The relationship between leadership paradigms and employee engagement

Tanyu Zhang, Gayle C. Avery, Harald Bergsteiner, Elizabeth More

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – This study investigated whether the direct supervisor's leadership style affects employee engagement using Avery's classical, transactional, visionary, and organic leadership paradigms as the theoretical framework. The study also investigated how many and which components of employee engagement ("say", "stay" and "strive") contribute to the construct. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 439 retail sales assistants in Sydney, Australia, responded to a mixed-mode questionnaire survey. Factor analysis, independent t-tests, analysis of variance and structural regression models were used in the data analysis.

Findings – Both research questions were supported. Results showed that the visionary and organic paradigms are likely to enhance employee engagement, whereas classical and transactional styles negatively affect employee engagement. Furthermore, the data confirmed that the three behavioral-outcome factors all do contribute to the employee engagement construct.

Research limitations/implications – One implication for researchers is that an employee engagement measure with demonstrably high reliability and validity, and known components has been developed. This study could be replicated in different national and occupational contexts, the leadership measures reconfirmed and expanded, follower characteristics included as moderating variables, and links to organizational performance investigated.

Practical implications – The findings suggest that direct supervisors should be encouraged to use visionary and/or organic leadership wherever possible to drive employee engagement.

Originality/value – This paper is original in several ways. It resolves an ongoing dispute in the literature about the components of employee engagement, namely whether all three components contribute to the concept. In answering this question, a valid and reliable questionnaire was developed. Using four leadership paradigms, including classical and organic leadership that are rarely investigated, this study demonstrates that employee perceptions of the leadership style used by their direct supervisor are linked to employee engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of global responsibility
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Employee/community engagement
  • Leadership style
  • Australia


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