Can change leadership impact on staff organizational citizenship behavior? A scenario from Malaysia

Simin Ghavifekr (Department of Educational Management, Planning and Policy, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Adebayo Saheed Adewale (National Higher Education Research Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia)

Higher Education Evaluation and Development

ISSN: 2514-5789

Article publication date: 13 December 2019

Issue publication date: 13 December 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of change leadership on staff organizational citizenship behavior in a university setting. Moreover, the study aims to explore forces that influencing on staff organizational citizenship behavior in higher education institutions.


The study adopts a qualitative research design. An interview protocol along with field notes were used as major approaches for collecting in-depth data. Coding and categorizing approach were used to analyze interview transcriptions to help for emerging the study’s themes.


The findings reveal that change leadership builds confidence of staff, motivate them and helps to ensure trust. Moreover, results show that staff organizational citizenship behavior is influenced by personal, organizational, social-cultural and economic forces. To increase the organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions, there is a need for leaders to use appropriate change-oriented style in leading their organizations. Findings also revealed that change leaders must serve as role-model to their subordinates as a way on enhancing staff organizational citizenship behavior.

Research limitations/implications

Academic leaders are the pivot of change in higher education institutions. Accordingly, the effectiveness of higher education institution, staff and students are depending on the effectiveness of the leadership. In this regard, academic leaders’ willingness to change is the most effective factor that not only sets the credibility of the organization, but, more importantly, influence on staff organizational behavior.

Practical implications

It is hoped that the outcome of this research will contribute to the current knowledge of change leadership and organizational behavior in universities.


This is an original research and makes a great contribution to higher education in Asian countries.



Ghavifekr, S. and Adewale, A.S. (2019), "Can change leadership impact on staff organizational citizenship behavior? A scenario from Malaysia", Higher Education Evaluation and Development, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 65-81.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Simin Ghavifekr and Adebayo Saheed Adewale


Published in Higher Education Evaluation and Development. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

1. Introduction

Leadership is an essential tool in enhancing organizational development (Lussier and Achua, 2016; Chuang, 2013). It is also conceived as a vital instrument for ensuring sustainable change and attaining organizational goals and objectives (Hao and Yazdanifard, 2015; Fullan, 2005). Academic leaders are essential factors in higher education management. These leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of attaining vision, mission, and goals of higher education institutions (Ijaz et al., 2012; Leithwood et al., 2006; Ramsden, 1998a). Therefore, these academic leaders are faced with different challenges (Ogunruku, 2012). To meet up with numerous and changing goals of higher education institutions in this modern day, there is a need for effective leadership (Sam et al., 2013; Sathye, 2004). Leadership is conceived as a key factor in successful change in an organization (Coetzee et al., 2012; Harris, 2008). Moreover, leaders are catalysts for effective and sustainable change in an organization (Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006). They influence the change process in any organization (Yukl, 2010). In higher education institutions, academic leaders play a vital role in attaining goals of institutions (Ramsden, 1998a). They are responsible for directing, coordinating, and managing all the resources available toward attaining the vision and mission of educational institutions (Harris, 2008; Bush and Middlewood, 2005). Also, academic leaders are responsible for leading the path of change and for encouraging their subordinates to follow (Owens and Valesky, 2011). To do these, academic leaders need to design a clear vision and mission for their organization, communicate their change plan diligently to staff in a manner that will stimulate the interest of their staff (Sathye, 2004; Tomlinson, 2004; Ramsden, 1998b), build trust, encourage teamwork, provide an enabling environment for sustainable change, and lead by example (Bass, 2010; Dufour et al., 2006; Bush and Middlewood, 2005). With these particular attributes, the staff will be convinced of the prospect of change and will be ready to go extra mile in giving their best for their organization.

Therefore, staff organizational behavior is very significant in educational institutions. It helps to enhance the performance and achieve the development of an organization (Organ, 1997). It also helps to ensure transformation, innovation and organizational efficiency (Turnipseed and Murkison, 1996; Nasra and Heilbrunn, 2015). Organizational citizenship behavior allows staff to enhance their effectiveness and increase the level of their productivity in the organization. This can be shown by the staff in the context of higher education through several ways, such as providing assistance to students’ needs without hesitation, sharing valuable textbooks with others, and displaying happiness for colleagues’ success (Adebayo et al., 2017; Bashir et al., 2012). Besides, leadership in the organization has a significant effect on organizational citizenship behavior (Nasra and Heilbrunn, 2015; Wang et al., 2005). More clearly, change leadership has a significant impact on the performance of an individual and the organization. This kind of leadership is also considered as a crucial factor in staff motivation (Pradeep and Prabhu, 2011). In short, leaders who implement change policies effectively will inspire staff’s interest in the changes, gain their trust and build their confidence in the change plan.

Today, there is an increased competition among organizations including higher education institutions. This competition implies that staff must border themselves with a lot of activities in order to meet up with the complex situation and meet the requirement of the competitive global market (Burnes and Oswick, 2012; Bass, 2010). Therefore, the trend will go for a long time and later fade away. This decline will result into low productivity, output, and performance. To arouse the interest of workers and enhance organizational development, organizational citizenship behavior becomes important (Shanker, 2018). Leading and implementing change in an organization has posed a great challenge to leaders (Pieterse et al., 2012). The actions of leaders toward change may hinder the progress of the change plan or policy in an organization (Burnes and Oswick, 2012).

