Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Beneficiary Contact Moderates Relationship between Authentic Leadership and Engagement

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Beneficiary Contact Moderates Relationship between Authentic Leadership and Engagement

Article excerpt


Authentic leadership has a positive impact on followers, particularly when it comes to work engagement (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Ilies, Morgeson & Nahrgang, 2005). Leader-follower relationships, however, are not cultivated in a vacuum (Porter & McLaughlin, 2006). Investigating the conditions of the relationship is therefore vital to understanding how to enhance the effect of authentic leadership in the work environment. In this regard, Cooper, Scandura and Schriesheim (2005) as well as Gardner, Cogliser, Davis and Dickens (2011) encourage research into the role of moderators in the relationship between authentic leadership and followers' attitudes and performance. This is in line with contingency theories (House, 1971) which suggest that leaders need to adjust to situational factors. Investigating the impact of individual situational factors in the work environment is instrumental in increasing the effectiveness of leadership practices. Authentic leadership has been examined quite extensively with regard to situational leadership factors. It has not, however, been investigated with regard to beneficiary contact, or the extent to which employees are exposed to interaction with the beneficiaries or customers, of their work outputs. Grant (2012) recommends research into whether beneficiary contact has a moderating role in leadership styles other than transformational leadership. In Grant's studies, the effect of transformational leadership on employees' performance was strengthened through beneficiary contact (Grant, 2012). In contrast, other studies on interaction with beneficiaries reveal that emotionally intense exchanges could lead to negative consequences, like strain and ultimately burnout (Grant & Parker, 2009). This study therefore focused on ascertaining if beneficiary contact has a strengthening or weakening impact.

Another key construct in this study was employee engagement as it increases employee performance (Anitha, 2014; Salanova, Agut & Peiró, 2005) and results in several other positive outcomes (Burke & El-Kot, 2010), such as profitability, customer satisfaction and loyalty (Gallup, Inc., 2013; Harter, Hayes & Schmidt, 2002) and organisational citizenship behaviour (Rich, Lepine & Crawford, 2010) and results in competitive advantage for the organisation (Shuck, Reio & Rocco, 2011). Work engagement, rather than performance, was selected for this study because of this wider scope of benefits. Although increasing levels of engagement is beneficial for organisations, studies have shown worldwide engagement levels to be low (Gallup, Inc., 2013; Towers Watson, 2012).

Organisations need to invest in leadership development (Avolio, Reichard, Hannah, Walumbwa & Chan, 2009; Avolio, Walumbwa & Weber, 2009; George, 2003) because of the negative impact of destructive leadership (Padilla, Hogan & Kaiser, 2007). Most studies revolve around the leader-member exchange (Yukl, O'Donnell & Taber, 2009), yet leader-follower relationships are embedded within organisational contexts (Pawar & Eastman, 1997) that can be conducive or detrimental to effective leadership (Padilla et al., 2007). Porter and McLaughlin (2006) ask whether:

researchers adequately investigate the relationship between organisational context components and leadership? Or, like with the weather, many are talking about it, but few are doing much about it, insofar as empirical research is concerned. (Porter & McLaughlin, 2006, p. 559)

Avolio (2007) also promotes a change in the focus of leadership development and research, from individual leaders' characteristics to leadership as a complex social dynamic construct. Lord and Hall warned as far back as 1992 against research on complex issues of leadership using simple bivariate correlations. Researchers have established that organisational factors influence positive leadership specifically, leading to an inclusive, strength-based climate (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May & Walumbwa, 2005; Gardner, Cogliser, Davis & Dickens, 2011) or organisational structure (Porter & McLaughlin, 2006) and context also influences charismatic leadership (Shamir & Howell, 1999). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.