Investigating the relationship between transformational leadership and employee engagement

Investigating the relationship between transformational leadership and employee engagement.

Investigating the relationship between transformational leadership and employee engagement



In pursuit of postgraduate studies, it is important for the learner to develop their skills in research. It is in the quest to sharpen the skills that the requirement to complete a mock study ought to be met satisfactorily. In the subsequent sections of this paper, the selection of a topic and research design will be developed and justified accordingly based on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire as the quantitative assessment instrument.


Research Topic andPurpose of the Study

The research instrument measures the level of efficiency of leadership styles with the back-up of feedback rating. The main leadership styles assessed by the instrument include passive-avoidant leadership, transformational leadership, and transactional leadership. In this mock study, the researcher will seek to examine whether transformational leadership has a significant impact on employee engagement. Various studies have been conducted over time with regard to this topic and found that there exist a significant relationship (Soieb, Othman, and D’Silva, 2013). A study conducted by Jauhari, Sehgal, and Sehgal (2013) showed that the output and attitudes of the employees improve if they are actively engaged in the operations of the organization including sensitive matters that touch on finances and health risks. Apparently, when the employees are engaged at various levels of decision-making within the organization, their performance tends to increase, thereby boosting the overall productivity and success of the organization (Jha and Kumar, 2016).

Employee engagement is the aspect of an organization that ensures the working environment is suitable for most of the employees if not all of them. This enhances their performance towards achieving the organization’s goals and objectives (Mozammel and Haan, 2016). Employee engagement is, therefore, based upon values of integrity as well as mutual trust among the members of the organization. Notably, in engaging the employees in the affairs of the organization, the business leaders and managers should not put unnecessary pressure and undue influence to induce commitment or foster performance. Rather, it should come through motivation and a conducive working environment that encourages creativity and expression of the employees (Ilsever and Ilsever, 2016).

For effective employee engagement to be realized in the organization, transformational leadership is essential. This is because, under this leadership style, the leader seeks the input of the other employees in identifying issues that need to be changed (Pongpearchan, 2016). The leader then uses his position as the head to create a common goal for solving the issues identified usually through inspiration and being actively involved in achieving the goal set alongside other employees. Consequently, the employees draw motivation from the leader and them, thereby, increase their performance and productivity to ensure that the goals set are met within deadlines and with minimal negative implications if any.

Transformational leadership is characterized by four main behaviors exhibited by those who adopt it (Zahari and Shurbagi, 2012). These include idealized influence where the leaders lead by example and emphasize on values through symbolic actions. Secondly, the leaders exhibit inspirational motivation since they articulate the future appealingly through developing functional ideologies that the employees can easily relate to. Thirdly, they exhibit intellectual stimulation through encouraging the employees to be creative and be sensitive to changes and trends in the work environment. Finally, transformational leaders show individualized consideration through listening to each employee and ensuring that the workload is fairly distributed in the workplace (Zahari and Shurbagi, 2012). Therefore, it is imperative to study whether transformational leadership is indeed a motivator of employee engagement.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

The main aim of this research study is to establish whether there is a linear relationship between transformational leadership and employee engagement in the workplace using a correlational study design. Additionally, employee engagement will be the dependent variable while the independent variable will be transformational leadership. Therefore, the main research question that this study seeks to answer is:

Is there area linear relationship between transformational leadership practices and employee engagement?

This research question requires a substantive answer since two aspects of the question will be addressed. First, does the linear relationship exist? Secondly, if is exists, is it significant or insignificant? As such, the following hypotheses are formulated to guide the process of answering the main research question:

H0: There is no significant linear relationship between transformational leadership practices and engagement of employees in the workplace.

H1:There is a significant linear relationship between transformational leadership practices and engagement of employees in the workplace.

These hypotheses will be used to address the research questions based on the results that will be obtained. Apparently, the null hypothesis assumes a status quo that the transformational leadership practices do not affect employee engagement. On the other hand, the alternative hypothesis assumes that the transformational leadership practices have a relationship with employee engagement. On successful testing of the hypotheses, a comprehensive and evidence-based conclusion will be reached. This will be accomplished through rejecting or failing to reject the null hypothesis.