In addition, change policies can also be hindered by poor leadership. Yukl (2010) argued that when the leader is not careful about the change plan or fails to manage the change effectively, it will affect the performance of an organization. Poor leadership impacts negatively on the morale of staff, destroy their confidence level and register a wrong perception in their minds (Tehreem et al., 2013; Kellermann, 2004). Similarly, Harris et al. (2007) stressed that poor leadership can also lead to low performance of workers in an organization. Not only that, it also cripples attainment of organizational goals and change plans (Schilling, 2008). In order to address these problems in higher education institutions, this study explored the perceptions of staffs (both academic and non-academic) on the impact of change leadership on their organizational citizenship behavior with the aim of enhancing effective staff performance in higher education institutions. Therefore, based on the objective of this study, the following research questions were raised:


How does the change leadership of leaders impact staff organizational citizenship behavior in higher education institutions?


What are the forces that made staff in higher education institutions develop organizational citizenship behavior?

2. Theoretical foundation and conceptual framework

In this study, two different theories, including the change leadership theory and organizational citizenship behavior theory, were examined. Each of these is discussed extensively in the next paragraph.

For the change leadership theory, we adopted the Nilakant and Ramnarayan model of change leadership. This theory was proposed in 2006. In this model, there are four key elements or tasks related to leadership qualities. These key elements or tasks include the following: appreciating change, mobilizing support, executing change and building change capability. Based on these four elements or tasks, Nilakant and Ramnarayan (2006) argued that effective change management does not depend on transformational leadership, instead, on four leadership attributes: cognitive tuner, people-catalyzer, system architect and efficacy builder. In this model, Nilakant and Ramnarayan (2006) argued that appreciating change involves understanding change and the forces of stability in an organization. The essence of this task is to create awareness on the need for the change, state the consequences of the change and present available options for taking the change. To be able to perform this task, they proposed that leaders should be cognitive tuners. Second, mobilizing for change implies collecting relevant information and seeking support from others on the proposed change idea. For leaders to perform this task, Nilakant and Ramnarayan (2006) argued that they must be people-catalyzer. This leadership role involves the ability to motivate subordinates toward imbibing the change idea, seeking their ideas on the change idea and carrying them along in the change process (Yukl, 2010; Kotter, 1996).

In addition, the change leadership model maintained that executing change connotes creating a new process, procedure, and structure for an organization. This task is considered the most essential and difficult (Yukl, 2010; Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006). To be able to accomplish this task, leaders must be a system architect. They need to design appropriate structure, process, and procedure necessary for attaining the change ideas (Tehreem et al., 2013). Finally, building change capacity involves making subordinates believe in their ability to confront any challenges and simulating them to master new given tasks (Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006). To achieve this, leaders must be efficacy builders. They need to build the self-efficacy of their staff in order to accomplish numerous tasks ahead of the organization (Adebayo et al., 2017). This model incorporates appropriate leadership style with each change task. This enables leaders to know the required character that is expected to them at each stage of change (Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006).

The second theory examined is the organizational citizenship behavior theory. This theory was propounded by Organ in 1988 and later re-defined by him in 1997. Different researchers have done a lot of studies on organizational citizenship behavior, but Organ’s theory still remains useful and relevant (Foote and Tang, 2008; Podsakoff and MacKenzie, 1997; Turnipseed and Murkison, 1996). Organ (1997) proposed five common behaviors which he used to describe the organizational citizenship behavior theory. These five behaviors are: altruism, courtesy, sportsmanship, consciousness and civic virtue. According to Organ (1988), the term altruism refers to the ability to help others or render assistance to co-workers without anticipating a compensation for the assistance given. Courtesy implies being considerate and polite to co-workers in the workplace. This involves showing concern for other members of staff. Also, he further argues that sportsmanship implies the ability of a worker not to show negative feelings toward others even when his or her plans do not materialize. A staff demonstrating sportsmanship will not have ill-feelings toward others (Farh et al., 2004). Furthermore, Organ (1988) conceived consciousness as the behavior, which shows self-discipline and a reasonable level of self-control that goes above the minimum requirement expected of a worker in a given situation. Staff will always display consciousness when they come early to work, deliver given task at the stipulated deadline, and plan ahead for the next day’s work in a manner that will not burden other co-workers (Organ et al., 2006). Finally, civic refers to the behavior, which indicates how well a worker associates himself or herself with his or her organization. Workers display civic by speaking good things about their organization and co-workers in any official setting and promoting good image of such organization at all times (Organ et al., 2006; Farh et al., 2004; Organ, 1997).

Staff can display organizational citizenship behavior in organizations, especially in higher education institutions, through numerous ways like sharing useful textbooks with other staff, showing happiness for colleague’s success, sharing their pain whenever they are sad, showing concern for their emotional feelings, providing assistance to students needs without hesitation and a host of others (Adebayo et al., 2017; Rose, 2012; Bashir et al., 2012). Whenever these behaviors are displayed in an organization, they will enhance effectiveness and increase level of productivity (Ehtiyar et al., 2010).

Based on these two theories, we came up with a conceptual framework to guide this study as presented in Figure 1.

A critical look at the diagram in Figure 1 shows that when there is change leadership and organizational citizenship behavior in higher education institutions, academic leaders will be able to gain the confidence of their staff, inspire motivation, build trust, ensure teamwork and collaboration in the area of research, teaching and learning. In addition, student engagement with research, teaching and learning activities will also be high because students will be carried along in all sphere of the university activities and actively engaged. These will result into higher productivity for higher education institutions. Lastly, personal, organizational and socio-cultural forces were also identified to affect organizational citizenship behavior.

3. Literature review

3.1 Change leadership

Change leadership consists of two keywords, namely, change and leadership. Dawson and Andriopoulos (2014) defined change as something which comes with a new thing that redefines, refines and replaces what has gone before or previous practices. It implies dissatisfaction with the old and upholding a strong belief in thenew (Yukl, 2010). Also, Harigopal (2006) defined change as the need to make or become different or begin to have a different form. Similarly, Glaser (2006) stressed that change implies a shift in the process of doing things which later affects staff and organization. Change requires creation of new system, which demands effective leadership (Kotter, 1995).

