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PhD Defence Haider Abdul Sahib

three sets of mediators between transformational leadership and team performance 

Haider Abdul Sahib 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.  

This thesis contributes to what we know about the mediation between transformational leadership and team performance in organizations through three sets of variables. The ideas within this Ph.D. thesis are based on an integration of a set of theories: transformational leadership theory, social cognitive theory, psychological empowerment theory, goal setting theory and social exchange theory. Each of the three core chapters describes a study addressing such a set.

The first study (second chapter) consists of two parts. Five hypotheses were tested on academic and non-academic teams in Iraqi universities. The sample size comprised 1,517 respondents and their 176 team leaders who worked in 176 university teams. In the second, a replication study tested the same five hypotheses on Iraqi primary, intermediate, and secondary school teams. The sample consisted of 2,168 team members and their 138 leaders. The third chapter tested another set of five hypotheses on the Iraqi primary, intermediate, and secondary schools (i.e., the second sample). The fourth chapter tested a set of different mediators on the combined, integrated dataset of the two samples; we merged the data of the academic and non-academic teams with the data of the other Iraqi schools. The sample in this third study tested the third set of hypotheses, consisting of 207 teams with a total of 3,169 respondents (i.e., all team members and their leaders). In all three studies, the team leaders were asked to rate the performance of their team, in an effort to curb the frequently occurring common-source bias.

The three sets of team mediators were tested empirically. The first set includes team cohesion and efficacy (as mediating in a series between transformational leadership and performance). As hypothesized, team cohesion and team efficacy mediates between transformational leadership and team performance in a series. This chapter not only supports the guiding three-path mediational model; it also reports a replication of the full model.

The second set of mediators consists of team empowerment and goal clarity (as mediating the transformational leadership-team performance relationship). The results of the study are reported in chapter 3. The findings support the guiding hypotheses and its ‘different’ three-path mediational model; team empowerment and team goal clarity mediates between transformational leadership and team performance in a series.

The last set of mediators, dealt with in chapter 4, involve: 1) team trust, 2) team knowledge sharing and 3) team efficacy: as mediators between transformational team leadership and performance. On empirically testing the hypotheses underlying the assumed four-path mediation model, the following results were obtained: Team trust, team knowledge sharing and team efficacy mediate between transformational leadership and team performance in a series.

The used mediators can be put into an ABC-model. The A pertains to the affective side of teams and stands for satisfying the affective needs while working with other people on a team task; the B stands for each person’s need to behave as an autonomous person, even when subscribing to team goals and norms; the C refers to the more cognitive-rational side of functioning competently as an effective team member. This ABC-model explains to a large extent why transformational leadership is related to team performance and thereby contributes to the transformational leadership theory.

Besides the theoretical implications with regard to the here tested so-called ABC-mediators, this thesis also includes practical implications. Transformational leaders must be recruited, selected, appointed, promoted and/or trained as team leaders in (Iraqi educational type) organizations. Transformational leadership training may help them to adopt or perfect their behavioral skills so that they can cope effectively with unexpected or changed circumstances that reduce team performance. Transformational team leaders can ensure that the performance of their teams is stepped up or maintained through the following three sets of team states: 1) cohesion and efficacy; 2) empowerment and goal clarity; 3) trust, knowledge sharing and efficacy. The positive relationships amongst these three sets of mediators (between transformational team leadership and performance) can be explained by the joint effects that transformational leaders can bring to a team: they encourage their members to transcend their self-interests for the purpose of achieving clearly articulated team tasks and priorities; unite team members’ feelings and instill clear and reasonable norms around the shared goals, so that sufficient intra-team exchanges take place of team task-relevant information. This enables the members to demonstrate task competence, maturity and responsibility so as to attain the team’s goals.

The thesis also offers suggestions for future research, like: 1) examining all the 6 mediators that were tested in one qualitative and quantitative longitudinal type study of teams before and after a transformational team leader is appointed. One would do this in order to get to know the relative weight of each of the ABC-type variables and their precise interrelationships; 2) replicating the three supported models in and across other countries and other economic or service sectors; 3) conducting quasi-experimental studies on the effects of training leaders in the transformational style on team performance through the same or similar ABC-type mediating team mechanisms.