Hypotheses can either be directional or non-directional depending on the statement of the alternative hypothesis. In the current scenario, the hypothesis is clearly non-directional. This is because the relationship expected from the data has not been stated explicitly as being positive or negative (Vogt, 2007). Therefore, any test results of the correlation coefficient, either positive or negative,will be relevant and acceptable to the researcher. Notably, the alternative hypothesis should remain non-direction in this case since the transformational leadership practices can either enhance or inhibit employee engagement.

It is common practice that if the directional alternative hypothesis is used,the one-tailed approach should be used and if the alternative hypothesis is non-directional, two-tailed approaches should be utilized (Black, 1999). Since the alternative hypothesis in the current study does not have a specified direction, a two-tailed test will be the most appropriate. This implies that the correlation coefficient will be compared relative to zero in either positive or negative dimension.However, the two-tailed test has less statistical power compared to the one-tailed test. While the two-tailed test reduces the likelihood of committing type I error, there are more chances of committing type II error as compared to one-tailed tests. Type I error occurs when there is a rejection of a true null hypothesis and type II error occurs when there is a failure of rejecting a false null hypothesis. The researcher, therefore, will have to be keen on sample size, moderating variables, and sample selection.

In addition to the relationship between transformational leadership practices on the dependent variable, it would also be prudent to establish whether the length of service of a manager affects employee engagement positively or negatively. Apparently, this relationship will also be consistent with the correlational study design since both variables will be measured on the interval/ratio scale. The research question that will be used to capture this relationship is:

Does the length of service of a manager have a relationship with employee engagement?

The associated hypotheses with this research question will be;

H0: There is no relationship between length of service of a manager and employee engagement

H1: There is a positive relationship between the length of service of a manager and employee engagement

The research question and the associated hypotheses are based on the perception that managerial roles take the time to perfect. The employees will also require the leadership of an experienced individual to enhance their performance and productivity. The research hypothesis is considered to be directional since the alternative hypothesis states that the relationship is strictly positive, that is, greater than zero. Therefore, if the relationship will be zero or negative, the null hypothesis will be accepted. Apparently, the alternative hypothesis is directional because the researcher expects that the as the experience of a manager increases, the more likely the employees will be engaged in the workplace. However, since it is only a proposition, the hypothesis can be approved or disapproved based on the data collected.

Notably, the hypothesis test will be one tailed since the alternative hypothesis will be one-tailed. Additionally, it will be a right one-tailed test since the correlation is expected to be greater than zero. This test will be more powerful since it will reduce the likelihood of committing type II error. However,the likelihood of making type I error will also be higher but will be controlled for through utilization of a large sample size and random selection of the study participants (Kothari, 2004).


Research Design

Research design can be considered as the overall strategy that is applicable in organizing the research mechanism in a rational way to guarantee that the research problem is addressed adequately. Since the purpose of this mock study is to find out whether transformational leadership has an effect on employee commitment, the most appropriate research design to utilize is correlational. The design would adequately answer the question of whether there is a connection between transformational leadership and employee engagement. Additionally, the analysis will show the direction of the relationship as being either positive or negative and whether the relationship is significant (Goodwin, 2009). Notably, the nature and measurement of the variables that will be used in this study, that is, transformation leadership and employee engagement, should be in such a way that the design the design will support their analysis.

The correlational research design is a quantitative and non-experimental approach of establishing the relationship that exists between variables (Christens, Johnson, & Turner, 2011). Nevertheless, it is significant to note that the research design, being non-experimental, does not show or proof causation even of a relationship between variables is found to be significant. Additionally, the researcher has no control over any of the observed variables such as leadership practices and employee engagement because measurements are taken under their natural settings in most cases. As such, the researcher analyzes the data obtained without having to replicate the situation in a controlled environment such as a laboratory.

One of the main requirements of a research project is that the results obtained should be valid and reliable such that should the research be repeated again under similar conditions, similar results would be obtained. This holds true for the correlational research design by ensuring that the participants on whom the dependent and independent variables will be measured are randomly selected into the study sample (Vogt, Gardner, and Haeffel, 2012). Random sampling ensures that every subject in the population stands an equal chance of being selected, thereby eliminating subjective bias. This ensures that the correlational design gives reliable and valid results.