The term leadership has been given different definitions by different scholars. There is no generally agreed definition of leadership; however, different scholars defined the concept based on their perceptions (Yukl, 2010). For the purpose of our study, we examined some of these definitions. Den Hartog et al. (1999) conceived the term leadership as the ability of an individual to persuade and influence others toward achieving organizational goals. According to Storr (2004), leadership refers to ways of reaching pre-determined goals with, and through others, based on interactive relationship. Korbi (2015) argued that leadership is an essential factor in implementing strategic changes in an organization. Yukl (2010) saw leadership as a process of influencing people to understand and accept what need to be done, how to go about doing it, persuading and mobilizing effort toward accomplishing set objectives.

Putting these two concepts together, Higgs and Rowland (2000) conceived change leadership as the ability to influence and enthuse others through personal advocacy, vision and drive, as well as the access to resources to build a solid platform for change.

3.2 Impact of change leadership on organizational citizenship behavior

Change leadership has a lot of implications on organizations. Wang et al. (2005) found that there is a direct relationship between change or transformational leadership and organizational citizenship behavior in an organization. Similarly, the study of Nasra and Heilbrunn (2015) also found that change leadership has a significant and direct effect on organizational citizenship behavior in Arab educational system in Israel. Change leadership has a huge impact on the performance of individuals and organizations. It was found to be an essential factor in staff motivation (Pradeep and Prabhu, 2011; Boerner et al., 2007; Bono and Judge, 2003; Dvir et al., 2002). In addition, change leadership was also found to have an effect on building confidence in an organization. Whenever leaders implement change strategies effectively in an organization, they tend to build more confidence among their staff (Yukl, 2011; Bush and Middlewood, 2005). Furthermore, past studies affirm that transformational leadership can help to build trust among leaders and followers (Owens and Valesky, 2011; Harris, 2008; Hoy and Miskel, 2008). This implies that when leaders have a clear transformational vision and goal, as well as carry their subordinates along in the new direction using appropriate communication and networking skills, soon, they will build trust in their organizations (Ravazadeh and Ravazadeh, 2013; Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006; Leithwood and Jantzi, 2005; Northouse, 2004). In conclusion, when leaders effectively and efficiently implement change policies, they will build staff confidence in the change plan, stimulate the interest of their subordinates on the change agenda and gain their trust. All these will enhance the followers to go beyond their primary duties and give their utmost to their organization.

3.3 Concept of organizational citizenship behavior

Organ (1997) provided an expanded review of organizational citizenship behavior when he conceived it as an individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly recognized by the formal reward system and that, which in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization. According to Organ (1997), this behavior is discretionary in the sense that it is not enforced on staff, but it is a form of behavior which emanates from the personal choice of the individual worker; thus, its omission is not punishable. Also, he argued further that this behavior is not recognized by the reward system (i.e. doing or displaying it does not attract any compensation or recognition). In spite of these two essential attributes of this behavior, it will help to enhance performance and development of an organization as explained by Organ. Commenting on this behavior, Turnipseed and Murkison (1996) argued that it is organizationally friendly because it helps to ensure transformation, innovation and achieve organizational efficiency.

3.4 factors influencing organizational citizenship behavior of staff

Organizational citizenship behavior of people is affected by some factors. These include individual, organizational and social factors. Each of these will be discussed in detail:

  • Individual factor: this includes the personality of the individual staff in an organization. The kind of personality trait of people also influences their attitude toward work and organization (Owens and Valesky, 2011; Yukl, 2010). This personality has effects on the individual and the organization (Podsakoff et al., 2009). Similarly, Feather and Rauter (2004) opined that the attitude of an individual worker to work also influences their display of organizational citizenship behavior.

  • Organizational factor: this includes organizational policy, climate, and leadership. This factor can enhance the display of organizational citizenship behavior. Adebayo et al. (2017) found that leadership self-efficacy has a great influence on staff display of organizational citizenship behavior. Similarly, Bashir et al. (2012) found that organizational force is one of the determinants of staff display of organizational citizenship behavior. The climate of the organization matters in our discussion. Various studies have found that organizational climate is instrumental to workers’ performance (Madhukar and Sharma, 2017; Permarupan et al., 2013; Owens and Valesky, 2011; Yukl, 2010).

  • Social factor: at times, social forces can influence the display of organizational citizenship behavior. Adebayo (2018) found that workers display of organizational citizenship behavior is often influenced by social forces like culture and religion. In addition, these social factors enhance workers’ attitude to work and determine their performance as well (Park et al., 2013; Jolodar, 2012).

4. Method

4.1 Research design

This study adopted a qualitative research design. In the qualitative research design, the researcher is interested in understanding events or situations from the respondents’ perspective using flexible techniques in obtaining information (Fraenkel et al., 2015; Creswell, 2012; Maxwell, 2005).

4.2 Population and sample

The population of this study consists of academic staff in ten faculties from a research university in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as the case study. Therefore, a purposeful sampling technique was used to select ten lecturers (one lecturer from each faculty) to participate in this study. This sampling technique enables the researchers to deliberately sample appropriate person in a particular setting for the right study (Neuman, 2000; Patton, 2000, Creswell, 1997; Miles and Huberman, 1994; LeCompte et al., 1993). It is worthy to note that these lecturers were from different faculties and institutes in the case university.

