardized b = .12, SE = .08; ns), were supported. Lai et al. 7 Table 3. Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling of the Meditation Effect (n = 507). Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Work engagement Task performance Helping behavior Control variables Gender −0.14 (0.15) 0.29 (0.13)* 0.38 (0.15)** Age 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) Education 0.05 (0.03) 0.03 (0.04) 0.03 (0.03) Work experience 0.01 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) Tenure in the current ward −0.01 (0.01) −0.02 (0.01) −0.02 (0.01)* Role-based self-efficacy 0.15 (0.03)*** −0.02 (0.05) −0.02 (0.06) Leader–member exchange −0.07 (0.04) −0.02 (0.06) −0.01 (0.06) Transactional leadership 0.08 (0.05) −0.07 (0.07) −0.06 (0.07) Independent variable Transformational leadership 0.18 (0.06)** 0.12 (0.08) 0.10 (0.07) Mediator Work engagement 0.23 (0.07)*** 0.24(0.07)*** *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. 2011) to examine the process underlying the influence of Discussion transformational leadership on desirable outcomes. In this This study addressed the influence of transformational lead- study, we argue that transformational leaders could change ership on followers’ task performance and helping behavior member behaviors through developing employee work by investigating work engagement as one possible underly- engagement. Transformational leaders offer meaningful goals ing mechanism. Specifically, we propose that transforma- and switch member concerns from their self-interests to col- tional leaders exhibit various behaviors to nurture and lective goals. They also provide a safe and supportive envi- enhance the psychological states that contribute to members’ ronment that encourages followers to invest their energy in work engagement. Members fully involved in their current current tasks. Moreover, transformational leaders provide tasks psychologically and physically are more likely to useful resources members can easily access. When followers receive higher performance ratings and more willing to help are motivated to be engaged at work, they stay focused on others achieve goals. Therefore, transformational leaders can their current role and tasks and invest their full energy in enhance followers’ performance and foster their helping behaviors that directly or indirectly contribute to achieving behaviors, because they induce members’ work engagement organizational goals. Our findings reveal that after control- and enable them to exceed expectations. Our findings sup- ling for LMX, role-based self-efficacy, and transactional port these statements and are consistent with earlier research leadership, work engagement fully mediated the positive rela- on transformational leadership (e.g., Breevaart et al., 2016; tionship between transformational leadership and members’ H. Li et al., 2019; Salanova et al., 2011; Song et al., 2012) task performance and helping behaviors. Thus, these findings that examine work engagement as the process underlying the indicate that work engagement is a meaningful and insightful effect of transformational leadership on members’ behaviors. motivation mechanism and worthy of more attention in future However, unlike prior research, this study adopted a more research on transformational and other types of leadership. rigorous research design to examine these relationships. The second contribution of this study is that we expand Specifically, after controlling several relevant variables and previous transformational leadership research (e.g., Salanova adopting a multitemporal and multisource research design, et al., 2011; Song et al., 2012; W. Zhu et al., 2009) by includ- work engagement still mediates the relationship between ing transactional leadership as an important control variable, transformational leadership and employees’ task perfor- which is generally highly correlated with transformational mance and helping behavior. leadership (G. Wang et al., 2011). Bass (1998) argues that “transformational leadership styles build on the transactional base in contributing the extra effort and performance of fol- Theoretical Implications lowers” (p. 5), and true transformational leaders should The findings of this study make several contributions in terms exhibit both types of leadership behaviors. Thus, it is reason- of expanding previous models of transformational leadership able to consider transactional leadership as a control variable to more prominently explicate the role of motivation in mem- when examining the relationship between transformational bers’ beneficial behaviors. The first contribution of this study leadership and members’ outcomes. Our results are consistent is that we echo other researchers’ appeals (G. Wang et al., with this argument, and reveal the augmentation effect of 8 SAGE Open transformational leadership on transactional leadership in interview questions on transformational leadership experi- predicting members’ work engagement. That is, compared