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Beyond the tipping point: the curvilinear relationships of transformational leadership, leader–member exchange, and emotional exhaustion in the French police


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As one promise of transformational leadership (TFL), it inspires public servants to perform beyond expectations and embrace needed change. However, it remains unclear whether TFL is linked to reduced stress and exhaustion or whether ‘performance beyond expectations’ comes at the expense of followers’ increased stress. In line with the ‘too-much-of-a-good-thing’ effect, this article contributes to our understanding of leadership in public organizations by investigating the curvilinear effect of TFL on emotional exhaustion through interpersonal relationships with the leader (LMX). The results based on a two-wave study of 806 French police officers support the expectation of a curvilinear relationship.
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Public Management Review
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Beyond the tipping point: the curvilinear
relationships of transformational leadership,
leader–member exchange, and emotional
exhaustion in the French police
Mathieu Molines , Assaad El Akremi , Martin Storme & Pinar Celik
To cite this article: Mathieu Molines , Assaad El Akremi , Martin Storme & Pinar Celik
(2020): Beyond the tipping point: the curvilinear relationships of transformational leadership,
leader–member exchange, and emotional exhaustion in the French police, Public Management
Review, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2020.1795231
To link to this article:
Published online: 22 Jul 2020.
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Beyond the tipping point: the curvilinear relationships of
transformational leadership, leader–member exchange,
and emotional exhaustion in the French police
Mathieu Molines
, Assaad El Akremi
, Martin Storme
and Pinar Celik
ESCE International Business School, INSEEC-U Research Center, Paris, France;
Toulouse 1 Capitole
University, Toulouse, France;
IESEG School of Management, Lille, France;
LEM-CNRS 9221, Lille,
Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, Université Libre de Bruxelles,
Brussels, Belgium
As one promise of transformational leadership (TFL), it inspires public servants to
perform beyond expectations and embrace needed change. However, it remains
unclear whether TFL is linked to reduced stress and exhaustion or whether ‘perfor-
mance beyond expectations’ comes at the expense of followers’ increased stress. In
line with the ‘too-much-of-a-good-thing’ eect, this article contributes to our under-
standing of leadership in public organizations by investigating the curvilinear eect of
TFL on emotional exhaustion through interpersonal relationships with the leader
(LMX). The results based on a two-wave study of 806 French police ocers support
the expectation of a curvilinear relationship.
KEYWORDS Transformational leadership; leader–member exchange; emotional exhaustion; police;
too-much-of-a-good-thing effect
Transformational leadership (TFL) theory is one of the most prominent frameworks
for understanding leadership in public organizations (Vogel and Masal 2015; Ospina
2017; Crosby and Bryson 2018). Few leadership styles have received as much research
attention as TFL (Lin, Scott, and Matta 2019; Siangchokyoo, Klinger, and Campion
2019). TFL is intended to inspire followers to perform beyond expectations and
embrace needed change (Bass 1985). In turn, TFL is designed to ‘influence followers’
values and aspirations, activate their higher order-needs, and arouse them to transcend
self-interests for the sake of the organization’ (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, and Bommer
1996, 259–260). Despite criticisms of in-depth theories and methodologies of TFL
constructs (van Knippenberg and Sitkin 2013; Jensen and Bro 2018; Siangchokyoo,
Klinger, and Campion 2019), research has shown that performing behaviours from the
TFL repertoire relates significantly to a variety of individual, group, and organizational
outcomes (Lowe, Kroeck, and Sivasubramaniam 1996; Judge and Piccolo 2004; Wang
et al. 2011) and is particularly effective in public sector organizations (Wright and
CONTACT Mathieu Molines
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Grant 2010; Oberfield 2012; Wright, Moynihan, and Pandey 2012; Bellé 2013; Sun and
Henderson 2017; Sun and Wang 2017).
As a result, it is currently assumed that transformational leadership is
a ‘universally positive management practice’ (Li et al. 2013), and public organizations
are adopting TFL as the prime mover of effective change (Stazyk and Davis 2020).
Public leaders have been awarded a pivotal role in driving change and are believed to
play an active role in decision making and in deploying resources in shaping
organizational success (Sun and Henderson 2017; Schmidt and Groeneveld 2019)
as well as in mitigating risks of work stressors affecting public servants’ health and
wellbeing (Mostafa 2016).
However, little attention has been devoted to the dark side of TFL and to its effects
on health outcomes such as work stress (Li et al. 2013; Lin, Scott, and Matta 2019).
According to a meta-analysis by Harms et al. (2017), disagreement persists regarding
the role of leadership in stress-related outcomes. Leadership can act as either a major
source of stress for followers or as a buffer against work stressors (see Skakon et al.
2010; Montano et al. 2017). Thus, failing to consider the potential detriments of
transformational leader behaviours is a significant oversight considering that an
emerging body of research suggests that engaging in ‘good’ leadership behaviours
can be costly to leaders themselves (Lin, Scott, and Matta 2019) as well as to followers
(Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and Binnewies 2018). For instance, it could be argued that
TFL may be particularly taxing because followers might spend longer hours working
and may dedicate more energy to their work, resulting in health-compromising levels
of stress (Arnold and Connelly 2013). For example, recent studies suggest that motiva-
tions to serve society and sacrifice oneself might have negative effects on wellbeing
because public servants go ‘above and beyond’ what is asked and thus deplete their own
resources (Giauque, Anderfuhren-Biget, and Varone 2013; van Loon, Vandenabeele,
and Leisink 2015).
We propose that TFL can have positive as well as negative side of followers’
stress-related outcomes. In this study, we focus on burnout a manifestation of
prolonged stress on the job – and its central dimension, emotional exhaustion, which
generally is more closely related to leaders’ behaviour than stress (Harms et al. 2017).
Research on the relationship between TFL and burnout (including emotional
exhaustion) yields inconsistent and inconclusive findings (i.e. negative, positive, or
null effects) (e.g. Seltzer, Numerof, and Bass 1989; Corrigan et al. 2002; Nielsen and
Daniels 2012). It remains unclear whether TFL is linked to reduced stress and
exhaustion among followers or whether ‘performance beyond expectations’ comes
at the expense of increased stress and exhaustion (Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and
Binnewies 2018).
The aim of this article is to investigate and better understand the relationship
between TFL and emotional exhaustion among French police officers and to highlight
the potential dark side of TFL in public organizations. First, in light of recent advances
in management theories, we rely on the now widely established ‘too-much-of-a-good-
thing’ (TMGT) effect (Pierce and Aguinis 2013), which challenges the assumption that
more of a desirable behaviour is always preferable, which questions the unilateral
benefits of TFL. While prior studies have mainly focused on leaders’ influences on
followers’ reactions and behaviours in monotonically increasing or decreasing pat-
terns, researchers have begun to challenge this traditional approach (Cavarretta et al.
2015; Antonakis, House, and Simonton 2017; Vergauwe et al. 2018) and explore the
idea of a ‘dark side’ of leadership. According to Busse, Mahlendorf, and Bode (2016),
the TMGT effect can be defined as
a situation in which the incremental costs caused by an antecedent variable become larger than
the incremental benefits, which creates a success maximum. The antecedent itself is neither
good nor bad; rather, it generates both benefits and costs that vary in their marginal effects
depending on the value of the antecedent (pp.142–143).
The inconsistent effects of TFL on emotional exhaustion may reflect a curvilinear
pattern that may not fully capture the effects of leadership given the ‘unintended
effects’ that result when TFL reaches excessively high levels (Cavarretta et al. 2015).
We argue that there is a point at which performing behaviours from the TFL repertoire
no longer reduces followers’ levels of exhaustion; at this point, such behaviours become
demands or hindrances that actually increase exhaustion.
Second, understanding the processes by which transformational leaders exert their
influence is an important and fundamental focus of leadership research (Boer et al.
2016). Accordingly, it is worth investigating how the curvilinear effects of TFL on
exhaustion are mediated by costs and benefits (Busse, Mahlendorf, and Bode 2016).
Additionally, studies consistently suggest that building positive interpersonal relations
(leader–member exchange [LMX]) (Graen and Uhl-Bien 1995) serves as an important
mediating mechanism through which transformational leaders affect employees’ work-
place outcomes such as performance and organizational citizenship behaviours (Wang
et al. 2005; Dulebohn et al. 2012; Ng 2017). Researchers have advanced the notion that
social relationships at work – specifically, employees’ perceptions of the quality of their
relationships to their supervisors affect stress-related outcomes such as exhaustion
(Harms et al. 2017; Tse et al. 2018).
In this study, we investigate the curvilinear effect of TFL on emotional exhaustion
through the mediating mechanism of LMX. We draw on conservation of resources
theory (COR) (Hobfoll 1989) and social exchange theory (SET) (Gouldner 1960; Blau
1964), which offer complementary insights into the U-shaped process that links TFL to
emotional exhaustion. As stated by Crosby and Bryson (2018), leadership is not
a ‘magic concept’ and more attention should be dedicated to understanding the cause-
effect relationships of leadership with an emphasis on theory building and testing,
methods and practice. Our study combines both leader-centric perspectives (TFL) and
follower-centric processes (LMX), COR, and SET theories to develop a more thorough
understanding of the complex relationships between leadership and stress in public
organizations (Vogel and Masal 2015).