4.3 Approach

A semi-structured interview protocol along with field notes and documents were used as the main approaches to collect data for this study. The interview protocol consists of ten different questions with regards to the study’s objectives on change leadership and staff organizational behavior. The interview protocol was subjected to expert validation. It was assessed by five different experts including two professors of higher education leadership and management, one associate professor of education; one senior lecturer and one expert in qualitative research. As a result, the interview questions were thoroughly vetted by these experts. With appropriate validation, researchers can ensure that the information obtained served the purpose of their study (Fraenkel et al., 2015). After the validation procedures, the administration of the interviews was conducted with selected respondents in the faculties. Prior notice was sent to the respondents requesting them to fix a convenient time and place for the interview session. At the agreed time and place, we conducted the interviews for each of the respondents. The interviews lasted for over six months.

In establishing the trustworthiness and credibility of this qualitative study, observation field notes and document analysis were used for triangulation. Creswell (2012) noted the significance of observation field notes and documentary analysis in providing rich sources of data that give a firsthand and multimodal depiction of the research setting in addition to the responses collected from the interviews. In triangulating the findings from the interviews, the observation field notes focused on the interaction between and behavior of the staff, the actions of the leaders and the university environment. Furthermore, documentary analysis covered essential university documents like the university’s annual reports, students’ guidelines or handbook, and circulars.

4.4 Method of data analysis

For the data analysis, the researchers took notes from the interviewees’ answers, field notes and documentary analysis. This study used a thematic data analysis and each theme characterizes a specific aspect of change leadership and staff organizational behavior in university. The common themes emerged from participants’ answers to the interview questions and through the field notes and documentary analysis. A continuous reflection process from the thematic data analysis was followed by the researchers as interviews were concluded (Creswell, 2007; Maxwell, 2005; Denzin and Lincoln, 2000).

All the interview materials were recorded, transcribed and analyzed by using the open coding, axial coding and selective coding techniques. A broad range of themes regarding participants’ opinion were adopted using inductive in-depth thematic analysis and interpreted through individual perspectives. In order to organize and manage the data more systematically, the raw data were analyzed using NVivo software. Using the computer software helped the researchers to find in-depth and detailed data on the study’s main objectives. In addition, the procedures for coding and categorizing the main themes of this study were guided with the Ladder of Analytical Abstraction (Miles and Huberman, 1994) as a framework for data analysis.

5. Findings

5.1 Impact of change leadership on staff organizational citizenship behavior

Results from thematic analysis reveal that change leadership builds confidence of staff, motivates them and helps to ensure trust as presented next.


This is the first benefit of change leadership on organizational citizenship behavior. Respondents maintained that whenever their leaders display effective change leadership, it increases their confidence, which later results in staff display of organizational citizenship behavior as expressed as follows:

[…] I mean confidence level. At times, staff look up to leaders in the display of organizational citizenship behavior. As for me, when my leader tread the path of change sincerely and transparently, it will give me high confidence in the change which will later help in building my organizational citizenship behavior.

(RI4- 0318-11-12)

Your level of confidence will increase when there are effective change practices in your organization[…].


[…] members of staff will build their confidence level, if they see that change leadership is implemented in higher education institutions.


My understanding of change leadership is that it supposed to enhance the confidence of members of staff if it is well practice and effectively implemented by leaders.



Some respondents argued that change leadership helps to increase their level of motivation toward their work and students. This later impacted positively on their display of organizational citizenship behavior as reported in the following statements:

Change leadership motivates me towards my work and helping my students in accomplishing their academic goals.


Once there is a change in policy in an organization, if the leadership style is friendly and effective, workers will be motivated and encouraged to dance to the tune of the new wave. By doing so, these workers will display organizational citizenship behavior.


If the leader is leading the change appropriately and carrying his or her staff along in the change process, soon, staff will cooperate and imbibe the change. They will be motivated to implement the change. This will also enhance their cooperation and team work in accomplishing targeted goals of the organization. In the course of doing these, staff will surely display organizational citizenship behavior.


Respondent 9 stressed that she always feel motivated when change policy that helps improve staff and students are introduced. This was clearly stated in the statement:

[…] I feel happy and highly motivated whenever a change policy that will enhance our research in introduced by the university. With this, I am always eager to do more.


From data analysis it was found that staff are motivated toward cooperation, production of quality research and students’ relation. Also, the university guidelines for students as contained in the students’ handbook (Institute of Postgraduate Studies, 2017-2018) encouraged staff toward teamwork, cooperation and support for students.


This is another by-product of change leadership. Respondents agreed that effective change leadership will improve their level of trust in the system. Once the staff trusts the system, they will trust the leadership and will go the extra mile in discharging their responsibilities. This is evident in the responses:

In my opinion, if change leadership is adequately executed or implemented, leaders will gain the trust of their staff and will be able to use the staff efficiently for the progress of the organization.


[…] members of staff in any organization will be willing to give their best and even go extra step further in discharging their duties if they believe the system and its leadership. Therefore, change leadership if properly implemented will lead to trust which will stimulate staff towards displaying organizational citizenship behavior.


Trust is important. Once there is trust in an organization, members of staff will be ready to help each other. They will also see the organization as theirs. Therefore, they will display organizational citizenship behavior based on the trust they have for their organization.


[…] people will be ready to die for a system or organization which they belief in. Their zeal and commitment for their organizations are borne out of trust they have. Therefore, trust is a key factor in the display of organizational citizenship behavior.


It is evident from our observation that staff who are showing or displaying organizational citizenship behavior all trusted their system. This trust keeps them moving.

5.2 Key forces in developing organizational citizenship behavior

Findings show that respondents agreed they were able to display organizational citizenship behavior in their respective faculties and institutes as a result of personal, organizational, social-cultural, and economic factors. Each of these will be discussed in detail in the succeeding sub-headings.

