Topic: Leadership Communication
Author(s), Title and Publication
Whitford, T. & Moss, S. A. (2009). Transformational Leadership in Distributed Work Groups: The Moderating Role of Follower Regulatory Focus and Goal Orientation. Communication Research, 36(6), 810-837.
This study investigated whether the benefits of transformational leadership apply when leaders and employees work at different locations. Transformational leaders strive to support, encourage, and inspire their employees to pursue challenging and shared goals through developing and communicating a powerful vision and recognizing and praising employee contributions, among other approaches. The present study argued that employees’ characteristics, such as regulatory focus (pursuing aspirations, or fulfilling duties) and goal orientation (demonstrating ability, or developing skills), could influence the extent to which they were inspired under transformational leadership. To test the hypotheses, 165 employees from a broad, random sample of organizations completed an online survey and answered questions about their perceptions of transformational leadership, regulatory focus, goal orientation, work engagement, and job satisfaction.
Results suggested that the spatial distance between leaders and their employees produced differing effects. For example, when employees and their leaders were at the same location, visionary leadership and praise from leaders were more effective for those employees who focus on fulfilling duties and obligations and demonstrating their abilities. When employees and leaders were at different locations, visionary leadership better engaged those employees who focus on pursuing aspirations and promotions, and increased their job satisfaction. Leaders praise better motivated those employees who want to demonstrate their competence.
Implications for Practice
Instead of punishing undesirable behavior, managers might want to reinforce desirable work behaviors with recognition and praise to cultivate their employees’ aspirations. If leaders and their employees work in different places, transformational leadership might be less effective for employees whose work requires detailed information or direction.