We take advantage of a large sample of French police officers. French police forces
have recently implemented a reform to create a service-oriented policing strategy
requiring the use of a new leadership approach that is conducive to discretionary
policing and that empowers subordinates to make decisions that are reflective of the
police organization’s mission (Russell, Cole, and Iii 2014; Hassan, Park, and
Raadschelders 2018). Rather than command and control, police leadership is more
concerned with ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of police officers and citizens (Skogan
and Harnett 1997). Accumulating evidence suggests that TFL is particularly effective in
the various national police organizations where it has been studied (see Haberfeld
2006). TFL seems appropriate for developing long-term service- and citizen-oriented
relationships (Liao and Chuang 2007; Liaw, Chi, and Chuang 2010; Bro and Jensen
2020). Furthermore, prior research has shown that TFL, with its emphasis on a shift
‘from personal goals to collective goals, from personal identity to collective identity,
from self-interest to collective interest’ (Jiao, Richards, and Zhang 2011, 14), is relevant
and prevalent in public organizations, such as in police organizations, where there are
strong expectations of group loyalty and commitment to collective citizenship
(Campbell, Lee, and Im 2016; Sun and Wang 2017). In addition to this strategic
change, the French police must face a difficult context with severe consequences for
police officer health. Overwork since a series of terrorist attacks starting in
January 2015 and weekly, often extremely violent anti-government protests since
November 2019 by the Yellow vests movement seeking more economic and social
justice have had deleterious effects on individual police officer wellbeing. Police officers
now suffer from exhaustion (with a total of more than 20 million overtime hours
accumulated, mostly due to terrorist attacks) and increased suicide rates (51 cases in
2017) as underlined in a recent senatorial report (Zagrodzki 2017). These data provide
an interesting opportunity to examine how leadership practices (TFL and LMX) relate
to emotional exhaustion experienced by French police officers.
Theoretical background and hypothesis development
Curvilinear relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion
Transformational leaders are theorized to achieve superior results with their followers
than those adopting other leadership styles (Bass and Riggio 2006) in part because they
act as role models to their followers, exhibit integrity; inspire and motivate; intellec-
tually stimulate; and are considerate, charismatic, and trustworthy (Bass and Bass
2008). TFL is conceptualized as having four dimensions: idealized influence, inspira-
tional motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass and
Riggio 2006). These dimensions combine into one higher-order TFL construct (Avolio,
Bass, and Jung 1999). Idealized influence characterizes the extent to which leaders
engage in behaviours that encourage followers to identify with them (Judge and
Piccolo 2004). Inspirational motivation denotes the extent to which leaders behave
in ways that motivate followers by providing meaning and showing optimism and
enthusiasm about goals and the future. Intellectual stimulation characterizes the extent
to which leaders challenge existing assumptions and encourage followers’ critical
reflection by questioning assumptions, reframing problems, and approaching old
situations in new ways. Individual consideration denotes the extent to which leaders
seek to meet the individual needs of their followers by acting as their coaches and
listening to their concerns (Judge and Piccolo 2004).
Hobfoll’s (1989, 2001) COR theory has been used to explain the effects of leadership
on exhaustion (Harms et al. 2017). As the central tenet of COR theory, individuals
strive to obtain, retain, and protect valued resources and seek to maximize resource
gains while minimizing resource losses and avoiding potential threats. Resources are
defined as ‘anything perceived by the individual to help attain his or her goals’
(Halbesleben et al. 2014, 1338). Individuals also experience stress when the things
that they value (i.e. their resources or their sense of duty) are under threat of loss or are
lost or when insufficient resources are gained following previous investments. The
emotional exhaustion that results depletes the coping resources that individuals need
to meet emotional demands in the workplace (Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter 2001).
When such individuals’ resources have been depleted and they fail to generate
additional resources, they are likely to experience exhaustion (Wright and Cropanzano
1998). To counteract this loss, individuals ‘call on resources available to them from the
environment’ (Hobfoll 1989, 517).
According to Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and Binnewies (2018), TFL is a contextual
resource that forms part of a social context. TFL influences the pool of resources
available to followers (Halbesleben 2006) and therefore provides an ‘advantage’ in
terms of resource gains (Arnold et al. 2015). To the extent that transformational
leaders can reduce ambiguity, provide guidance for efforts, or encourage followers to
pursue new avenues for growth, they can reduce police officers’ experiences of exhaus-
tion (Bass and Bass 2008; Diebig, Bormann, and Rowold 2016). Furthermore, police
leaders can project positive outlooks and visions, thereby providing reassurance in
times of stress (Bono and Ilies 2006). By providing support, transformational leaders
buffer the harmful effects of stressful job environments (Nielsen et al. 2008; Diebig,
Bormann, and Rowold 2016). For example, TFL may temper negative effects of time
pressure by encouraging police officers to see demands as a challenge that can be
addressed. Second, transformational leaders instil confidence in police officers in their
abilities to complete their tasks and attain civic objectives (Bass and Riggio 2006).
Transformational leaders continuously develop and empower their subordinates by
working on their strengths and weaknesses (Bass 1985). Hence, police officers learn
new behaviours and develop skills to cope with pressure. Consequently, we expect TFL
behaviours to be associated with clear, positive visions that reassure subordinates,
allow them to deploy their resources effectively, and reduce exhaustion (Montano et al.
Despite this COR-related rationale, empirical studies of the links between TFL and
exhaustion yield inconsistent findings (Arnold and Connelly 2013; Hildenbrand,
Sacramento, and Binnewies 2018). Seltzer, Numerof, and Bass (1989) suggest
a positive relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion in which a leader’s
idealized influence leads employees to put in longer hours at work and devote more
energy to their work roles. In such cases, intellectual stimulation and the uncertainty
and risk involved in doing things differently are potential threats to wellbeing, and the
focus on group orientation discourages employees from considering their own health-
related needs. Other studies indicate a positive relationship between TFL and burnout
or employee strain (Franke and Felfe 2011; Arnold et al. 2015). However, some studies
fail to find any significant relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion
(Stordeur, D’Hoore, and Vandenberghe 2001; Corrigan et al. 2002; Densten 2005;
Hetland, Sandal, and Johnsen 2007).
Such inconclusive findings suggest the potential for a curvilinear relationship and
the TMGT effect. As Pierce and Aguinis (2013) argue, the TMGT effect occurs when
ordinarily beneficial antecedents (e.g. TFL) reach inflection points, after which their
relationships with desired outcomes (reducing exhaustion) cease to be linear and
negative. It is always undesirable to exceed these inflection points, as this leads to
waste (no additional benefit), or worse, undesirable outcomes (increased exhaustion).
Accordingly, we argue that more frequent TFL behaviours are not always beneficial for
followers; TFL inadequacy may entail either an underprovision or overprovision of
behaviours, such as articulating inspiring visions, modelling idealized behaviours,
offering intellectual stimulation, or giving individualized consideration. Such TFL
inadequacies could be detrimental to police officers by increasing their levels of
emotional exhaustion.
According to COR theory, police leaders who consistently demand that police
officers go beyond their performance expectations are likely to drain employees’
psychological resources; such supervisors may also be perceived as personal threats
or threats to material resources (Carlson et al. 2012). Conversely, as transformational
leaders increase resources beyond the point at which police officers are concerned with
the protection or restoration of depleted vital resources, these police officers become
satiated, and less positive outcomes will be associated with the leaders’ behaviours.
In relying on the theoretical rationale of COR theory, we offer insights into how TFL
behaviours might go beyond the tipping point at which they have a positive impact on
emotional exhaustion. After this inflection point (the point at which further increases
in the ‘desirable’ variable are no longer beneficial, i.e. the TMGT effect), TFL may
become detrimental to followers. Accordingly, we argue that TFL reduces emotional
exhaustion only to the point at which there is no additional benefit from more
perceived TFL.
Hypothesis 1. TFL has a curvilinear (i.e. U-shaped) relationship to emotional exhaus-
tion among police officers.
LMX as a mediator of the curvilinear relationship between TFL and emotional
We delve into the black box of the relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion
to better understand why TFL might backfire. We investigate the underlying mechan-
isms that intervene in this relationship. As suggested by Gerstner and Day (1997),
follower–supervisor relationships offer a lens through which to view the entire work
experience. Studies have recently suggested that building positive interpersonal rela-
tions (LMX) is an important means through which transformational leaders affect
employees’ organizational outcomes (Wang et al. 2005; Dulebohn et al. 2012).
We argue that the explanatory mechanism underlying the curvilinear relationship
between TFL and exhaustion resides in LMX theory (Graen and Uhl-Bien 1995), which
is grounded in SET (Blau 1964) and the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner 1960). LMX
theory states that leaders enter individually negotiated relationships with each of their
subordinates and do not treat all employees equally (Dansereau, Graen, and Haga
1975). Generally speaking, the realities of the workplace force leaders to divide their
resources and support among subordinates such that only a select few receive resources
that go above and beyond those formally defined in employment contracts (Graen and
Uhl-Bien 1995). Followers who receive additional and valued resources have high-
quality LMX relationships and are subject to strong internal forces that compel them to
repay their supervisors (Sekiguchi, Burton, and Sablynski 2008). Such relationships are
characterized by trust, respect, and mutual obligation. In contrast, followers who
receive only the minimum resources defined by their employment contracts are
typically regarded as little more than ‘hired hands’ (Graen and Uhl-Bien 1995); they
experience less obligation to expend valued resources in an attempt to satisfy direct
Empirical work suggests that LMX acts as a mediator between TFL and different
performance outcomes (Wang et al. 2005). However, as Boer et al. (2016) note through
their meta-analysis, the relational process underpinning TFL does not work for all
outcomes, and theoretical underpinnings should be distinguished according to
outcome characteristics. The idea of LMX as a mediator of the curvilinear TFL–
emotional exhaustion relationship would be theoretically supported, in part, by three
main effects: (1) the curvilinear relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion
(see Hypothesis 1), (2) the linear relationship between TFL and LMX, and (3)
a curvilinear relationship between LMX and emotional exhaustion. We draw on an
integrated theoretical rationale that combines COR theory with SET to explain these
Relationship between TFL and LMX
We propose that TFL acts as an antecedent of LMX. Recent meta-analyses identify
a robust, positive association between TFL and LMX (Ng 2017). According to Ng
(2017), LMX is the most proximal and immediate reaction to TFL. Transformational
leaders create environments that enrich the LMX process (Wang et al. 2005). In this
way, TFL is an antecedent of the creation of strong, enduring LMX relationships.