Personal forces

This includes the personality of the individual staff. Respondents maintained that their personal trait influences their display of organizational citizenship behavior reported as follows:

[…] I think my personality helps me in showing organizational citizenship behavior. Your personality will say a lot of things about you. It will influence your character.

(RI1- 0118-12-15)

On this question, I strongly believe that my personal effort is upmost in this aspect. The type of personality you uphold will go with you everywhere. Even at workplace. I am showing positive attitude to work and organization because of my good trait and attribute. If you have a good personality, your perception and attitude to work and organization will be positive […].


To me, showing organizational citizenship behavior is a function of your innate character. Who are you counts? Your inbuilt character will assist you in rendering assistance towards others both staff and students […].


Also, respondents 4 and 9 argued that they were able to display organizational citizenship behavior as a result of their self-discipline. This is expressed in the statements:

I think self-discipline is responsible. I discipline myself and ensure that I give my best to my university and students. This self-discipline has earned me respect among lecturers in my faculty[…].


As for me, I will say that individual discipline is vital. When you have self-discipline and respect, you will be able to respect and assist others. This worked for me.


Social-cultural forces

These include the kind of training people receive from homes, the belief of the society where they live, religious influence and a host of other social factors. Some respondent viewed home training as a major cause of social-force, which motivates people to display organizational citizenship behavior at workplace. This is contained in the statement:

[…] Your home speaks a lot about you. The kind of training a child receives from the family will be transferred to school, then, to workplace. As for me, I was able to show what I described as organizational citizenship behavior because I was raised in a good home […].


I learnt to help others from my parents. This has been a part of me even before joining the university. Therefore, helping my colleague, students and friends in my faculty is not a problem to me at all.


At times, I just see that I am showing positive attitude towards my work and the development of my institute because this training had been given to me right from childhood.


Furthermore, the tradition of a particular society was also conceived as an integral aspect of social-cultural forces which stimulates staff to display organizational citizenship behavior in higher education institutions. This view was shared by some respondents are presented as follows:

[…] I will say that our cultural value in Malaysia has helped me in the discharge of my duties as a staff of this faculty. Our culture teaches us to participate in human and societal development. This training and orientation have been with me for a very long time. This I brought to my university as a lecturer. So, working tirelessly towards the progress of my students, university and colleague is very easy for me.


What is obtainable in your society is also relevant in our discussion. I came from a cultural background that cherishes communal effort and togetherness. With these two key attributes, I was able to offer selfless service to my master and PhD students especially when they need adequate guidance in their thesis and research.


I see helping people as a call and responsibility as a result of my culture. As a Malaysian, we are trained to help people irrespective of their background, race, religion and tribe. This orientation was transferred to the university, which gave me a lot of honor and prestige among my students and colleague […].


In addition, some respondents are of the view that religion prompted them to uphold organizational citizenship behavior. This is manifested in the statements:

[…] I strongly belief that rendering selfless service is part of religious obligation. Sometimes, I help my colleague and students without expecting any gain, reward or acknowledgement from them. To me, it is an obligation which I learnt from my religion.


You see, the idea of displaying organizational citizenship behavior at times, manifests from your belief. Irrespective of your faith, every religion preaches assistance and communal support to others. People often display organizational citizenship behavior as a result of their faith […].


Organizational force

At times, organizational factor like organizational policy, leadership and organizational climate often influence staff organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions. These will be discussed extensively in the succeeding paragraphs.

On policy, some of these respondents maintained that the kind of policy implemented in their university influenced them to display organizational citizenship behavior reported as follows:

[…] the friendly policy introduced by my university has a great influence on me. This policy of my university on teaching and research has created room for cooperation, teamwork and assistance. During the practice of such policy and guideline, I find that I am displaying organizational citizenship behavior.


The rules, regulations and practice of an organization also influence. My institution is a case study. Here, we are expected to collaborate with each other and our students in area of research. During the collaboration, we will exchange ideas, views and expertise. Doing this, is a form of organizational citizenship behavior.


[…] like publication, we are expected to work together with our students in producing quality research which must be published in high impact journals. Therefore, we must work together, think together and come up with a solution to a particular area of problem. As a result, we will share ideas that will be of benefit to all.


Data analysis found that the university under review has a friendly and supportive policy for staff and students. It was noticed that the style of training laid down by the university is supportive and is aimed at producing quality and competent graduates who can compete favorably in any society. Moreover, the researchers examined the student admission letters and student handbook, which revealed that the university made it mandatory for staff and students to collaborate in the area of research and learning.

Moreover, the climate of organization could be an important factor that influences organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions as reported by some respondents:

[…]The enabling work environment in my university also contributed. Facilities and atmosphere are conducive for staff and students to interact. These make helping each other much easier. The uninterrupted internet and assistance from the university research centers assisted me greatly. With these, I easily help my students and ready to go extra mile with the assistance.


As for me, the university is trying. It provided research assistance to staff and students. Students can seek advice from experts on their work. Lecturers are not left out too. This enabling environment has motivated me in rendering selfless service to my students and other members of staff.


When the opportunity to conduct research is there and there is adequate support for researchers, we will definitely help each other and assist our students. This is what the university has done for us and it allows some of us to show adequate support for students […].


Respondent 6 argued that the organizational climate has made the difficult task of academic staff easy:

[…] The enabling work environment has helped to ease lecturers’ difficult tasks. Example is the research assistance provided by the university. Apart from this it helps in improving the quality of research produced by the university. That is one of the reasons why this university is highly rated among other universities in the country.


From our observation, it was found that there are a lot of facilities put in place by the university management. Moreover, data analysis revealed that the university supports its staff and students in ensuring that the vision and mission of the university are attained. This also corresponds with findings from past research document, which manifested the provision for facilities and support to increase staff performance in the workplace.