Variables and measurement scales

Among the most important steps towards analysis of data is to understand the operational definitions of the variables that will be used in line with the research design. This is because when the variables are properly defined they enlighten the researcher on the purpose of the study as well as the research questions that need to be answered. Additionally, when the variables are defined appropriately, they help in the identification of the correct research instrument and the researchers as well as reviewers of the study understand clearly what aspects the variables are intended to measure. More so, the operational definition provides an overview of how the variables of interest will be measured.

With regard to measurement of the variables, the different levels of measurements should be understood (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2011). Basically, the level of measurement of a variable is the quantitative scale on which the variables will be measured. From a statistical perspective, measurement levels can be classified into four distinct categories. These include nominal scale, ordinal scale, the interval scale, and the ration scale. Under the nominal measurement scale, data is represented as basic text or numbers that cannot be used in the meaningful description, for instance, an identification number. As such, the data has no magnitude or rank. Gender will be measured on this scale. The next measurement level relevant to the proposed study is on the interval scale. This is a scale that lacks an absolute zero but the difference between two adjacent numbers matters. Moreover, data obtained under this scale can be used in obtaining descriptive as well as inferential statistics. Transformational leadership practices, employee engagement, and length of service will be measured on the interval scale.

There is a number of variables that will be monitored and measured in the course of the proposed study. These are classified as the main variables and the demographic variables, which are not central but important to the research study. The main variables will include transformational leadership and employee engagement while the demographic variables that will be included will be gender and the length of time the leader has been in service. These variables are as described below.

Operational definitions

Transformational leadership

The individual characteristics of the leaders will be measured under transformational leadership as a variable. This will be used as the independent variable in the correlational study since it is anticipated that it would affect other variables of interest. The four characteristics of the transformational leaders will be measured using the research instrument. These include intellectual stimulation, idealized behaviors, individualized consideration and inspirational motivation. Apparently, when an assessment is conducted on these characteristics, an overall view of the leadership capabilities will emerge.

The attributes of transformational leadership will initially be measured on the interval scale by scoring each level and summing them for an index score using the Multifactor leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) 5X version created by Bass and Avolio. This is because the validity and reliability of the instrument were ascertained by Antonakis and House (2002). To begin the analysis, the descriptive statistics will be obtained to provide an overall view with regard to central tendency and the dispersion of the scores. The measures of central tendency that will be utilized will be the mean, the mode, and the median. Additionally, the measures of dispersion that will be considered under descriptive statistics will include the variance and the standard deviation. These will provide the distribution and spread of the individual scored around the mean already obtained. Finally, quartiles will be used to group the leaders. The scores between the first quartile and the third quartile will represent normal transformational leadership. Measures up to the first quartile will represent low transformational leadership while the measures above the third quartile will represent high transformational leadership.

The inferential analysis will also be conducted after the descriptive statistics. Notably, inferential statistics are essential in testing research hypothesis and making inferences about a population based on the sample statistics (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2011). An independent samples t-test will be used to establish whether there are any significant differences between the two leadership groups.

Employee engagement

This will form the dependent variable in the research that will be measured as the level of work engagement. The main attributes that will be measured to characterize this variable will be a positive attitude, absorption, dedication, and vigor. According to Schaufeli and Bakker (2003), the best instrument that can be used in this variable measurement will be the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale. This is because Mills, Culbertson, and Fullagar (2012) found that their constructs in the instruments had a high correlation, implying that the instrument was effective and reliable. The questionnaire measures employee engagement on three scales namely absorption, dedication, and vigor using 9 questions, each having 7 options to choose from ranging from never to always. The validity and reliability of this instrument were ascertained by Mills, Culbertson, and Fullagar (2012).

Employee engagement will be on the interval scale. Since the questions are measured on a 7 point Likert scale, the summation of the scores per respondents will form an integer that will be used in the analysis as a discrete variable on the interval scale. This will be essential to ensure that the requirements of the correlational design are met. Like in the transformational leadership, descriptive statistics will be obtained for work engagement. These will include the mean and the median as measures of central tendency and standard deviation as the measure of dispersion. Quartiles will then be obtained and used to conduct a t-test as the inferential statistics.

