PhD Defence Sunu Widianto

transformational leadership, psychological capital and other resources of followers enabling high follower and team performance 

Sunu Widianto is a PhD Student in the research group Change Management & Organizational Behaviour. His supervisor is professor Celeste Wilderom from the faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences. 

The key question of this PhD dissertation is: How do non-managerial employees make use of existing psychological resources in order to enable high individual or team performance? Whilst attempting to answer this question, I combined existing Organization-Behavioral theories, including the conservation of resource theory (COR), transformational leadership theory, goal-setting theory, substitute for leadership theory and related theorizing, as set forth in the theoretical sections within this thesis. This entire dissertation consists of a set of three empirical chapters plus an initial and concluding chapter that I summarize in the below.

The objective of the first empirical study (second chapter) of this thesis was to examine how transformational leadership impacts two mediator variables in a series (i.e., follower-felt support for excellence and psychological capital) with the subsequent enhancement of job performance and work engagement. Based on the COR and the self-concept based theories of transformational leadership, we argue in this chapter that the transformational leadership style acts as a “key” resource which can generate other job resources for employees, such as follower-felt support for excellence and the personal resource, psychological capital (PsyCap), leading to higher work engagement and job performance. This study’s sample consisted of 147 part time working graduate students in a large university in Bandung Indonesia. Using a longitudinal study with a one-year lag between time 1 and time 2, we tested the three path mediation model by employing two types of longitudinal analyses: change residual score analysis and cross-lagged analysis. The result shows that transformational leadership affects follower-felt support for excellence which subsequently influences PsyCap and ultimately enhances job performance and work engagement. Through the more stringent cross-lagged analysis I found that transformational leadership directly impacts PsyCap which, in turn, impacts job performance. Both sets of results reveal that transformational leadership style and PsyCap can be added as so-called “key” resources to the COR theory while follower PsyCap is suggested to function as a more parsimonious motivational mechanism than the other related set of extant resources (such as hope, self-efficacy, self-consistency, self-esteem) from the self-concept based theory of transformational leadership.

The specific objective of the second empirical study within this dissertation was to examine the impact of transformational leadership on team performance through the mediation of team goal clarity and the negative moderation effect of team psychological capital (PsyCap). Based on the substitute for leadership theory and goal setting theory we proposed that the impact of transformational leadership on team performance will be moderated by PsyCap and mediated by goal clarity. 427 Indonesian nurses from 76 teams were surveyed for this study. All of their immediate leaders assessed the team performance. I used the data to test the moderated mediation model. Using structural equation modelling, the results appeared to support the entire hypothesized model: team goal clarity mediates the relationship between transformational leadership and team performance while team PsyCap moderates the relationship between transformational leadership and team goal clarity. These results suggest that when teams have a low level of PsyCap, they need transformational leadership to clarify the goals to ultimately perform well. A team with a high level of PsyCap will neutralize the impact of transformational leadership on goal clarity. In other words, transformational leadership is not required (any longer) when teams have reached a state of high PsyCap.

The objective of the third empirical study in this dissertation was to investigate the impact of leader and follower emotions on job performance. Drawing especially on the self-determination theory, I proposed that the use of both leaders’ and followers’ emotions will impact follower performance through psychological need satisfaction (i.e., autonomy, competence, relatedness). In order to examine this, I surveyed 220 part time graduate students in a large university in Bandung, Indonesia. I then employed structural equation modelling to test the hypothesized model. To minimize the potential of common method bias in our study, we used Harman’s single factor and the so-called common latent factor. The results reveal that the use of emotion by a leader influences follower job performance through follower psychological need satisfaction as well as a follower’s own use of emotions albeit directly and indirectly (via psychological need satisfaction). The results suggest that both leaders’ and followers’ emotions are critical in order to fulfil their psychological need satisfaction to ultimately perform. 

Thus, this dissertation offers novel theoretical contributions within OB. First, transformational leadership and psychological capital are found to be key resources of employee job performance. Secondly, although a few empirical studies have examined PsyCap at the team level, my study is the first that established PsyCap is a negative moderator or neutralizer in terms of the impact of transformational leadership on goal clarity and subsequent job performance. Thirdly, many studies have examined how leader emotions influence follower job performance; nevertheless, the third empirical study here (chapter 4) shows that it is not only the leader’s influence but also how followers use or manager their own emotions constructively that satisfies their own psychological needs which they subsequently use to perform their jobs.