Apart from policy and organizational climate, respondents conceived leadership as an essential part of organizational forces, which stimulates organizational citizenship behavior among academic staff. This is evident in the statement:

[…] when leaders are leading by example, staff will automatically follow their footstep. I learnt a lot from my Dean. She is always there for students both local and international. This act encouraged me to render extra service to my students.


Yes, leadership. This is another crucial thing in an organization. Whenever leaders motivate staff to provide excellent service, staff will automatically follow the lane.


In my own opinion, I think it is the leader […] Leaders impact seriously on the organization. My leader encouraged me in many ways. Through his good leadership style, I was able to learn how to share and give assistance to people without expecting any reward or gain for my effort.


A cross-examination of these interview responses shows that these respondents agreed that they are all influenced by their leaders. This corroborates with the results of our observation. From our observation of some faculties and institutes, we found that leaders like Deans and Directors count a lot. They influence a lot of things in their respective faculties and institutes. Based on review of research document, past studies acknowledged that leadership is crucial to organizational development and staff performance.

6. Discussion

From the results presented in the previous section, it was found that change leadership impacts organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions by increasing staff confidence, motivating staff toward their duties and enhancing trust. Commenting on staff confidence, our findings corroborate with previous studies conducted by Yukl (2010), and Bush and Middlewood (2005), who found that staff confidence tends to improve when leaders exercise change leadership effectively in an organization. Concerning staff motivation, our results correspond with the findings of Pradeep and Prabhu (2011), who found that change leadership stimulates employee motivation in an organization. Lastly, change leadership helps to build trust. This finding is in accordance with the position of Ravazadeh and Ravazadeh (2013), Owens and Valesky (2011) and Nilakant and Ramnarayan, 2006), who argued that change leadership will enhance the trust of followers.

Furthermore, the results of this study reveal that the organizational citizenship behavior of members of academic staff in higher education institutions are influenced by individual, organizational and social-cultural forces. In terms of the individual factor, the personality of the individual staff matters a lot in the display of organizational citizenship behavior. This behavior is in-borne and not forced on the individual. The kind of personality trait of the staff is reflected in their display of organizational citizenship behavior. This result corroborates with the findings of Owens and Valesky (2011), and Yukl (2010), who opined that the personality of the individual can influence their attitude to work. If people have good traits and positive perceptions toward life, they will definitely transmit these traits to the workplace, which will result into organizational citizenship behavior (Adebayo et al., 2017; Podsakoff et al., 2009). Moreover, the study found that the organization itself is an essential factor in the staff’s display of organizational citizenship behavior. Forces within the organization itself like leadership and policies can stimulate members of staff to display organizational citizenship behavior (Adebayo et al., 2017). Also, when the climate is conducive, with friendly policies and good leadership, subordinates will be ready to go the extra mile in giving their best to their organization (Madhukar and Sharma, 2017; Permarupan et al., 2013). Finally, we found that organizational citizenship behavior of members of academic staff is also enhanced by social-cultural forces. The culture of the environment also affects attitudes toward workers and their performance at work. This finding correlates with study of Adebayo (2018), Park et al. (2013) and Jolodar (2012), who found that social factors affect employee performance in the workplace.

7. Recommendation

In order to increase organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions, the following measures must be carefully looked into and put in place:

  1. Academic leaders must lead by example. They must strive to serve as models to their subordinates. With their exemplary leadership, staff will build confidence in their leaders and will show positive attitude toward work and their organization.

  2. It should be noted that organizational citizenship behavior requires positive components that allow behavior to develop. One of the main components is change leadership, which leads to desirable consequences in the organization, including increasing the efficiency, performance, positive relationship between staff, providing necessary innovation’s flexibility and offering efficient use of resources.

  3. Higher education institutions must pay more attention to the role that change leadership playa in improving staff in terms of building confidence in them, motivating them and helping to ensure trust. Therefore, change leadership and organizational citizenship behavior must be included in the change plans and policies.

  4. Organizational citizenship behavior requires some key forces that allow improving staff behavior. Therefore, it should give more consideration to specific forces that enhance organizational citizenship behavior of staff namely: personal, organizational, social-cultural and economic forces.

  5. Change plans and policies must be duly communicated to staff. Leaders should strive to seek input from subordinates on change policies and plans.

  6. Subordinate must be carried along with the transformation agenda of the system.

  7. Leaders must be transparent with their transformation agenda. The innovation plan must be clear to subordinates and should be followed systematically with sincerity and honesty in order to gain trust of subordinates and improve performance.

  8. Staff who display exceptional performance and behavior should be acknowledged and encouraged for better performance.

  9. Leaders should provide a better climate that will stimulate staff toward displaying organizational citizenship behavior.

8. Conclusion

In this study, we found that change leadership can impact the organizational citizenship behavior of staff in higher education institutions. Also, employee display of organizational citizenship behavior can be influenced by individual, organizational and social-cultural forces. In order to enhance efficiency and effective performance of staff in higher education institutions, there is a need for leaders to be transparent with their policies, carry staff along with new plans, lead the path of change diligently, build trust and confidence, and provide suitable organizational climate. If all these measures are put in place, higher education institutions will achieve their pre-determined goals.


Conceptual framework of the study

Figure 1

Conceptual framework of the study


Adebayo, S.A. (2018), “Impact of leadership self-efficacy and change oriented behavior on staff organizational citizenship behavior in higher education institutions in Lagos state, Nigeria”, University of Malaya, unpublished PhD Thesis.

