Transformational Leadership and Follower’s Organizational Commitment: Role of Leader’s Gender

Abstract

This experimental study investigated the impact of the leader’s gender (femininity and masculinity) on transformational leadership and the follower’s organizational commitment (affective, continuance, and normative) using a sample of 84 managers of a manufacturing company in eastern India. Participants were randomly assigned to the conditions of a 2 (femininity: yes or no) x 2 (masculinity: yes or no) experimental design. Transformational leadership was measured through the five factors: idealized influence attributed; idealized influence behaviour; inspirational motivation; intellectual stimulation; individualized consideration. Results show that masculinity enhances normative commitment and androgyny enhances continuance commitment. The findings of our study also show that the positive effect of masculinity on normative commitment continues to exist even after controlling for the common variance between normative commitment and inspirational motivation. Contrary to our expectations, the findings show that femininity reduces inspirational motivation dimension of transformational leadership. Further, the findings of our study show that transformational leadership enhances continuance commitment only when the leader is androgynous and that transformational leadership enhances affective commitment only for the masculine leader. The managerial and organizational implications of the findings are discussed in this paper.

Introduction

Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members. A constant change that has become a part of life for many organizations highlights the increasing importance of transformational leadership. Superior performance or performance beyond normal expectations is possible only by transforming followers’ values, attitudes and motives from a lower to a higher plane of arousal and maturity (Bass, 1985).

A number of authors have highlighted differences in feminine and masculine leadership styles. The arena of management has always been considered a masculine domain, the field of leadership being no exception. The traditional belief has been that a masculine form of leadership with its stress on aggression, task orientation, and ambition is a more effective way to lead subordinates. However, recent studies have revealed that contrary to this popular belief, a feminine style of leadership characterized by sensitivity and cooperation may be more transformational in nature (Eagly, JohannesenSchmidt, & Engen, 2003). However, due to prevalent gender stereotypes, it is automatically assumed that those who are feminine will be less effective as leaders (Eagly, Karau, & Makhijani, 1995).

Effects of transformational leadership and gender on outcomes have been separately studied. However, hardly any research has been done on the relationship of both together with organizational commitment. That commitment can be enhanced through transformational leadership is known, but the moderating role of gender in this relationship is not known. Understanding the moderating role of gender in the relationship between transformational leadership and organizational commitment will help in creating committed employees in organizations.

Traditional societies have served to promote gender stereotypes. It has however, been much touted, that this traditional mindset is gradually being replaced or supplemented by more unorthodox and open-minded thinking. This paper reports a study done to see the role of the leader’s gender (femininity, masculinity, and androgyny) and transformational leadership in enhancing the follower’s commitment to the organization. We wanted to investigate whether femininity combined with masculinity (referred to as androgyny) would positively enhance organizational outcomes. Thus, the study had two goals. The first was to examine the impact of gender-roles on transformational leadership and the follower’s commitment to the organization. The second was to see which of the gender-roles would be the most conducive for transformational leadership having the maximum relationship with the follower’s organizational commitment.

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