Transformational leaders support their followers through individualized consideration
(Zacher et al. 2014) such that followers are likely to perceive their exchanges as of high
quality (Chun, Cho, and Sosik 2016). This individualized and considerate behaviour is
unique to transformational leaders and is key to enhancing the quality of social
exchange between leaders and followers due to strengthened reciprocation norms
(Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005). Followers led by transformational leaders are more
likely to admire their leaders for their charisma, and wisdom, thereby imbuing their
relationships with respect and trust (Ospina 2017).
Furthermore, transformational leaders are willing to invest time and effort in
cultivating relationships with followers, who are seen as important long-term assets
that help teams. Transformational leaders grant resources and can be instrumental in
achieving high-quality LMX, as they create favourable environments for developing
mutual understanding in supervisor–subordinate dyads that enable subordinates to
meet their supervisors’ expectations more effectively. Specifically, dyadic interaction
conditions are variables that characterize the tenure, frequency, and quality of dyadic
communication between supervisors and subordinates (Gerstner and Day 1997). In
this sense, TFL behaviours strengthen mutual understanding and reinforce super-
visors’ affection for their subordinates (Ashkanasy and Tse 2000). Accordingly, we
suggest that TFL has a linear, positive relationship to LMX.
Relationship between LMX and emotional exhaustion
The few studies that have empirically investigated the relationship between LMX and
emotional exhaustion (Bakker, Demerouti, and Euwema 2005; Thomas and Lankau
2009; Son, Kim, and Kim 2014; Harms et al. 2017) have shown that those involved in
high-quality LMX relationships experience fewer role stressors. The rationale for this
finding stems from role theory (Liden, Sparrowe, and Wayne 1997): leaders of indivi-
duals involved in high-quality LMX relationships provide emotional support, stronger
communication, and clearly defined roles for their subordinates, which help those
subordinates eliminate uncertainty and keep their levels of stress and exhaustion low.
Conversely, those engaged in low-quality LMX relationships experience higher levels
of stress and exhaustion, as they do not receive adequate information to alleviate their
feelings of uncertainty.
According to COR theory, LMX also functions as a valued resource for subordi-
nates. Hobfoll (1989) argues that interpersonal relations are resources to the extent that
they provide or facilitate the attainment of other valuable resources. For example,
supervisors provide emotional and informational support to subordinates by engaging
in high-quality exchange relationships. When effective dyadic relationships are estab-
lished, supervisors offer sensitivity, information, and support to their subordinates
(Dienesch and Liden 1986). Subordinates who receive more material and social
resources achieve the job performance that supervisors expect (Jensen, Olberding,
and Rodgers 1997). As a result, supervisors assign them additional tasks (Dienesch
and Liden 1986) and view them as more promotable candidates. This interactive
process indicates that LMX bestows subordinates with valuable emotional and tangible
benefits that render them better able to achieve performance and career success.
Because of its effectiveness for high-performance outcomes, LMX is valued and desired
by subordinates. Subordinates therefore use TFL resources to develop high-quality
However, Harris and Kacmar (2006) show that a U-shape form characterizes the
relationship between LMX quality and stress. Specifically, stress levels are high when
LMX quality is low, decrease when LMX quality is moderate to moderately high, and
increase again when LMX quality is high. Those who enjoy high-quality LMX relation-
ships with their supervisors experience more stress than their counterparts involved in
moderate-quality LMX relationships. According to Harris and Kacmar (2006), this
result stems from the extra pressures and obligations that subordinates involved in
high-quality LMX relationships experience to go above and beyond their duties, reduce
their feelings of obligation, and meet the expectations of their admired bosses (Blau
According to SET, the more people become interdependent, the more they give,
receive, and return to their partners (Blau 1964). As explained by Bernerth, Walker,
and Harris (2016), repeated successful exchanges with the same partners elicit
positive reactions, as relationship balance is achieved; persistent imbalance instead
elicits negative reactions, as feelings of indebtedness or non-reciprocity develop
(Carnevale et al. 2020). In this sense, social exchange is a self-reinforcing process
that is intertwined with affect (Walter and Bruch 2008). However, not all relation-
ships are defined by equitable giving and receiving; many relationships result in
negative outcomes when people perceive imbalances between what they give and
what they receive. Unbalanced social exchange relationships in the workplace expose
employees to one-way exchanges/losses of resources that initiate negative outcomes
such as emotional exhaustion (Thomas and Lankau 2009). If at some point the
requests of police leaders overwhelm subordinates, those requests may lead to
increased levels of exhaustion as police officers move from positive to negative
outcomes of LMX. As suggested by Bernerth, Walker, and Harris (2016), high levels
of LMX can have negative effects due to challenges between resource reciprocity and
self-protection. In examining both parts of LMX theory simultaneously, we predict
that at a certain point, for subordinates, the benefits of having high-quality relation-
ships with their supervisors no longer counteract the demands placed on them,
thereby increasing their levels of exhaustion (Edwards 1992). For subordinates,
there is a point of diminishing returns at which the aggregation of felt obligations
(Carnevale et al. 2020) is no longer counteracted by increased support and commu-
nication from their supervisors.
Hypothesis 2. LMX mediates the curvilinear (i.e. U-shaped) relationship between TFL
and emotional exhaustion for police officers.
Materials and methods
Participants and procedure
We collected data from the French police force, which is one of the country’s most
important employers, with approximately 149,000 police officers. The French police
force is in charge of urban areas where most public safety issues and police-community
conflicts take place. Although the French police force is dependent on a central
authority (and thus directly answerable to the government), each police station func-
tions as an autonomous unit with one senior police leader held responsible for
managing local officers (Molines, Sanséau, and Adamovic 2017).
French police are managed under a bureaucratic system involving the specialization
of tasks and duties, objective qualifications for positions, action according to rules and
regulations, and hierarchical authority (Monjardet 1997). Police officers mostly oper-
ate under an authoritarian command structure in which orders flow one way and top
down (i.e. high power distance). However, various works in sociology report a process
of hierarchical inversion specific to police organizations that emerges from a police
officer’s autonomy in the field (van Maanen 1975). Indeed, policing requires that
enough initiative capacity be left to the police officer in the field. Police officers need
to be able to select tasks to be performed and how they will achieve them to face the
uncertainties of the different situations in their everyday routines. However, if the
‘hierarchy has no control over action, it has control over men’. Police leaders play
a central role in the rating of their subordinates that directly affects their salaries and
career advancement. These leaders also control numerous other significant elements
such as managing relationships with external sponsors, budgets, or materials
(Monjardet 1997). These specificities seem to hold across different police forces in
the world (Haberfeld 2006).
We collected data from the mailing lists of the police trade unions of 35 selected
police stations, which contain the contact information of street police officers whose
primary responsibility is to ensure public order at demonstrations and riots. We sent
the participants an Internet link that informed them of the purpose of the research and
guaranteed that their responses would be kept confidential, assuring them that no
organizational representative would have access to their responses. No ordinary police
officers, senior officers, or trade union officials saw the completed surveys. We also
indicated the voluntary nature of participation. We asked that the questionnaires be
completed within two weeks and sent a reminder after one week.
We administered online surveys at two points of measurement separated by an
average of eight weeks to reduce biases pertaining to our data collection methods
(Podsakoff, MacKenzie, and Podsakoff 2012). To match participants’ responses across
the two waves and to corresponding police stations, we asked the participants to
generate identification codes. In the first wave of data collection, we included measures
of TFL and control variables (age, gender, and seniority). We assessed the mediating
and dependent variables, LMX and emotional exhaustion, in the second questionnaire.
Leadership constructs (TFL and LMX) referred to participants’ direct supervisors (i.e.
senior police officers).
At Time 1, we sent 1,308 questionnaires and collected responses from 1,036 police
officers, of which we excluded 5 due to missing data or identification codes. At Time 2,
we received the responses of 847 police officers. We excluded 6 participants due to
missing data or identification codes. Matching the two questionnaires yielded a sample
of 806 complete responses (76% response rate for all respondents at Time 1). To
determine whether subject attrition led to non-random sampling, we tested whether
the probability of remaining in the sample at Time 2 was predicted by Time 1 variables
(Goodman and Blum 1996). We carried out logistic regression to predict the response
to one measurement occasion (vs. responses to both Time 1 and Time 2), which
revealed that employees who provided incomplete answers at one of the two measure-
ment points did not significantly differ by gender or study variables from those who
completed both questionnaires. However, older participants (B = 0.03, z = 3.01, p <.01)
and those with more seniority (B = 0.03, z = 3.36, p < .001) were more likely to respond
to one phase only.
Our final sample includes 806 police officers from 35 French police stations. The
average number of respondents per police station is 23.03. The average age of the
respondents is 37.70 years (SD. = 7.39), and 92.18% are men. We should note that our
sample is mostly composed of male police officers and thus cannot be considered
representative of the whole French police. The participants’ average tenure with the
police force was 14.66 years (SD. = 7.81).
