Research Work

Leadership is tied to employee well-being through this subjective experience


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In a study by Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway & McKee (2005), they examined the link between the most sought after form of leadership, called transformational leadership, and employee well-being. Transformational leadership is somewhat complex, but essentially consists of four key features:

A transformational leader is someone who has the ability to…

(1) …provide individual consideration to her or his employees

(2) …inspire and motivate her or his employees to challenge themselves

(3) …encourage employees to seek out their own answers by challenging the status quo

(4) …model ethical behaviour by doing “the right thing” when the occasion calls

Arnold and colleagues reasoned that the link between transformational leadership and employee well-being would be the ability of leaders to enhance an employee’s subjective experience that their work has meaning and purpose.

This is how they proposed it would work:


And that is exactly what they found.  Which is great news because transformational leadership is something that can be improved through training.

More recent research has also boosted confidence in these findings by overcoming many of the limitations in this study.

  • Directionality: A longitudinal study (i.e., research that involves measurements that occur over time) has found evidence for the direction of the findings (i.e., leadership leads to meaningfulness which leads to well-being, rather than well-being to meaningfulness to leadership).
  • Single source & other factors: A review of the literature helps overcome the fact that the data in this study were collected from a single source and that several other potential factors were not measured, such as personality.

Take home message: Leader/manager/supervisor/boss/etc (albeit, not always synonymous) behaviour has important consequences on their employees’ well-being (among other things!). It is important for leaders to recognize this and take an honest self-evaluation. To do this effectively, the transformational framework provides an ideal checklist.

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