ences. For instance, open-ended questions should focus on with transactional leadership, which emphasizes the equity the manager’s experience of providing subordinates with between efforts and rewards, transformational leadership— intellectual stimulation when they encounter difficult tasks which emphasizes the inspirational vision and collective or soothing them when they feel frustrated and confused. goal—could motivate employees to invest more of their These interview questions may help practitioners select the energy in becoming fully engaged in their current tasks. These right candidate with the potential to be a transformational results also indicate the augmentation effect of transforma- leader. tional leadership on employees’ performance (e.g., G. Wang For leadership training, research highlights that transfor- et al., 2011) and motivation over transactional leadership. mational leadership skills can be learned and developed Therefore, when examining transformational leadership, through training programs (Barling et al., 1996). Through future research should consider transactional leadership as a these programs, leaders may enhance their coaching skills control variable. Moreover, our results coincide with the idea including how to set unit goals, communicate with members of Lowe et al. (1996), namely, that lower level leaders are about these goals, motivate members to achieve goals, invent more likely to be perceived as transformational leaders than new methods for problem-solving, and cheer up members higher level leaders. Lower level leaders (i.e., head nurses) when they experience setbacks. Moreover, according to our who interact with members (i.e., nurses) daily have more findings, trained transformational leaders are likely to ele- opportunities to showcase transformational leadership behav- vate members’ level of work engagement and engage in iors and thus have a greater influence on work unit outcomes organizationally beneficial behaviors that directly or indi- (Lowe et al., 1996). rectly enhance organizational effectiveness. The third contribution of this study is that after control- ling several variables that positively affect employees’ task Strengths, Limitations, and Future Research performance and helping behavior, our results reveal that engaged members are more likely to be rated for higher task An important methodological strength of this study is that performance and helping behavior than disengaged mem- unlike prior research that adopted cross-sectional research bers. That is, engaged employees are more likely to invest designs (e.g., N. Li et al., 2013; Salanova et al., 2011; Song their full physical, cognitive, and emotional energies in over- et al., 2012; Y. Zhu & Akhtar, 2014), we used a multitempo- coming the difficulties of assigned tasks and to accomplish ral data collection design to test our theoretical model. them. Moreover, because engaged employees possess a Moreover, our data came from two sources, which may wider range of work behavior, they are more likely to will- reduce concerns regarding CMV (Podsakoff et al., 2012). ingly offer their assistance to and help peers when requested. The second strength of this study was that unlike prior These findings are consistent with the statement that motiva- research (Breevaart et al., 2016; H. Li et al., 2019), we ruled tion shapes employees’ behavior (Pinder, 2011). out the possible influences of LMX, role-based self-efficacy, and transactional leadership. Controlling for these variables improves the predictive validity of our theoretical model, Practical Implications which proposed that work engagement mediates the relation- For practitioners, the findings of this study provide concrete ship between transformational leadership and followers’ implications for personnel selection and leadership training. behavior. The results suggest that lower level transformational leaders Despite the strengths, our study is not without limitations. (i.e., ward head nurses) can influence members’ (i.e., nurses) First, we only considered two outcomes. It is important for performance by enhancing their work engagement. That is, future research to examine beneficial outcomes. For exam- during day-to-day interaction, lower level transformational ple, transformational leaders encourage members to chal- leaders, who have more contact with members, might have lenge the status quo and provide a safe, supportive, and more opportunities to instill in members the organization’s resourceful environment. Thus, engaged followers may be vision and collective goals. Moreover, in daily interaction, more likely to engage in creative behaviors. In addition, they can also offer emotional support when members feel because engaged followers focus their full attention on cur- frustration or help them overcome difficult tasks with new rent tasks, they may be better able to find hidden problems solutions immediately. Thus, through day-to-day interactions and be more courageous in voicing issues than their