We translated all scales from English to French using a back-translation procedure
(Brislin 1980).
We used 16 items from the short version of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire
5X (Avolio, Bass, and Jung 1999), as in previous studies (Kark, Shamir, and Chen 2003;
Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and Binnewies 2018), including items reflecting the follow-
ing behavioural components: individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation,
inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. In line with previous studies, due
to the strong intercorrelations across the four dimensions of TFL, we averaged the
items to compose an overall measure of TFL. We asked participants to denote the
frequency with which their leader engaged in each of the behaviours on a 5-point scale.
A sample item reads: ‘My direct supervisor seeks differing perspectives when solving
problems.’ The coefficient alpha was .94.
Emotional exhaustion
We assessed emotional exhaustion using eight items from Maslach and Jackson’s
(1981) emotional exhaustion measure (MBI). We gauged responses using a scale
ranging from 1 (‘strongly disagree’) to 5 (‘strongly agree’). A sample item reads: ‘I
am emotionally drained from my work.’ The coefficient alpha was .90.
We used a short version of the 12-item LMX–MDM scale from Liden and Maslyn
(1998) containing 8 items to measure individual perceptions of the quality of relation-
ships between supervisors and their employees. The LMX–MDM scale is
a multidimensional measure of LMX quality. We collected data from the perspective
of subordinates and measured them on a scale ranging from 1 (‘not at all’) to 5
(‘extremely’). A sample item reads: ‘I like my direct supervisor very much as
a person.’ The coefficient alpha was .96.
Control variables
To reduce the likelihood of possible alternative explanations, we also collected demo-
graphic data that may affect followers’ perceptions of TFL, LMX, and emotional
exhaustion. Specifically, we controlled for the effects of age, gender, and police seniority.
Analytic strategy
We used multilevel modelling to test our hypotheses in Mplus 7.0 (Muthén and
Muthén 2015), as the studied police officers are employed at precincts (police stations);
TFL, LMX, and emotional exhaustion were thus used as individual (Level 1) variables.
All predictor variables were grand mean centred as recommended by Hofmann,
Griffin, and Gavin (2000). We computed squared terms on the centred scores for
TFL and LMX. For all analyses, we controlled for the age, gender, and seniority of the
police officers, as each of these features may affect the leadership constructs (TFL and
LMX) and emotional exhaustion.
Our theoretical model tests nonlinear mediation from TFL (X) to emotional
exhaustion (Y) through LMX (M). Specifically, our model can be described by the
following set of equations (excluding control variables):
M¼iMþaX þeM:(1)
To test the mediation hypothesis, we employed the approach described by Hayes and
Preacher (2010), which is specifically designed for nonlinear mediation. In our model,
path a is linear while path b is quadratic. Consequently, the indirect effect must be
computed according to the following formula: θ¼a b1þ2b2iMþaX½ ð Þ (see Hayes
and Preacher 2010, 633). As the formula shows, the indirect effect is not constant as in
traditional linear mediation but depends on the value of the predictor X. In other
words, the mediating effect of LMX depends on the level of TFL. Because the indirect
effect is not constant, in this approach, the indirect effect is known as the instantaneous
indirect effect (Hayes and Preacher 2010). The instantaneous indirect effect is the
mediating effect of the mediator (LMX) at a specific value of the predictor (TFL). Our
analysis of instantaneous indirect effects allows us to understand the relationship
between TFL and exhaustion by identifying levels of TFL at which LMX acts as
a mediator.
Preliminary analyses
Table 1 reports descriptive statistics. We performed confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)
of TFL, LMX, and emotional exhaustion to assess the quality of our measures. The
analysis yielded a satisfactory fit (χ2 [594] = 27.786, p < .01, confirmatory fit index
[CFI] = .965, root mean square of approximation [RMSEA] = .074, standardized root
mean square residual [SRMR] = .056) significantly better than those of the alternative
measurement models (p Δχ2 < .01).
Next, we investigated whether the participants’ responses are related to their pre-
cincts. A one-way analysis of the variance in the two outcome variables reveals that
a significant amount of variance can be explained by differences between precincts for
emotional exhaustion (F[34,771] = 1.657, p < .05, intraclass correlation [ICC] = .028)
and LMX (F[34,771] = 1.534, p < .05, ICC = .021). The ICC values are very low,
meaning that using a multilevel framework did not result in substantial improvements
in the non-multilevel analyses (Bliese 2000).
Main analyses
We first tested the relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion. For our first
model, we entered the control variables (age, gender, and seniority) as predictor
variables (Model 1a). For our second model, we entered TFL and the squared term
for TFL as predictor variables (Model 1b). In both models, the dependent variable is
emotional exhaustion. Table 2 reports the estimates of both models. Figure 1 (Panel A)
reports the plot of the relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion while
controlling for age, gender, and seniority.
Model 2b explains significantly more variance than Model 2a (ΔF = 14.05, p < .001).
Consistent with the hypothesized U-shaped curvilinear relationship, the squared term
for TFL is positive and significant (B¼:090;p<:01). The linear term is also significant
(B¼ :236;p<:001), suggesting that higher levels of TFL negatively relate to emotional
exhaustion, but only to the point at which there is no additional benefit of more TFL.
We then tested the mediation hypothesis by including TFL (X), LMX (M), and
emotional exhaustion (Y). Prior to testing the mediation hypothesis, we ran regression
analyses to investigate (1) the hypothesized linear relationship between the predictor
(TFL) and the mediator (LMX) and (2) the hypothesized U-shaped curvilinear rela-
tionship between the mediator (LMX) and the outcome (emotional exhaustion) while
controlling for TFL. In both analyses, we controlled for age, gender, and seniority.
Table 1. Means, standard deviations, alphas, and correlations.
Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6
1. Age 37.30 7.39 -
2. Gender (0 = Female, 1 = Male) .92 .27 .12 -
3. Seniority 14.66 7.81 .93 .11 -
4. Transformational Leadership (TFL) 2.34 .75 −.13 .04 −.14 (.94)
5. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) 2.66 1.13 −.12 .04 −.13 .63 (.96)
6. Emotional Exhaustion 2.44 .90 .01 .00 .01 −.10 −.22 (.90)
N = 806. SD = Standard deviation. Correlations of >.06 are significant at p =.05. Reliabilities are shown in
parentheses on the diagonal.
We entered the control variables (age, gender, and seniority) as predictors of LMX
(Model 2a). Next, we entered TFL as a predictor (Model 2b). Table 3 reports the
estimates of Models 2a and 2b. Model 2b explains significantly more variance than
Model 2a (ΔF = 1188.34, p < .001). Consistent with our hypothesis, the association
Table 2. Estimates of models predicting emotional exhaustion.
Emotional exhaustion
Model 1a Model 1b Model 1 c 95% Confidence Interval
Step 1. Control variables
Age −.002 −.005 −.002 [−.027;.022]
Gender −.007 .015 .032 [−.245;.310]
Seniority .004 .005 .002 [−.024;.028]
Step 2. Total effects of TFL
TFL −.236*** −.047 [−.151;.056]
Squared TFL .090** .004 [−.088;.096]
Step 3. Direct effects of LMX
LMX −.157*** [−.244; −.069]
Squared LMX .087* [.005;.170]
Overall F.07 5.66 7.46
.03 .06 .08
ΔF14.05*** 11.61***
.03 .03
N = 806. TFL = Transformational leadership; LMX = Leader-member exchange. *** p <.001; ** p <.01; * p <.05.
Figure 1. Graphic representation of the relationships between transformational leadership and emotional exhaus-
tion (Panel A), transformational leadership and LMX (Panel B), and LMX and emotional exhaustion (Panel C).
Table 3. Estimates of models predicting leader-member exchange (LMX).
Model 2a Model 2b 95% Confidence Interval
Step 1. Control variables
Age −.001 .009 [−.009;.026]
Gender .213 .071 [−.112;.256]
Seniority −.012 −.012 [−.029;.005]
Step 2. Total effect of TFL
TFL 1.037 [.978; 1.096]
Overall F4.76 305.87
.04 .61
N = 806. TFL = Transformational leadership; LMX = Leader–member exchange. *** p < .001; ** p <
.01; * p < .05.
between TFL and LMX is positive and significant (B¼1:040;p<:001). Figure 1 (Panel
B) shows the linear relationship between TFL and LMX.
Table 2 (Model 1 c) reports the results of the analysis involving the mediator (LMX) and
outcome (emotional exhaustion) while controlling for TFL; Figure 1 (Panel C) shows the
representation. Model 1 c explains significantly more variance than Model 1b (ΔF = 11.61,
p < .001). Consistent with our expectations, the squared term for LMX is positive and
significant (B¼:087;p<:05). The linear term is also significant (B¼ :157;p<:001),
suggesting that higher levels of LMX negatively relate to emotional exhaustion but only to
the point at which there is no additional benefit of more LMX. In this model, TFL and its
squared term are no longer significant, which is in line with our mediation hypothesis.
We then tested the mediation hypothesis by computing instantaneous indirect
relationships for various levels of TFL. Figure 2 shows a plot of instantaneous indirect
relationships against TFL together with their 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
As Figure 2 shows, combining the linear path a and the quadratic path b yields
a linear curve for the instantaneous indirect relationship between TFL and emotional
exhaustion through LMX. For low levels of TFL, the instantaneous indirect relation-
ship is significantly negative. The absolute value of the instantaneous indirect relation-
ship decreases as TFL increases and becomes non-significant for high levels of TFL
(95% CIs include 0).