Finally, the researcher will use the independent variable and the independent variable to obtain the required correlation. Since the assumption is that there is a linear correlation between transformational leadership and employee engagement, Pearson’s correlation coefficient will be used. Other assumptions that will be considered are that the subjects will be randomly selected into the sample and that transformational leadership, as well as employee engagement, will be measured on the interval/ratio scale. In addition to the correlation, the effect size will also be obtained using Cohen’s d to establish the magnitude of the difference between means. Necessary data transformations will be applied if the initial correlation found to be nonlinear.


Gender of the leader will be used as a moderating variable and measured on the nominal scale. The variable will be used to establish whether it influences the behavior of a leader and consequently the impact on employee engagement. In the analysis of gender with regard to transformational leadership, a contingency table will be used.

Length of service

The time that a leader has been in a leadership position will also be considered as a moderating variable. This variable will be measured on the interval scale and used to establish whether it affects the level of employee engagement as expressed by the leader. Quartiles will be used to convert this variable into a categorical variable. The groups obtained will be used in a two-dimensional contingency table together with the groups obtained for transformational leadership. A chi-square test of independence will then be obtained to establish whether the length of service as an association with transformation leadership.

Sampling and Data Collection

There are two main factors that determine the focus of the research within the methodology section. These include sampling and data collection. Apparently, these factors have a direct impact on the credibility of the results obtained from the research (Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, &Zechmeister, 2002).Furthermore, it is very important for the researcher to ensure that the sample chosen is fairly representative of the target population. In this section of the mock study, the sampling technique will be discussed alongside the sample size as well as statistical power. Additionally, the most appropriate data collection technique will also be explored.

The purpose of sampling in every research project is to use a proportion of the population that is deemed to be a fair representation of the target population. This is usually to ensure that the results obtained can be generalized to the population with minimum chances of bias (Vogt, 2007).This is called the external validity of the results since inferences about the population are drawn from a sample. There are various methods through which samples are collected, that is, probabilistic and non-probabilistic sampling. This research study will utilize probabilistic sampling since the intention is to generalize results on the correlation between transformational leadership practices and employee engagement. The latter method may be convenient but faces scientific validity concerns due to its subjective nature.

Under probabilistic sampling, there are four main approaches that are used. These include simple random sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling, and systematic sampling. These methods are efficient in controlling for some of the confounding variables that may affect the reliability of the results obtained. In the current study, systematic sampling will be employed. By definition, systematic sampling is the process of randomly selecting a sample through a sequentially selecting the sample units (Black, 1999).This method entails establishing the population size in the area of interest after which the researchers picks an integer at random that is less than the population size. This integer is then assigned to the first sample unit. Thereafter, every nth unit in the population is selected into the sample. This method is known to increase the external validity of the results since the sample units are selected evenly from the population (Christensen, Johnson, Turner, 2011). Moreover, the systematic approach will be applied in the current study because the human bias is eliminated in the selection of sampling units, which increases the reliability of the results.

The target population of leaders in the organization in the locality is estimated to be about 1,500. Therefore, the researcher will pick about 300 leaders at random to participate in the study. To achieve this through systematic sampling approach, the researcher will create a list of all the leaders who are assumed to have transformational leadership practices in their organization, assuming the population of 1,500 leaders. Secondly, this will entail selecting an integer at random between 1 and 1,499 and the integer will represent the first person to be represented in the sample. Finally, every 5thperson will be selected from the list to attain the desired sample size of about 300 leaders. This sample size will be deemed to be adequate since it is large and chosen using a probabilistic approach. Furthermore, it will ensure that most characteristics of the population, if not all, are captured in the sample.

Another important aspect that the researcher is supposed to take into consideration is the statistical power of the test. This is a representation of the strength as well as the validity of results based on the sample information. By definition, statistical power is the probability of avoiding type II error, where type II error is the likelihood of accepting a false null hypothesis. Statistical power is typically affected by two factors namely sample size and the level of significance of the hypothesis test. Sufficiently large sample sizes warrant higher statistical power. More so, when the level of increases, the power of the test also tends to increase although this increases the likelihood of committing type I error.