Adebayo, S.A., Ghavifekr, S. and Megat Daud, M.A.K. (2017), “Impact of leadership self-efficacy on organizational citizenship behavior : a qualitative analysis on academic leaders perceptions”, International Research Journal of Education and Sciences, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 41-47.

Bashir, N., Sardar, A., Zaman, K., Swati, A.K. and Fakhr, S. (2012), “Determinants of organizational citizenship behavior: a case study of higher education institutes in Pakistan”, Management Science Letters, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 329-338.

Bass, B.M. (2010), The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research and Managerial Applications, Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.

Boerner, S., Eisenbeiss, S.A. and Griesser, D. (2007), “Follower behavior and organizational performance: the impact of transformational leaders”, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 15-27.

Bono, J.E. and Judge, T.A. (2003), “Self-concordance at work: toward understanding the motivational effects of transformational leaders”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 46 No. 5, pp. 554-571.

Burnes, B. and Oswick, C. (2012), “Change management: leadership values and ethics”, Journal of Change Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 1-5.

Bush, T. and Middlewood, D. (2005), Leading and Managing People in Education, Sage, London.

Chuang, S.F. (2013), “Essential skills for leadership effectiveness in diverse workplace development”, Online Journal for Workforce Education and Development, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 1-23.

Coetzee, R., Visagie, J. and Ukpere, W. (2012), “Leadership challenges in change intervention and navigation”, African Journal of Business Management, Vol. 6 No. 51, pp. 12076-12085.

Creswell, J.W. (1997), Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Creswell, J.W. (2007), Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, 2nd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Creswell, J.W. (2012), Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research, 4th ed., Pearson Education, Boston, MA.

Dawson, P. and Andriopoulos, C. (2014), Managing Change, Creativity and Innovation, Sage, Los Angeles, CA.

Den Hartog, D.N., House, R.J., Hanges, P.J., Ruiz-Quintanilla, S.A., Dorfman, P.W., Abdalla, I.A. and Akande, B.E. (1999), “Culture specific and cross-culturally generalizable implicit leadership theories: are attributes of charismatic/transformational leadership universally endorsed?”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 219-256.

Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (2000), The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Dufour, R., Eaker, R. and Many, T. (2006), Learning by doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work, Solution Tree, Bloomington, IN.

Dvir, T., Eden, D., Avolio, B.J. and Shamir, B. (2002), “Impact of transformational leadership on follower development and performance: a field experiment”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 735-744.

Ehtiyar, V.R., Aktas, A.A. and Omuris, E. (2010), “The role of organizational citizenship behavior on student’s academic success”, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 47-61.

Farh, J.L., Zhong, C.B. and Organ, D.W. (2004), “Organizational citizenship behavior in the people’s republic of China”, Organization Science, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 241-253.

Feather, N.T. and Rauter, K.A. (2004), “Organizational citizenship behaviours in relation to job status, job insecurity, organizational commitment and identification, job satisfaction and work values”, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 77 No. 1, pp. 81-94.

Foote, D.A. and Tang, T.L. (2008), “Job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior: does team commitment make a difference in self-directed teams”, Management Decision, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 933-947.

Fraenkel, J.R., Wallen, N.E. and Hyun, H.H. (2015), How to Design and Evaluate Research in Education, 9th ed., McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY.

Fullan, M. (2005), Leadership and Sustainability, Corwin, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Glaser, J.E. (2006), Creating We and Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking: Building a Healthy, Thriving Organization, PB Publications, Pertaling Jaya.

Hao, M.J. and Yazdanifard, R. (2015), “How effective leadership can facilitate change in organizations through improvement and innovation”, Global Journal of Management and Business Research, Vol. 15 No. 9, pp. 1-5.

Harigopal, K. (2006), Management of Organizational Change: Leveraging Transformation, 2nd ed., Response Books, New Delhi.

Harris, A. (2008), Leading Sustainable Schools, Specialist Schools and Academic Trust, London.

Harris, K.J., Kacmar, K.M. and Zivnuska, S. (2007), “An investigation of abusive supervision as a predictor of performance and the meaning of work as moderator of the relationship”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 252-263.

Higgs, M. and Rowland, D. (2000), “Building change leadership capability: ‘the quest for change competence’”, Journal of Change Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 116-130.

Hoy, W.K. and Miskel, C.G. (2008), Educational Administration: Theory, Research and Practice, 8th ed., McGraw Hill, Boston, MA.

Ijaz, M., Shahinshah, B.K., Khan, R. and Shaheen, A.T. (2012), “Role of academic leadership in change management for quality in higher education in Pakistan”, Journal of Education and Practice, Vol. 3 No. 16, pp. 194-198.

Institute of Postgraduate Studies (2017), Postgraduate Student Handbook 2017–2018 Academic Session, University of Malaya Press, Kuala Lumpur.

Jolodar, S.Y.E. (2012), “An investigation of social factors affecting on personnel job satisfaction of remedial service insurance department”, Iranian Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 97-110.

Kellermann, B. (2004), Bad Leadership: What it is, How it Happens, Why it Matters, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Korbi, K. (2015), “Leadership and strategic change”, The Journal of Organizational Management Studies, Vol. 2015, pp. 1-32, doi: 10.5171/2015.638847.

Kotter, J.P. (1995), “Leading change: why transformation efforts fail”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 73 No. 2, pp. 59-67.

Kotter, J.P. (1996), Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

LeCompte, M.D., Preissle, J. and Tesch, R. (1993), Ethnography and Qualitative Design in Educational Research, 2nd ed., Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Leithwood, K. and Jantzi, D. (2005), “A review of transformational school leadership research 1996–2005”, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 177-199.

Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Haris, A. and Hopkins, D. (2006), “Successful leadership: what it is and how it influences pupils learning”, National College for School Leadership Research Report No. 800, London.

