Although how leaders shape their followers’ behaviors and outcomes is core to the leadership literature, empirical research exploring how followers might impact their leaders’ behaviors is just emerging. Using a follower-centric approach, this study aims to examine the link between followers’ conflict behaviors, transformational leadership (TL) and the quality of team member exchange (TMX). Additionally, the authors hypothesized and tested the moderating role of TMX quality in the relationship between TL and teams’ work engagement.
Quantitative data were collected randomly from 261 employees in 41 teams to examine the connection between followers’ conflict behaviors, TL and TMX and team engagement.
Using bottom-up/bootstrapping approach, results showed followers’ problem-solving conflict behaviors were positively linked with team leaders’ TL behaviors while improving TMX quality. Additionally, TL was connected with high levels of team work engagement and this connection was enhanced by TMX quality. Implications of the results are discussed.
Although this conceptual model revealed followers as impacting TL and TMX, there is also a possibility that TL and TMX quality may be able to impact employees’ conflict behaviors. Additionally, the current study adopted a cross-sectional research design which does not allow for an assessment of cause and effect. Therefore, caution should be taken in interpreting the results. Finally, the authors studied employees from a single national culture. Yet, they know that national culture may influence the relationship between TL and conflict at the individual and team levels. Overall, the present research showed that individual followers’ conflict behaviors were associated with TL behaviors and TMX quality.
On a practical note, managers would be more successful in managing conflict in teams if they would observe their followers’ conflict behaviors and act as role models in displaying problem solving conflict behaviors – an approach that has been identified in this study to assist in eliciting transformational behaviors from the leader. Furthermore, training is indicated. Organizations should consider training leaders in TL given that our result shows that TL has a direct positive connection with employee’s work engagement. Specifically, the followers’ conflict behaviors should now be incorporated into the leadership (e.g. transformational) training programs. Finally, managers who need to boost team work engagement should consider increasing the quality of the TMX in the team.
The leaders behavioral style may partly be dependent on the followers’ conflict management behaviors.
Thus far, research on leadership have been leader-centric, and while the authors are aware that followers have an important role in shaping the leaders’ behaviors, research in this area has until recently ignored how followers might impact their leaders’ style, processes and the quality of employee interactions, especially at the team level. The authors found for the first time that problem-solving conflict behaviors were connected with team leaders’ TL style and TMX quality.
Aw, V.K.J. and Ayoko, O.B. (2017), "The impact of followers’ conflict behaviors on teams’ transformational leadership, team member exchange and engagement", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 509-532. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-04-2016-0020Download as .RIS
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