disen- and these behaviors, lower level transformational leaders can gaged counterparts. Thus, we encourage future researchers increase members’ engagement in their tasks. This result is to examine various outcomes that may be influenced by consistent with prior research (Lowe et al., 1996), but may work engagement. contradict traditional practices. In general, the selection pro- The second limitation is the scope of the generalizability cess for hiring a lower level manager focuses on technical of our findings. Although the generalizability of our findings expertise and is less concerned with interpersonal ability. might be better than previous experimental investigations Lowe et al. (1996) recommend that human resources include (e.g., Kovjanic et al., 2013) in a real work situation, we only Lai et al. 9 collected data from one profession, namely, medical staff. Funding This may hinder the validity of our findings when general- The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- izing to other occupational groups and industries. Thus, ship, and/or publication of this article. researchers should be cautious when applying our findings to the effectiveness of transformational leadership in other ORCID iD occupational groups and industries. In addition, because our Szu-Chi Lu https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3418-519X participants are mostly female, the explanation of our find- ings should be generalized with caution to other occupations References and industries that may not have an unbalanced male–female Alfes, K., Shantz, A. D., Truss, C., & Soane, E. C. (2013). The ratio. Thus, we encourage future researchers to replicate our link between perceived human resource management practices, study and collect data from different occupations and engagement and employee behavior: A moderated media- industries. tion model. The International Journal of Human Resource The third limitation is the research design of our theoreti- Management, 24(2), 330–351. cal model. 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The motivational influences follower helping behavior: The role of trust and pro- effects of charismatic leadership: A self-concept based theory. social motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(3), Organization Science, 4(4), 577–594. 373–392. Sitzmann, T., & Yeo, G. (2013). A meta-analytic investigation of the within-person self-efficacy domain: Is self-efficacy a prod- Author Biographies uct of past performance or a driver of future performance? Fong-Yi Lai is an associate professor of Department of Business Personnel Psychology, 66(3), 531–568. Administration at the National Pingtung University of Science and Song, J. H., Kolb, J. A., Lee, U. H., & Kim, H. K. (2012). Effects of Technology. Her research interests include service emotion and employees’ work engagement. Human Resource Development behavior, and sport marketing and management. Quarterly, 23(1), 65–101. Van Dyne, L., Cummings, L. L., & Parks, J. M. (1995). Extra- Hui-Chuan Tang is a PhD candidate of postgraduate programs in role behaviors: In pursuit of construct and definitional clarity. Management of I-Shou University. Her research interests include Research in Organizational Behavior, 17, 215–285. high-performance work systems, proactive behaviors, job crafting, Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra- and knowledge-intensive service industries. role behavior: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Szu-Chi Lu is a postdoctoral fellow of Department of Business Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108–119. Administration at the National Pingtung University of Science & Vila-Vázquez, G., Castro-Casal, C., Álvarez-Pérez, D., & Del Technology. His research interests include leadership (leader– Río-Araújo, L. (2018). Promoting the sustainability of orga- member exchange) and organizational behavior. nizations: Contribution of transformational leadership to job engagement. Sustainability, 10(11), 4109–4126. Yu-Chin Lee is an assistant professor of distribution management Wang, A. C., Chiang, J. T. J., Tsai, C. Y., Lin, T. T., & Cheng, B. at the Shu-Te University. Her research interests include customer S. (2013). Gender makes the difference: The moderating role mistreatment and stress. of leader gender on the relationship between leadership styles and subordinate performance. Organizational Behavior and Cheng-Chen Lin is a professor of Department of Business Human Decision Processes, 122(2), 101–113. Administration at the National Pingtung University of Science and Wang, G., Oh, I. S., Courtright, S. H., & Colbert, A. E. (2011). Technology. His research interests include organizational citizen- Transformational leadership and performance across criteria ship behavior, counterproductive behavior, and leadership.

Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Jan 6, 2020

Keywords: transformational leadership; work engagement; task performance; helping behavior; motivation

References