Lussier, R.N. and Achua, C.F. (2016), Leadership: Theory, Application, and Skill Development, 6th ed., South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, OH.

Madhukar, V. and Sharma, E.S. (2017), “Impact of organizational climate on employee motivation”, International Journal of Management and Social Science, Vol. 5 No. 7, pp. 325-336.

Maxwell, J.A. (2005), Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, 2nd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Miles, M.B. and Huberman, A.M. (1994), Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Source-Book, 2nd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Nasra, M.A. and Heilbrunn, S. (2015), “Transformational leadership and organizational citizenship behavior in the Arab educational system in Israel: the impact of trust and job satisfaction”, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 380-396.

Neuman, W.I. (2000), Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 4th ed., Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA.

Nilakant, V. and Ramnarayan, S. (2006), Change Management: Altering Mindsets in a Global Context, Response Books, New Delhi.

Northouse, P.G. (2004), Leadership: Theory and Practice, 3rd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Ogunruku, A. (2012), “University administration in the 21st century”, A New Direction.

Organ, D.W. (1988), Organizational Citizenship Behavior: The Good Soldier Syndrome, Lexington Books/DC Heath and Com.

Organ, D.W. (1997), “Organizational citizenship behavior: its construct clean-up time”, Human Performance, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 85-97.

Organ, D.W., Podsakoff, P.M. and MacKenzie, S.B. (2006), Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Sage, CA.

Owens, R.G. and Valesky, T.C. (2011), Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform, 10th ed., Pearson, Boston.

Park, M.J., Dulambazar, T. and Rho, J.J. (2013), “The effect of organizational factors on employee performance and the mediating role of knowledge sharing: Focus on e-government utilization in Mongolia”, Information Development, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 53-68.

Patton, M.Q. (2000), Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, 3rd ed., Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Permarupan, P.Y., Suafi, R.A., Raja Kasim, R.S. and Balakrishnan, B.K.P. (2013), “The impact of organizational climate on employee’s work passion and organizational commitment”, Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 107 No. 2013, pp. 88-95.

Pieterse, J.H., Caniels, M.C. and Homan, T. (2012), “Professional discourses and resistance to change”, Journal of Organizational Management, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 798-818.

Podsakoff, P.M. and MacKenzie, S.B. (1997), “Impact of organizational citizenship behavior on organization performance: a review and suggestion for future research”, Human Performance, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 133-151.

Podsakoff, P.M., Whiting, S.W., Podsakoff, P.M. and Blune, B.D. (2009), “Individual and organizational level consequences of organizational citizenship behavior: a meta analysis”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 94 No. 1, pp. 122-141.

Pradeep, D.D. and Prabhu, N.R.V. (2011), “The relationship between effective leadership and employee performance”, IPCSIT, Vol. 20 No. 2011, pp. 198-207.

Ramsden, P. (1998a), Learning to Lead in Higher Education, Routledge, London.

Ramsden, P. (1998b), “Managing the effective university”, Higher Education Research and Development, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 347-370.

Ravazadeh, N. and Ravazadeh, A. (2013), “The effect of transformational leadership on staff empowerment”, International Journal of Business and Social Science, Vol. 4 No. 10, pp. 165-168.

Rose, K.J. (2012), “Organizational citizenship behaviors in higher education: examining the relationships between behaviors and performance outcomes for individuals and institutions”, Theses and Dissertations No. 403, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, GA.

Sam, H.K., Songan, P., Hj Usop, H. and Ling, G.S. (2013), Leadership Behaviors, University Culture and Leadership Effectiveness for Academic Work in Malaysian Public Universities, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak Publisher, Sarawak.

Sathye, M. (2004), “Leadership in higher education: a qualitative study”, Journal of Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 26-35.

Schilling, J. (2008), “From ineffectiveness to destruction: a qualitative study on the meaning of negative leadership”, Leadership and Organizational Development Journal, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 102-108.

Shanker, M. (2018), “Organizational citizenship behavior in relation to employees’ retention to stay in Indian organizations”, Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 1355-1366.

Storr, L. (2004), “Leading with integrity: a qualitative research study”, Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 415-434.

Tehreem, A., Nawaz, Y., Mahmood, B., Sohail, M.M. and Haroon, A. (2013), “Perception about causes and impact of poor leadership: a study in Sargodha city”, IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 58-62.

Tomlinson, H. (2004), Educational Leadership: Personal Growth for Professional Development, Sage, London.

Turnipseed, D. and Murkison, G. (1996), “Organizational citizenship behavior: an examination of the influence of the workplace”, Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 42-47.

Wang, H., Law, K.S., Hackett, R.D., Wang, D. and Chen, Z.X. (2005), “Leader-member exchange as a mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ performance and organizational citizenship behavior”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 48 No. 3, pp. 420-432.

Yukl, G. (2010), Leadership in Organizations, 7th ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Yukl, G. (2011), “Contingency theories of effective leadership”, The SAGE Handbook of Leadership, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 286-298.

Further reading

Podsakoff, P.M., MacKenzie, S.B., Moorman, R.H. and Fetter, R. (1990), “Transformational leader behaviors and their effects on followers’ trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 107-142.

Corresponding author

Simin Ghavifekr is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:

About the authors

Simin Ghavifekr is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Management, Planning and Policy, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Malaysia. She is Editor for the Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Management (Scopus-indexed). Her research interest includes: educational management and leadership, Higher Education, ICT in educational management.

Adebayo Saheed Adewale is School Administrator and Human Resource Practitioner. He is currently Post-doctorate Research Fellow in National Higher Education Research Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia. His research interest includes: educational leadership, organizational behavior and human resource management in education.