Our analysis of the instantaneous indirect effect allows us to better understand the
curvilinear relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion. Note that we found
a negative relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion, but only to the point at
which there is no additional benefit of more TFL (Model 1). In calculating instanta-
neous indirect effects, we find that at low levels of TFL, the relationship between TFL
and emotional exhaustion is mediated by LMX. In other words, at low levels of TFL,
Figure 2. Instantaneous indirect mediation effect of transformational leadership on emotional exhaustion via
LMX as a function of transformational leadership.
TFL negatively relates to emotional exhaustion, as more TFL leads to more LMX,
which in turn leads to less exhaustion.
The situation is very different at high levels of TFL. The relationship between TFL
and exhaustion weakens and even starts to reverse as TFL increases. Our analysis of
instantaneous indirect effects reveals that at higher levels of TFL, LMX reaches a level
at which it no longer contributes to exhaustion. Consequently, at high levels of TFL,
the instantaneous indirect effect becomes non-significant, and there is no relationship
between TFL and emotional exhaustion.
Our research aims to contribute to current understanding of leadership and exhaustion
in public organizations. Previous theoretical perspectives and empirical works argue
for linear relationships, but we challenge this conventional wisdom by postulating the
presence of a curvilinear (i.e. U-shaped) relationship between TFL and emotional
exhaustion through LMX among French police officers. According to the TMGT
framework (Pierce and Aguinis 2013) and a framework that integrates the theories
of COR (Hobfoll 1989) and SET (Blau 1964), our study suggests that the relationship
between TFL and emotional exhaustion through the mediation of LMX is more likely
to be curvilinear.
Consistent with COR assumptions and previous work (e.g. Harms et al. 2017), we
propose that TFL may act as a contextual resource that allows followers to deploy their
own resources more effectively and thereby reduce their levels of emotional exhaus-
tion. However, our results suggest that the negative effect of TFL on emotional
exhaustion may not be perfectly linear; it becomes less and less pronounced. It
seems that TFL reduces emotional exhaustion only to a point (i.e. inflection point) at
which there are no benefits of more TFL. Beyond this inflection point, when TFL
increases from moderate to high, levels of emotional exhaustion are more likely to
increase. Our results suggest that this counterintuitive finding can be attributed to the
fact that LMX as a mediator may reach a level at which it no longer reduces emotional
Specifically, at low to moderate TFL levels, LMX may serve as both a resource and
a reservoir of resources that may be drawn on as predicted by role theory (Liden,
Sparrowe, and Wayne 1997) such that it reduces exhaustion. Additionally, TFL
enhances LMX by strengthening the reciprocation norm (through a social exchange
mechanism), which motivates followers to reciprocate (Ng 2017; Carnevale et al. 2020).
However, our results suggest that beyond the inflection point, when TFL increases
from moderate to high, the reciprocation norm induced by LMX may lead to exhaus-
tion. Thus, beyond this point, the relationship between LMX quality and emotional
exhaustion is more likely to become positive due to permanently expanded obligations
(i.e. social exchange rationale), resulting in a curvilinear relationship. Overall our
results suggest that below a certain level, TFL has motivating but also draining aspects
according to the quality of relationships with leaders.
Theoretical contributions
We contribute to TFL research by theoretically explaining how (i.e. through LMX) and
when (i.e. through curvilinear relationships) TFL is most likely to be associated with
police officers’ emotional exhaustion. Our research in turn identifies a new avenue for
leadership research in public organizations and law enforcement by revealing some
unintended effects of TFL. Followers may respond to highly transformational leaders
with more exhaustion. In addition to focusing on constructive forms of leadership,
prior literature has explored the negative effects or ‘dark side’ of leadership (Conger
1990) by using terms such as ‘destructive,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘derailed,’ ‘tyrannical,’ or ‘abusive’ to
describe ‘poor’ leader behaviours (e.g. harassment and mistreatment of subordinates)
(see Schyns and Schilling 2013 for a meta-analysis overview of destructive leadership;
Mackey et al. 2017 for a meta-analysis overview of abusive supervision). In the TFL
literature, the term ‘pseudo-transformational leadership’ describes cases in which
leaders’ intentions or motives explain the negative effects of TFL behaviours (Bass,
Avolio, and Atwater 1996). Pseudo-transformational leadership differs from TFL, as it
is manifested rom a combination of TFL behaviours (i.e. low idealized influence and
high inspirational motivation (Barling, Christie, and Turner 2008). Other authors
propose that TFL changes the relationship between leaders and followers from a two-
way exchange to a one-way process of domination that has inherently negative effects
(Collinson, Smolović Jones, and Grint 2017). By focusing on constructive leadership,
we introduce another approach to understanding the potentially negative effects of
TFL as a result of the TMGT effect; that is, leaders’ intentions, motivations, or
dispositions (Dasborough and Ashkanasy 2002) are not necessarily the cause of
harmful effects (i.e. transformational leaders ‘doing it wrong’). Rather, such effects
may be the result of the core component of leadership and its curvilinear nature.
Several scholars acknowledge that leadership is a complex phenomenon and call for
explorations of the U-shaped relationships between leadership and employee out-
comes (Crosby and Bryson 2018; Vergauwe et al. 2018). Despite the popularity of
TFL among practitioners and public management scholars (Ospina 2017), to our
knowledge, this is the first study to empirically test the curvilinear effects of TFL on
followers’ exhaustion. Our results support the idea that TFL has motivating but also
draining aspects at below and above a certain level. The observed curvilinear outcomes
may explain why previous studies uncover inconsistent and inconclusive effects when
studying the relationship between TFL and stress (Arnold et al. 2015).
Although TFL has been shown to influence employee wellbeing through mean-
ingfulness of work, trust in leaders, self-efficacy, or striving (Arnold et al. 2007; Liu,
Siu, and Shi 2010; Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and Binnewies 2018), this study also
demonstrates that LMX is an important mechanism by which TFL affects well-being.
This result reinforces Ng’s (2017) recent work by confirming that LMX is the most
proximal antecedent of TFL and is an important mechanism for both performance
outcomes and well-being. We find evidence of full mediation, suggesting that the
curvilinear relationship between TFL and emotional exhaustion stems from social
exchange components. Furthermore, our findings support the few studies that find
curvilinear effects of LMX on workplace stress outcomes (Harris, Kacmar, and Witt
2005; Harris and Kacmar 2006; Sui et al. 2016).
We provide a more refined theoretical framework for understanding the curvilinear
relationship between leadership and emotional exhaustion in public organizations by
combining the theoretical lenses of COR theory (Hobfoll 1989) and SET (Blau 1964).
We answer various calls from public management scholars to develop and test leader-
ship theory with an emphasis on causality and theory building (Ospina 2017; Crosby
and Bryson 2018; Hartley 2018).
Finally, though substantial work examines the effects of TFL on followers’ attitudes
and behaviours, it tends to focus on leaders’ active roles and attributes. A follower-
centric approach devoted to the ‘romance of leadership’ (Meindl 1995) prompted
Shamir (2007) to suggest that scholars ‘reverse the lens’ by studying followers’ needs,
values, wants, and preferences with regard to their perceptions of and reactions to
different leadership styles and levels. Our findings of the curvilinear effects of TFL on
emotional exhaustion through LMX suggest that TFL and its positive or negative
consequences may be the result of followers’ perceptions and feelings of adequacy
related to their pre-existing and evolving needs. This notion not only supports the
literature on the importance of followers’ basic need fulfilment through leadership
processes (Kovjanic et al. 2012) but also confirms evidence on the adequacy of these
needs and on their alignment with leadership styles, amounts, and levels (de Vries,
Roe, and Taillieu 2002).
Practical contributions
Scholars often frame leadership constructs as ‘positive’ or ‘desirable’ in any and all
amounts and levels (Pierce and Aguinis 2013) while neglecting the dynamism of the
modern workplace (Cavarretta et al. 2015). Our results suggest that leadership beha-
viours traditionally regarded as beneficial (i.e. TFL and LMX) can have detrimental
effects on the emotional exhaustion of public employees when practiced at extraor-
dinary levels. In other words, too little or too much TFL or LMX can be dysfunctional.
By identifying counter-theoretical effects of TFL on emotional exhaustion via LMX, we
can identify best leadership practices for public organizations.
First, there is a need to more thoroughly consider the impact of leadership practices
on public servants’ work outcomes from various perspectives such as health issues.
Because TFL and LMX have been associated with positive performance outcomes,
public managers have been heavily influenced by the notion that such behaviours will
necessarily result in outcomes that are systematically more desirable (Ospina 2017;
Crosby and Bryson 2018). However, our findings suggest that leaders who engage in
excessive TFL or LMX behaviours with their followers can generate emotional exhaus-
tion among these followers. Public managers should be aware of the potentially
negative effects of leadership (as well as their positive effects of course).
Second, our findings indicate that moderate levels of TFL and LMX are preferable.
While it is difficult to draw a precise line between ‘just enough’ and ‘too much’ of
certain leadership behaviours, we identify a few factors that can influence positive
leadership effectiveness in public organizations. We recommend that police managers
maintain a balanced approach when engaging in TFL behaviours towards their fol-
lowers. For those whose TFL may be above optimal, coaching and development
programmes aimed at managing potential operational weaknesses, enhancing self-
awareness, and encouraging self-regulation can be useful (Kark, Van Dijk, and
Vashdi 2018). Highly transformational leaders can also benefit from receiving feedback
from their co-workers on their effectiveness, revealing any potential gaps between their
perceptions and the perceptions of others. In contrast, coaching programs for leaders
low on transformational behaviours may focus more on encouraging their strategic
actions in police stations.