Regarding data collection, information will be obtained through the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The questionnaire will be administered to the leaders physically by the researcher as well as online for those who will not be accessed physically. There are several advantages of collecting data through the questionnaire. These include but not limited to ease of analysis, familiarity among leaders, information can be obtained from a large sample at relatively low costs, and the non-response rate is reduced significantly.

Instrumentation, Validity, and Reliability

The selection of the research instrument is largely contingent upon the data collection procedure as well as the type of data collected. Additionally, it is imperative for the researcher to reconsider the research objectives and goals in order to assess the appropriateness of a research instrument (Black, 1999). This is because according to Christensen, Johnson, and Turner (2011), it is also important for the researcher to understand the construct of the instrument including but not limited to number and nature of variables measured, the reliability of the instrument, and the validity of the results. Apparently, the reliability is the ability of the research instrument to be reproducible under a given set of conditions. On the other hand, the validity of the instrument is the ability of the instrument to address the research questions and utilization of the appropriate statistical analysis procedure in addressing the hypothesis (Christensen, Johnson, and Turner, 2011).

The instrument that will be utilized in this study will be the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ). This is because MLQ is a common instrument in measuring various aspects of the leadership styles (Den Hartog, Van Muijen, &Koopman, 1997). Notably, the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire is based on the Full Range Leadership Theory, which is deemed to be an effective approach in exploring the multidimensional nature of leadership (Garg&Ramjee, 2013). Notably, the efficiency of the full range leadership theory is based on the fact that it represents different leadership attributes as tangible and empirical measures that can be used in predicting the outcomes of leadership. According to Antonakis and House (2002), the full range leadership theory also entails the ability of a leader to enhance the performance of the followers. Therefore, based on the foundation of the MLQ questionnaire, it is clear that it is an appropriate instrument for measuring transformational leadership practices and its ability to influence the performance and overall engagement of the employees.

The multifactor leadership questionnaire has undergone various transformations over time through consistent testing and improvements (Antonakis and House, 2002). Throughout the improvement, it has emerged as the best validation of the full range leadership theory. The MLQ has proved to be a strong instrument that predicts leadership performance in the various organizations. However, the leadership styles that are compatible for use with the MLQ instrument include transactional, transformational, and non-transactional leadership styles. This is because the predictability of the leadership practices is fairly accurate as well as measurement of employee engagement (Garg and Ramjee, 2013). According to the developers of the instrumentBass and Avolio, the instrument is valid and reliable since it has similar results in different contexts of culture and regions. As such, the instrument will not be modified for the current study but will be used as it is.

With regard to the structure and construction of the MLQ instrument, it contains 45 questions that are predominantly concentrated on the transactional and transformational leadership approaches (Golla& Johnson, 2013). The main source of the questionnaire, which is proprietary, is The current version of the questionnaire that is standardized is called MLQ 5X and acts as the benchmark assessment tool for transformational leadership. Once the license is acquired from the vendors, the researcher reserves the right to administer the questionnaire electronically and reproduce the instrument under the specified terms and conditions.

Despite its wide applicability in the assessment of leadership styles and employee engagement, MLQ has attracted debate over time regarding its reliability as well as validity. This is because the transformational leadership style has numerous characteristics that are not all covered by the instrument, leading to the debatable factorial validity of the questionnaire (Heinitz, 2006). Since validity has many aspects such as content, predictive, construct, and consequential validity, factorial validity is a portion of the construct validity. Notably, construct validity entails the appropriate measurement of variables of interest (Black, 1999). Heinitz (2006) postulates that the MLQ has highly correlated scales for transformational leadership that creates redundancy. As such, he suggests that the instrument should be scaled down to use fewer questions to represent the practices of transformational leadership. Nevertheless, the developers of the instrument addressed the concerned and improved the document whose stability in research has been validated. Antonakis and House (2002) stated that the MLQ 5X version of the instruments is valid and reliable through evidence from discriminant validity. Therefore, the MLQ 5X is an appropriate choice for the current study.

