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Transformational leadership across hierarchical levels in UK manufacturing organizations

Gareth Edwards (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Roger Gill (Durham Business School, Durham University, Durham, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 3 February 2012



The purpose of this paper is to report on an empirical study of the effectiveness of transformational, transactional and laissez‐faire leadership across hierarchical levels in manufacturing organizations in the UK. The aim was to develop a framework of leadership across hierarchical levels that would be useful for leadership development programmes and interventions.


Managers from 38 companies completed a 360‐degree version of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. Multiple responses – self, superior, subordinate and peer ratings – were obtained for 367 managers of whom 15 per cent were female and 85 per cent male, aged between 21 and 62 years (mean=42 years), from 38 organizations in the UK manufacturing sector. Of the 367 subjects, unanimous (cases were used only if all ratings agreed on the hierarchical level of the subject) opinions on hierarchical level were gained for 215 (58 per cent), which includes 30 top‐level managers, 33 directors, 54 senior managers, 43 middle managers and 55 lower managers. Data concerning time span were also obtained for 253 managers.


The findings of the research show a distinct pattern of behaviours across different hierarchical levels of organizations. Transformational leadership is equally effective across hierarchical levels in organizations, whereas transactional leadership is not effective at the uppermost hierarchical levels in organizations but effective at levels lower down. Laissez‐faire leadership is ineffective at all hierarchical levels.


A framework of effective leadership behaviours across hierarchical levels in organizations was developed from the findings. This framework can be used as a basis for leadership development in UK manufacturing organizations and potentially wider more general organization contexts.



Edwards, G. and Gill, R. (2012), "Transformational leadership across hierarchical levels in UK manufacturing organizations", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 25-50.



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