More generally, instead of providing ‘one-size-fits-all’ advice, we encourage public
leaders to develop their own best practices by continuously taking the pulse of their
teams and establishing the extent to which their subordinates need more or less
transformational action. This implication is in line with recent work by Lee et al.
(2019), who empirically demonstrate the importance of consistency in performance-
related relationships (i.e. viewing relationships with followers in terms of both
quality and a lack of ambiguity). Furthermore, our work can help public managers
understand why TFL interventions intended to have positive effects may evoke
negative effects. For example, providing TFL behavioural training to work unit
leaders may produce emotional exhaustion in followers with strong LMX relation-
ships with trained leaders.
Accordingly, we propose several ways to mitigate police officers’ experiences of
emotional exhaustion (TFL training, evaluation of supervisors’ TFL as part of annual
developmental assessments, 360° feedback (see Piccolo and Colquitt 2006), and the use
of instruments such as Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire Form 5X-Short (Bass and
Bass 2008)) to tailor levels of transformational action to the needs of subordinates. To
differentiate and adapt their levels of transformational action, managers should iden-
tify their employees’ needs and characteristics. By ensuring that leaders express TFL
behaviours at moderate levels, organizations can better protect police officers’ mental
health and reduce their levels of job stress.
Our findings also reveal the importance of establishing quality relationships between
leaders and followers. Public organizations might consider reassigning leaders or fol-
lowers to break up ‘toxic’ or ‘overly friendly’ dyads. Therefore, our results suggest that
enhancing TFL behaviours in public organizations should also encourage LMX, which
might be especially relevant in contexts such as those of law enforcement. This implica-
tion is strengthened by research that links LMX to enhanced individual health (see
Harms et al. 2017). Public managers can more readily and quickly tailor the quality of
the relationships they share with their followers than change their employees’ percep-
tions and psychological attitudes which are unobservable, subjective, and time-
consuming to change. Finally, recent works suggest that leaders are not the only source
of social exchange relationships that can develop through horizontal processes within
teams (see Banks et al. 2014 for a meta-analysis). Thus, public organizations should
develop team practices that create and enhance adequate social exchange relationships
among co-workers beyond those initiated by leaders (Lee et al. 2019).
Limitations and research directions
Several limitations to our study reveal new avenues for research. First, our use of self-
reported measures leaves our findings vulnerable to single-source bias (Podsakoff,
MacKenzie, and Podsakoff 2012). While we defend that individuals are in the best
position to provide information regarding their experiences of leadership and burnout
(see McKee et al. 2018 for a different point of view), future research should try to avoid
issues associated with self-ratings by having direct supervisors rate their leadership
styles or experiences of burnout or by using ratings from colleagues or family members
(Hildenbrand, Sacramento, and Binnewies 2018). Furthermore, our temporal separa-
tion of our predictorsfrom our outcome variable likely to supports the curvilinear
relationship and mediation results observed. In addition, single-source variance is not
likely to influence interactions and curvilinear effects (Siemsen, Roth, and Oliveira
2010). We also rely on solid, well-established theoretical rationales.
Second, we collected our data from a single organization. While this approach
helped control for potentially confounding effects across organizations and activities
(Hannah et al. 2009), the singular context considered may have also created unique
conditions that increased the observed range of leadership constructs (Hällgren,
Rouleau, and de Rond 2018). Prior research has shown that leadership in police
organizations can affect officers’ health and wellness (Burke 2017). This study finds
a curvilinear relationship between TFL, LMX, and emotional exhaustion among
French police officers. The external validity of these findings depends on how similar
the effects of leadership on officers’ health are in police organizations in other countries
with different institutional and cultural characteristics to the effects found in French
police organizations. In interpreting the impact of TFL on emotional exhaustion, one
cannot ignore the importance of work contexts. TFL is not independent of work
environments (van Knippenberg and Sitkin 2013). Organizational variables such as
organizational structure may also play an important role here. Context may also be
determined by cultural concerns. As we focus on French police officers in this study,
the relationships obtained here may be considered unique to the specific structures and
cultures involved. However, we believe that high-stress, high-pressure situations are
rather typical for the ‘normal’ leadership contexts of many public organizations (e.g.
nursing and firefighting) enhancing the likelihood of finding a too-much-of-a-good-
thing effect (de Rond, Rouleau, and Hällgren 2018).
Studies of other settings (e.g. different public organizations and national cultures)
would reinforce confidence in the generalizability of our results. Moreover, we used
a unidimensional measure of TFL and LMX to capture all transformational beha-
viours and the exchange relationship. While the use of a composite unidimensional
measure of TFL and LMX is consistent with prior research, future research should
investigate whether specific dimensions of TFL and LMX might affect the findings
reported in this study. Furthermore, recent studies in public management recom-
mend the use of a specific measure of TFL related to public organizations to over-
come limitations noted by van Knippenberg and Sitkin (2013) (see also Jensen et al.
2019 for a complete discussion). However, in line with previous works, we adhere to
the original Bass Full Range Leadership Model (and the MLQ) and do not divide the
four transformational subscales, as they are intended to form a measure of transfor-
mational leadership, which is conceptualized as a driver of change in an organiza-
tion. Our attempt is also important because the TFL research has been criticized for
a lack of clarity as a result of different approaches used by different researchers and
for a lack of theoretical justification of the mediating processes tested (van
Knippenberg and Sitkin 2013).
Third, we did not introduce contextual factors into our analysis of the relationship
between TFL and emotional exhaustion. Previous research indicates that this relation-
ship is positive or negative depending on specific moderators used such as followers’
attributes or organizational contexts (see van Knippenberg and Sitkin 2013). For exam-
ple, in conditions of high levels of environmental uncertainty, the inflection point in the
curvilinear association between TFL and exhaustion might occur at higher levels of TFL
than it would in conditions of low levels of environmental uncertainty. Contingency
approaches to leadership also suggest testing the TMGT effects of TFL while using
followers’ attributes and needs (i.e. self-determination theory) as moderators.
Another research focus arises from the sequential relationships between TFL, LMX,
and emotional exhaustion. Much more explanation is needed about the processes by
which TFL affects public servants. Montano et al.’s (2017) recent meta-analysis shows
that burnout mediates the relationship between leadership and job performance. Qin
et al. (2014) support the idea that emotional exhaustion is not always detrimental for
followers; in specific conditions, it may magnify employees’ propensities to engage in
prohibitive voice behaviours. It is worth exploring the mediating role of emotional
exhaustion in workplace performance outcomes according to a curvilinear framework
to determine whether exhaustion is a prerequisite of strong performance when TFL
levels are high or when LMX is of high quality.
In this study, we build and test a theoretical model based on COR and SET to explore
how, through LMX, TFL may be related to emotional exhaustion. In line with the
TMGT framework, our results suggest a U-shaped relationship between TFL and
emotional exhaustion as a result of LMX. Our findings clarify how TFL is more likely
to be related to exhaustion and highlight the potential detrimental effects of TFL when
it goes beyond a tipping point. Much more research applying experimental and
nonexperimental designs to different contexts is needed before we can draw any
definite conclusions about the complex effects of leadership on employee wellbeing
in public organizations.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Notes on contributors
Mathieu Molines is Assistant Professor in Management at ESCE International Business School. His
research focus on leadership and wellbeing at work. He is specialized in survey studies and field
Assâad El Akremi is Professor in Management at Toulouse School of Management, specialized in
Human Resources Management. His research focus on leadership and micro corporate social respon-
sibility. He has published in leading journals such as Journal of Management, Journal of
Organizational Behavior, and Journal of Management Studies.
Martin Storme is assistant Professor at IESEG School of Management. His research interests include
creativity, personality, and research methods.
Pinar Celik is assistant Professor at Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. She is
specialized in cognitive and experimental psychology with a specific focus on emotions.
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... As far-fetched as this argument may appear, it is important to acknowledge that this type of phenomenon is not uncommon. For example, research has shown that leaders who are too transformational (Molines et al., 2022), too ethical (Stouten et al., 2013), or too smart (Antonakis et al., 2017) tend to be perceived less favorably by followers. These findings suggest that an extreme level of leaders' PSM may have a perverse negative effect on employees' well-being as well. ...
... To date, the negative consequences of public leadership remain largely underexplored (Jensen, Andersen, & Jacobsen, 2019;Vogel & Werkmeister, 2021). While PA scholars have begun to consider the perverse effects of positive leadership styles on employees' well-being (e.g, Molines et al., 2022), it remains an empirical yet practical question as to whether leaders' PSM may exert a similar undesirable effect, and, if so, when and how. ...
... J. Perry et al., 2011). A recent study in PA by Molines et al. (2022) also reported that high levels of transformational leadership lead to a nonlinear increase in the police's emotional exhaustion via a decline in the quality of leader-member exchange (LMX). Similarly, Nielsen and Daniels (2016) showed that under transformational leaders, employees feel compelled to show up at work even when ill. ...
Full-text available
Past research has shed important light on the dark side of individuals’ public service motivation (PSM) in relation to their own well-being. This study turns attention to the role of leader PSM and asks whether it could have a curvilinear relationship with subordinate emotional exhaustion. Drawing from the person–environment (P-E) fit perspective, this study proposes that this curvilinear relationship is mediated by perceptions of person–supervisor (PS) fit and moderated by subordinate PSM. The results from the field and two experimental vignette studies in Thailand provide support for the proposed hypotheses. In particular, higher levels of emotional exhaustion and lower levels of PS fit were observed at the low and high levels of leader PSM, whereas the moderate level of leader PSM was associated with lower emotional exhaustion and higher PS fit. The results from the experimental studies further indicate that individuals with high PSM, in comparison with those with low PSM, perceived higher PS fit with leaders who have moderate to high levels of PSM, in turn, experiencing less emotional exhaustion. These findings highlight the potential dark side of leader PSM, which lends further credence to the too-much-of-a-good-thing effect. Nevertheless, these effects also depend on employees’ PSM levels.
