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Bureaucratic leadership, trust building, and employee engagement in the public sector in Ghana: The perspective of social exchange theory

Frank L.K. Ohemeng (Department of Political Science, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada)
Theresa Obuobisa Darko (Department of Human Resource and Management Studies, Methodist University College, Accra, Ghana)
Emelia Amoako-Asiedu (School of Business, Wisconsin University College, Accra, Ghana)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 13 November 2019

Issue publication date: 28 January 2020




An engaged workforce has never been more important than it is now. Research continues to reveal a strong link between engaged employees and employee performance. Consequently, different strategies continue to be developed to enhance employee engagement (EE) in organisations. Unfortunately, many of these strategies have not worked due to the lack of trust that some employees may have towards organisational leaders. Thus, it is argued that the first step in building an effective EE is building trust, which will erode all sorts of suspicion of the intention of leaders in the organisation. Unfortunately, the literature is not clear about how to build such trust, especially in developing countries where the organisational environment is much different from that in developed ones; making the applicability of models in the developed world quite difficulty in these countries. How can public sector leaders build trust in the organisations in an environment where informality appears to be the norm? The purpose of this paper is therefore to ascertain how trust can be built in public organisations.


In order to answer the research questions, as well as obtain in-depth understanding of what is being done, the authors used the mixed methods approach in the data collection for the paper. In using mixed method data collection, the authors took both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Both qualitative and quantitative data were, however, collected concurrently. This was done for the sake of convenience, as there is little study on how to build trust or, even, EE in the Ghanaian context. The authors set out to explore these issues, and the only way for the authors to do so was to undertake the data collection simultaneously.


The paper examined critically four main areas to help leadership build trust: credibility, fairness, respect and communication. The study shows that both managers and employees firmly believe in building trust. Leaders were able to discuss the efforts they make to ensure that issues concerning trust building are addressed. At the same time, employees also agreed on the need to strengthen these variables.

Practical implications

The research identifies areas on which both leadership and employees can continually work to help bridge the gap between them if public organisations are to reap the benefits of EE. The authors are convinced that if the issues discussed here are addressed, and parties work on them, individuals will succeed in their own areas, but so will the organisations, which in turn will help in the development of he country.


From a theoretical perspective, it extends the work on EE, and offers new insight into this emerging concept from a developing countries perspective, where informality in the public sector is common. Most of the research on trust and EE has been either qualitative or quantitative in nature. Using the mixed methods approach means the authors will be explaining how both can help us better understand the “how” in building trust in the public sector. Thus, the paper is one of the few papers that have used the mixed methods approach to examine how trust can be built in public organisations.



Ohemeng, F.L.K., Obuobisa Darko, T. and Amoako-Asiedu, E. (2020), "Bureaucratic leadership, trust building, and employee engagement in the public sector in Ghana: The perspective of social exchange theory", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 17-40.



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