Transformative leadership : exploring, understanding, and explaining the impact of leaders in attaining and sustaining high employee engagement, an explanatory sequential mixed methods study.
Highly engaged employees are central to strong organizational outcomes and the achievement or surpassing of workplace objectives. A highly engaged workforce translates into tangible results that distinguish an organization from its competitors. However, consistency in maintaining high levels of engagement has not only eluded most organizations (Bridger, 2014) but also—as Oliveira and Silva (2015) described—is “valuable, rare, unique, and difficult to imitate” (p. 1024). An in-depth analysis of the drivers of high employee engagement indicated that leadership was the strongest bellwether of engagement (Sinyan, 2018). Missing from the literature, however, were transformational leadership development strategies that, when practiced across all levels of leadership, were most influential in driving engagement and individual and organizational performance. This explanatory sequential mixed methods research study explored attributes of the transformational leader in driving and sustaining high employee engagement and overall organizational performance. Bass’ Transformational Leadership and the Leader-Member-Exchange (LMX) theoretical frameworks defined behaviors and characteristics that transform an organization’s leaders and followers. To inform this study, 30 purposefully selected research study participants completed a validated 45-question survey on transformational and transactional leadership attributes that informed semi-structured interviews with six survey participants. The need for and strength of transformational leadership in attaining and sustaining high employee engagement was further explicated in this research study. The implications of the study suggested how deeply embedded transactional leadership is in organizations, yet transformational leaders who cultivate follower-focused relationships are preferred by employees and drive high engagement. The findings reflected an opportunity for organizations to close the engagement gap by incorporating transformational leadership attributes into role descriptions, enhanced training and development curriculums, and measurable performance expectations across all levels of leadership. The findings also indicated the necessity of a change management strategy involving policies, procedures, and mindsets. These actions remove barriers that impede organizations from attaining, sustaining, and maximizing the benefits of a highly engaged workplace. At the heart of this strategy and structure is a long-term business imperative led by transformational leaders who drive consistently high employee engagement that result in highly successful business outcomes.