... Turnover theorists have indicated the predictors of the nurse's turnover and the intention to leave result from the personal psychosocial factors and working environments (Portoghese et al., 2015;Hegney et al., 2019), including personal characteristics (Guo et al., 2018;Foster et al., 2020), individual's attitudes and feelings Simone et al., 2018;Fasbender et al., 2019) and working conditions (Fallatah et al., 2017;Perreira et al., 2018;Zhao et al., 2018;Galletta et al., 2019;Kim et al., 2019). Leaders are considered as the proximity of the organizations, and as a dimension of P-E fit theory, the person-supervisor fit has attracted less attention than other P-E fit dimensions (Guay et al., 2019;Enwereuzor et al., 2021), and the interpersonal relationship involving the leader and subordinates will have a critical impact on organizational outcomes (Tanskanen et al., 2019;Fein et al., 2020;Molines et al., 2022). ...
... Turnover intention is an employee's conscious and willingness to leave an organization or job after deliberation (Suifan et al., 2020). Based on the perspective of the P-E fit theory (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005), supervisors are considered as the proximity of the organizations, and the quality of the interpersonal relationship involving the leader and subordinates will have critical impact on organizational outcomes (Tanskanen et al., 2019;Fein et al., 2020;Molines et al., 2022). Past research studies have indicated that scholars should integrate employees' psychological status, attitudes and their working context, such as leadership, to fully understand the antecedents of turnover intention (Suifan et al., 2020;Nowak, 2021). ...
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Purpose: This study aims to use "both-and" thinking of Yin-Yang philosophy to extend the field of leadership literatures and explore the influences of paradoxical leadership and emotional intelligence on organizational identification and turnover intentions of nurses. Design/methodology/approach: The authors adopted a cross-sectional survey completed by 285 nurses in Taiwan. SPSS 22, PROCESS and AMOS 21 were used for data analysis. Findings: The results reveal that paradoxical leadership has a significant positive relationship with nurses' organizational identification and a significant negatively relationship with their turnover intentions, and organizational identification partially mediated the relationship between paradoxical leadership and turnover intentions. The results further show that emotional intelligence strengthens the effect of paradoxical leadership on organizational identification, and paradoxical leadership had a stronger indirect effect on turnover intentions through organizational identification under strong emotional intelligence. Originality/value: Paradoxical leadership can strengthen managers' abilities in dealing with interrelated and substantial issues and correspond to organizing and belonging paradoxes in holistic thinking processes. Health-care organizations must shape a coordinated institution and offer training initiatives to increase managers' ability and attitude to control organizational rules and procedures while allowing employees' flexibility and autonomy according to the requirements of the situation, which will maintain both organizational short-term benefits and long-term growth.
... First, although current studies have started to recognize the benefits of transformational leaders for themselves from a self-perspective (Cesinger et al. 2023;ul zia et al. 2023), this work has ignored the source of the relevant expenses associated with such leaders' activities. Consequently, we adopted a COR perspective to challenge the general notion that greater transformational leadership is a generally good mechanism (Lin et al. 2019;Molines et al. 2022). Furthermore, we incorporated followers' external and internal social capital both at firm and unit levels into the fields of the impacts of transformational leader behaviors on corporate entrepreneurship performance. ...
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This study advances research on sustainable corporate entrepreneurship performance and social capital by exploring how the development of unit-level employees’ internal network knowledge and firm-level top management team’s (TMT) external network knowledge affect the association between transformational leadership and sustainable corporate entrepreneurship performance. By analyzing data of 561 top managers, 760 managers, and 1563 employees from 282 units in 87 firms from the high technology and manufacturing industries, we found that transformational leaders were relevant to the growth of employees’ internal bridging knowledge ties behavior at the unit level and sustainable corporate entrepreneurial performance. However, such association was moderated by firm-level TMT’s external bridging knowledge ties behaviors such that the influence was stronger as firm-level TMT external bridging knowledge ties behaviors lessened. This reveals the relationship between an unrecognized cost of firm TMT’s external bridging ties behaviors and corporate entrepreneurship performance. Finally, the implications, limitations, and scope for future research are discussed.
... This context is suitable for a transformational type of leader who represents the initiator of such reforms. In addition to these authors, in the scientific literature there is a large number of researchers who are of the same opinion that transformational leadership is effective in the process of implementing reforms and that it can have a positive impact on the acceptance and implementation of organizational changes in public sector organizations (Van der Voet, 2016;Orazi et al., 2013;Wright & Pandey, 2010;Molines et al., 2020;Pyle & Cangemi, 2019;Campbell, 2018;Moynihan et al., 2013;Elmasry & Bakri, 2019;Busari et al., 2020;Hoai et al., 2022). In order to reach the realization of the strategic goals defined by the Action Plan and for the reform of the public sector to realize its contribution, it is necessary to develop leadership at all levels of the organization (Brosnahn, 2001). ...
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Public sector reform is one of the Government of the Republic of Serbia strategic goals. The strategy envisages the improvement of the human resources management system, which includes the development of professional capacities. In order for public sector reform to achieve its contribution, it is necessary to develop effective leadership at all levels. The effectiveness of the leadership process is influenced by many factors. One of the factors refers to the characteristics of the leader, his abilities and skills to make and implement optimal decisions. The decision-making process itself also depends on the circumstances, i.e. the situation in which the decision is made, as well as the environment that affects the decision-making process. There are situations that are certain, where the decision maker has sufficient information and can immediately see the effects of each alternative before implementation. In that case, decision-making is significantly facilitated, because it boils down to the technical problem of quality assessment of alternatives and their comparison. But, in most cases, the circumstances, that is, the environment is uncertain and complex. The decision-maker in such situations usually does not have enough information and therefore it is difficult or impossible to check their effectiveness and develop potential alternatives. The main goal of the work is to use the new multicriteria decision-making method PIPRECIA to evaluate and define the importance of key factors influencing the behavior of leaders and contributing to the effectiveness of the leadership process important for the implementation of reforms in the Republic of Serbia public sector. The results of this method application indicate that the key factor influencing the leader's behavior is C5-Characteristics of the leaders. The results provide important information to managers of public organizations on how to manage change more effectively.
... Third, we extend the literature on job stressors in public service (e.g., Caillier, 2021). Our study shows that political attacks are another potential job stressor besides the typical job demands that are investigated in the PA literature, such as red tape (Giauque et al., 2013), emotional labor (Hsieh et al., 2012), and leadership (Molines et al., 2022). Understanding the antecedents of emotional exhaustion is relevant considering its high prevalence in public service (Sciepura & Linos, 2022) and the fact that employee ill-being and poor physical health can have negative consequences for organizations such as lower performance (Tourigny et al., 2013), increased absenteeism (Santi et al., 2018;Wynen et al., 2019), turnover (Huang et al., 2003), and, consequently, higher replacement costs, more demand for non-sick workers, and poor morale (Harrison & Martocchio, 1998;Stewart et al., 2003). ...
Countries are facing the deterioration of democratic institutions under a process named democratic backsliding. In this context, political attacks on public organizations become more frequent and intense. While previous studies have examined how civil servants counteract and resist political attacks, their ultimate impact on civil servants' well‐being remains underexplored. To shed light on this phenomenon, we conducted an exploratory sequential mixed methods design with civil servants from Brazil. The first phase of the study is qualitative and exploratory. The second is quantitative and we tested if perceived political attacks was associated with higher levels of emotional exhaustion, which, in turn, would lead to a greater incidence of physical health symptoms. Both studies provide compelling evidence of the negative impact of political attacks on civil servants' emotional and physical health, which may have significant consequences for the performance of public organizations and the effective functioning of the democracy.
... Meskipun manajer dan perilaku kepemimpinan transformasional mereka adalah salah satu penentu utama kinerja pekerjaan, karakteristik seperti ciri kepribadian karyawan juga memainkan peran penting dalam membentuk sikap dan perilaku mereka (Buil et al., 2019). Dalam penelitian kepemimpinan, penting untuk memasukkan dukungan pemimpin dalam model penelitian, karena literatur menyatakan bahwa kekurangan utama dalam penelitian kepemimpinan adalah didasarkan pada asumsi bahwa pemimpin bertindak sama dan menunjukkan dukungan yang sama terhadap semua karyawan (Molines et al., 2020). Namun, pemimpin membangun hubungan dengan karyawannya pada tingkat yang berbeda dan melakukan perilaku dukungan yang berbeda berdasarkan tingkat hubungan pribadi dengan karyawannya, serta waktu dan energi yang terbatas yang dia miliki. ...
The development of transformational research publications on employee performance has gradually increased, and consistently increasing trend. Therefore, this study aims to analyze the scientific literature published in the field of transformational leadership research. Scopus database is used for collect literature on the field of transformational leadership based on keyword searches‟ results, and the study completed 203 valid journals for further analysis. Author then using the VOS viewer for data visualization purposes. The results show an increase literature on transformational leadership from 2016 to 2022. Various studies have been conducted on transformational leadership involving multi-author collaboration.
... Стилови понашања треба да се мењају у складу са изазовима и захтевима одређених ситуација, односно треба да прате један еволутивни ток. Из тог разлога, приликом спровођења реформи у јавном сектору треба имати у виду да је најефективније трансформационо (Orazi et al., 2013;Wright & Pandey,2010;Molines et al., 2020;Pyle & Cangemi, 2019), kао и харизматично лидерство. (Hanslik, 2018;Tuan & Thao, 2018;Almarshoodi, 2021;Javidan & Waldman , 2003). ...
