Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Social and Motivational Antecedents of Perceptions of Transformational Leadership: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Social and Motivational Antecedents of Perceptions of Transformational Leadership: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

Article excerpt

The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of the social and motivational antecedents of transformational leadership perceptions. Drawing on self-determination theory, a model was proposed in which perceptions of quality of relationships predict perceptions of transformational leadership behaviour through autonomous motivation and self-efficacy. Data were collected from 568 school principals. Results from SEM analyses provide support for the proposed model. Specifically, results indicate that the more principals perceive their workplace relationships as positive, the greater are their autonomous motivation and self-efficacy in managerial abilities, which in turn contribute to self-reported transformational leadership behaviour. Implications for theories of leadership and management practice are discussed.

Keywords: transformational leadership, autonomous motivation, self-efficacy, quality of relationships, self-determination theory

Transformational leadership - a key factor in understanding effective workplace management (Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006) - is characterised by four dimensions: charisma, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass, 1985, 1998). Over the years, transformational leadership has received much attention because it has been linked to important outcomes such as employee job satisfaction and organisational performance (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). So far, the literature on transformational leadership has focused more on its outcomes than on its antecedents (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009). Consequently, little is known about the social and motivational factors that influence transformational leadership behaviour (Bommer, Rubin, & Baldwin, 2004). For instance, how do one's perceptions of workplace relationships affect one's perceptions of transformational leadership behaviour? What are the motivational mechanisms that drive individuals to perceive themselves as displaying transformational leadership behaviour? A useful theoretical framework for understanding these questions is self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

Self-Détermination Theory (SDT)

Central to SDT are the concepts of autonomous motivation and perceived competence (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Williams, McGregor, Zeldman, Freedman, & Deci, 2004). Autonomous motivation refers to the sense of volition and self-endorsement of one's own behaviour. It involves engaging freely in an action for its inherent satisfaction (intrinsic motivation) or because one identifies with its value or meaning (identified regulation). Perceived competence refers to the perception of being efficient in one's social interactions and being able to control important outcomes (White, 1959). It is closely related to the self-efficacy concept (Deci, 1992), which is more specific in nature because it constitutes a socially acquired expectancy to successfully perform a given action (Bandura, 1997). In this study, self-efficacy was used to refer to managers' perceived competence.

According to SDT, individuals are more likely to experience a wide range of positive psychological outcomes when they are autonomously motivated and feel competent. In the workplace, autonomous motivation has been linked to employee performance (Kuvaas, 2009) and commitment (Gagné, Chemolli, Forest, & Koestner, 2008), while self-efficacy has been associated with organisational commitment (Neves, 2009), job satisfaction, and performance (Judge & Bono, 2001). Furthermore, SDT posits that interpersonal relationships are essential to the development of optimal functioning (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Relationships characterised by meaningful interactions are the bases for well-being and adaptive functioning (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) and as such, are central to the concept of leadership. Based on trust, respect, and mutual support, high-quality relationships are the necessary foundation on which efficient leadership develops (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). …

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