The impact of transformational leadership on employee work engagement at a mid-sized mining company in South Africa
Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Employee engagement research is an emerging field of study and several models suggest that leadership is crucial in the development of work engagement. However, a gap remains in understanding what leadership behaviours could influence engagement. High levels of employee engagement, which refers to employees’ investment of physical, cognitive and emotional energy in their work, provide significant organisational benefit in almost every conceivable organisational metric. The objective of this research was to explore the impact of transformational leadership on work engagement in a mining company in South Africa from an employee point of view. This exploratory and explanatory study used a cross-sectional design focussing on middle management employees at a Paterson D-Lower level. All employees worked in a mid-sized mining company in South Africa. An online self-reporting survey was used to measure the following constructs and their respective dimensions: work engagement (vigour, dedication and absorption), transformational leadership (individualised consideration, idealised influence, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation) and transactional leadership (contingent reward and management by exception – active). The research questionnaire was adopted from The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The study indicated that transformational leadership does impact work engagement. The survey achieved a 21 per cent total response rate with a 17 per cent response rate of completed questionnaires. Work engagement showed a statistical significant positive correlation with age (r = 0.454, p < 0.05), but no significant correlation with gender, business unit, qualification or time reporting to the same supervisor. There is partial support for the impact of time in a specific job on work engagement, especially for employees who have been in the same job for less than five years. The study found that transformational leadership correlated positively with work engagement (r = 0.33, p = 0.115) as well as with vigour, dedication and absorption. Inspirational motivation showed the highest significant correlation with work engagement (r = 0.474, p = 0.019), while intellectual stimulation (r = 0.152, p > 0.2) did not seem to correlate significantly with work engagement. Individualised consideration (r = 0.296) and idealised influence (r = 0.282) seemed to correlate positively with work engagement (p < 0.2). The study found that vigour and dedication correlated positively with individualised consideration, idealised influence, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation. Absorption differed from vigour and dedication by correlating strongly with management by exemption – active and weakly with all other dimensions, except inspirational motivation. Inspirational motivation showed the highest correlation of all the leadership dimensions with vigour (r = 0.45, p < 0.05), dedication (r = 0.437, p < 0.05) and absorption (r = 0.404, p < 0.1). Transformational leadership’s dimensions combined explain more of the variance in vigour, dedication and absorption than transactional leadership. The impact of transformational leadership on work engagement seemed to be more complex than originally suspected, and individualised consideration, idealised influence, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation should all be present for the transformational leader to impact on engagement. More research is needed to explore the complex interaction between transformational leadership and work engagement, considering possible mediating factors like work environment, personal resources and job resources.