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The presence of the corona virus has contributed to increased uncertainty in the international commodity and financial markets. The development of new strains of the virus, the availability of vaccines and the speed of their distribution have affected economic and financial stability. Such movements have not bypassed Serbia either. The aim of this paper is to analyze economic and financial stability in the context of the corona virus pandemic, by presenting the measures of monetary, macroprudential and fiscal policy that Serbia has adequately and timely implemented. In addition, the focus of the paper is on presenting the results of these measures to indicate that the measures applied were necessary and properly implemented. The analysis showed that due to the achieved macroeconomic and financial stability in the years before the pandemic, sufficient fiscal space was created to react with a comprehensive package of measures and that the impact of the pandemic is largely amortized.
... Стилови понашања треба да се мењају у складу са изазовима и захтевима одређених ситуација, односно треба да прате један еволутивни ток. Из тог разлога, приликом спровођења реформи у јавном сектору треба имати у виду да је најефективније трансформационо (Orazi et al., 2013;Wright & Pandey,2010;Molines et al., 2020;Pyle & Cangemi, 2019), kао и харизматично лидерство. (Hanslik, 2018;Tuan & Thao, 2018;Almarshoodi, 2021;Javidan & Waldman , 2003). ...
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Innovations created through the unscientific trial and error method very often do not meet the criteria of sustainable development. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to propose a scientific methodology for generating innovations that will contribute to the fulfillment of all criteria of sustainable development. This implies the creation of eco-innovations with an incorporated high inventive level and relevant market potential. They can be achieved by applying eco-inventology as a science of eco-innovations. In the first phase of this process, using mathematical and physical tools of eco-inventology, the mechanism of problem occurrence in the system is revealed. In the second phase, based on the principle of similarity with it, with the help of various heuristic tools, an adequate resource is searched for, the introduction of which in the system leads to the overcoming of contradictions that lie at the basis of eco-inventive problems.
... Стилови понашања треба да се мењају у складу са изазовима и захтевима одређених ситуација, односно треба да прате један еволутивни ток. Из тог разлога, приликом спровођења реформи у јавном сектору треба имати у виду да је најефективније трансформационо (Orazi et al., 2013;Wright & Pandey,2010;Molines et al., 2020;Pyle & Cangemi, 2019), kао и харизматично лидерство. (Hanslik, 2018;Tuan & Thao, 2018;Almarshoodi, 2021;Javidan & Waldman , 2003). ...
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The contradiction matrix of the Theory of inventive problem solving (Rus. abbr. TRIZ) is not efficient enough to solve complex problems. That is why the goal of this paper is to change that. Efficiency can be improved if, in addition to this tool of TRIZ, the Spatial-temporal LT-contradiction matrix is used as a tool of inventology. In this way, the same inventive problem is viewed dialectically, but with two different aspects. The first is mathematical-physical modeling (inventology), and the second is a heuristic approach (TRIZ). In the first phase of solving the problem, the most relevant contradiction in the problem (X-element) is determined quantitatively and qualitatively. In the second phase, on the principle of similarity with the X-element, a real X-resource is sought. The greater the similarity between the X-element and the X-resource, the closer the ideal solution to the problem is.
Drawing on signalling theory, this study explores the daily cues provided by leaders to promote ethical voice, specifically examining the impact of ethical vision communication as the primary cue. We also investigate the moderating effect of LMX ambivalence as a secondary cue, and how this effect can be diminished by daily interpersonal justice. Our seven-day daily diary study, which involved 68 French police officers, tested this model. The findings indicate that ethical voice is dynamically impacted by ethical vision communication, LMX Ambivalence and interpersonal justice. Finally, we discuss practical implications and provide guidelines to train public leaders.
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While doing good for specific citizens and users is often considered a powerful motivator among public service employees, little research has rigorously evaluated how public managers can promote individualized prosocial motivation. We follow recent studies on the behavioural implications of ‘user orientation’ to explore how public managers can use a specific leadership strategy – transformational leadership – to reinforce employees’ individualized prosocial motivation. Combining a field experiment with 80 childcare centre managers and survey reports from their 590 preschool teachers, we assess the effect of a transformational leadership training programme on user orientation. The results show a positive effect on user orientation three months after the training programme but no persistent effect fifteen months after the intervention. This implies that, at least in the short term, public managers can use transformational leadership behaviours to stimulate user orientation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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This article examines the influence of empowering leadership practices on police officers' job performance, perceptions of managerial effectiveness, and unit performance. These relationships are examined using multisource survey data collected from 100 law enforcement managers, 446 of their subordinates, and 98 of their direct supervisors. The analysis shows that empowering leadership contributes positively to subordinate officers' job performance and unit effectiveness. Empowering leadership is also positively associated with subordinate but not with supervisor ratings of managerial effectiveness. Task‐oriented leadership, however, is positively associated with both subordinate and supervisor ratings of managerial effectiveness. Implications of these results for managerial leadership in law enforcement organizations are discussed.
Recent LMX research suggests that due to boundary conditions, the benefits of high‐quality LMX relationships may not be as straightforward as previously thought. In the voice domain, meta‐analytic evidence further shows that there is substantial variation in the effect sizes reported for the relationship between LMX and voice behaviour. To develop a more thorough understanding of the nature of the LMX–voice relationship, in the present study we draw from LMX theory and the voice literature to theorize and test the curvilinear indirect effect of LMX on employee promotive voice via employees’ felt obligation for constructive change (FOCC). We suggest that this curvilinear effect is contingent on employees’ perceptions of co‐worker voice behaviours and leader solicitation of voice. Survey data collected from 256 employees and their supervising manager working at a large Chinese Internet finance company largely support our predictions. Our findings show that at low‐to‐moderately high levels, LMX is positively associated with promotive voice via FOCC. However, this positive relationship turns negative at very high level of LMX. Results also show a negative relationship between LMX and FOCC (and a negative indirect effect of LMX on promotive voice via FOCC) in the presence of higher levels of co‐worker voice or lower levels of leader solicitation of voice. Contributions to the LMX and voice literatures are discussed. Limitations and future directions are also discussed. Practitioner points High‐quality LMX relationship is not always beneficial to organizations as it may discourage employees from speaking up with new ideas or suggestions at very high levels of LMX. When co‐workers voice, employees are less likely to speak up with new ideas or suggestions as they feel their obligation to improve the organization may already be fulfilled by others. Leader solicitation can effectively encourage employee voice in high LMX relationships.
Transformational leadership theory represents a cornerstone in leadership research. Despite an impressive empirical record highlighted by both the breadth of its nomological network and magnitudes of effects, scholars raise serious construct and content validity concerns. In this article, we address a remarkable oversight in the transformational leadership literature. Few studies have assessed the theory assumption that the positive individual, group, and organizational effects of transformational leadership are due to the transformation of followers in specific and enduring ways. We offer a systematic review of empirical evidence related to follower transformation as the conceptual foundation of transformational leadership theory. Findings from this review highlight the radical leap in the evolution of transformational leadership theory from nascent phenomena to mature paradigm. Calling for a return to nascent and intermediary phases of theory development, we conclude with a research agenda aimed at creating a stronger theory, better measures, and more actionable leadership models.
This paper explores what type of leadership public managers engage in during cutbacks. A qualitative case study involving cutbacks in three public organizations shows how cutbacks trigger centralized decision-making and top-down planned change processes, reducing public managers’ room to manoeuvre. Within such processes, public managers’ leadership behaviour becomes focused on securing employees’ support for change in ways that vary across levels of the organizational hierarchy. Based on a comparison of the empirical findings with insights from the literature streams on change leadership, transformational leadership, and crisis leadership, the paper formulates propositions on how cutbacks affect leadership behaviour of public managers.
Conventional wisdom suggests that ambiguous goals result in undesirable consequences for organizations. However, little research examines the connections between ambiguity, public values, and organizational decisions. We explore the connections between goal ambiguity and the application of public values when making organizational decisions by accounting for transformational leadership. We evaluate the mechanisms through which transformational leaders connect goal clarity and public values. Findings suggest individuals who view leaders as highly transformative view clear goals as promoting public values. Alternatively, individuals who view leaders as lacking transformative traits view clear goals as hampering the application of public values to organizational decisions.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of some pressing but under-researched aspects of public leadership. Ten propositions about public leadership are set out and these are intended to be thought-provoking and even controversial in order to stimulate researchers to design research which addresses key theoretical and practical questions about leadership in the public sphere. They will also help practitioners navigate an increasingly complex leadership context. Design/methodology/approach This invited essay uses ten propositions about public leadership, selected from three sources: the leadership literature, the author’s own research and from collaborative research discussions with academics, policy makers and practitioners. Findings The first proposition argues for distinguishing public leadership from public service leadership given that the former is about leadership of the public sphere. Other propositions concern context; purpose; conflict and contest at the heart of public leadership; leadership with political astuteness; dual leadership; leadership projections; fostering resilience; leadership, authority and legitimacy; and the challenge to researchers to use research designs which reflect the complexity and dynamism of public leadership. Practical implications While this essay is primarily addressed to researchers, there are many ideas and concepts which practising leaders will find insightful and useful in their work. Originality/value This essay draws on deep experience in undertaking high-quality academic research about public leadership which draws from and feeds into policy and practice. It utilises organisational psychology, public management and political science to create synergies in order to enhance the understanding of public leadership.