With regard to the employee engagement, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale of 2009 (UWES-9) will be used. This is because it is a valid and reliable instrument (Fong and Ng, 2012). The instrument was developed by Seppälä, Mauno, Feldt, Hakanen, Kinnunen, Tolvanen, and Schaufeli (2009) and has found applicability in a number of cultural and regional contexts. Additionally, this instrument can be translated into different languages and retain the intended meaning of measurement constructs. Apparently, the UWES-9 has three main scales, that is, absorption, dedication, and vigor, upon which the assessment of employee engagement is done. Notably, the three factors considered by the instrument indicate the level of stability and occupational well-being.

UWES-9 has a total of 9 questions and it takes about 10 minutes to complete (Schaufeli& Bakker, 2003). All the questions are on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 0 for never to 6 for always regarding job satisfaction levels using psychometric testing. Notably, this questionnaire can be administered as a standalone instrument or can be administered as part of a larger survey. Various studies have shown that the instrument is both valid and reliable. According to Mills, Culbertson, and Fullagar (2012), the three dimensions measured by the instrument have a high correlation of about 0.65, 0.8 and 0.9 for the latent variables.  Additionally, the instrument exhibits high levels of factorial validity, internal consistency, as well as reliability. As such, the UWES-9 instrument will be used as it is in the current study.

Threats to internal and external validity

Internal validity is concerned with whether the research methodology and data analysis have sufficiently addressed the research hypothesis. While it is important to consider it in research, there are some factors that threaten this aspect of research. For instance, there could be changes in the experimental or study conditions between two periods of time, thereby affecting the outcome of the results. Secondly, changes in outcomes may be as a result of the change in the research instrument or researchers who have subjective views on the study. Finally, if the study takes a lot of time, that is long maturation period, the performance of the workers and the managerial practices of the managers are likely to change due to the revolutionary business environment, thereby affecting the outcomes of the study. On the other hand, the external validity of the study refers to whether the results obtained from the analysis can be generalized to a wider population. Nevertheless, there could be research biases in the study that could affect the results, thus limiting generalization. Additionally, there are many factors that affect employee engagement, not just the leadership practices. As such, there will be a gap created since the study will only focus on leadership holding all other factors constant.

To overcome these threats to validity, the researcher is supposed to use a representative sample. This implies that the sample has to be chosen randomly from the population so that all the respondents will be included objectively. More so, randomization will ensure that all the attributes in the population will be represented in the sample. Secondly, it is imperative that the researcher uses a random sample size that is sufficiently large to warrant valid results. The sample should be determined using the scientific approach that depends on the margin of error, statistical power, and the level of significance. Finally, the researcher is required to use the appropriate statistical analysis tools to address the research questions and hypotheses. The tests are dictated by the nature of variables, the measurement scale of the variables, and the nature of the research questions. Cause and effect model will be developed through the correlational research design in the proposed study.


The purpose of the mock study is to establish whether there is an association between transformational leadership and employee engagement. Employee engagement entails incorporating the input of employees in crucial decisions with the aim of attaining efficiency and boosting their performance for the overall success of the organization. Transformational leadership is hypothesized to positively related to the employee engagement based on existing literature. To achieve this objective, the correlational research design, which is non-experimental,will be the most appropriate since the researcher will not be interested in manipulating any of the variables and the direction of the relationship will be adequately expressed.In the current study, transformational leadership will be measured in terms of intellectual stimulation, idealized behaviors, individualized consideration and inspirational motivation. More so, leadership will be measured as an interval independent variable since individual scoring on questions will be summed to form a single score. Employee engagement will be characterized by positive attitude, absorption, dedication, and vigor. It will be measured as an interval-scale dependent variable. Gender and length of service for the managers will also be incorporated as moderating variables. Finally, the proposed study will entail the use of 2 research instruments. The multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) will assess transformational leadership practices while the Utrecht Workers Engagement Scale (UWES-9) will be used to assess the employee engagement. Both instruments are deemed to be reliable and valid, hence will produce consistent results that will be reproducible and will address the research questions and hypothesis accordingly.




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Investigating the relationship between transformational leadership and employee engagement

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