Setting the tone: Engaging leadership leads to engaged, efficient employees

BOLOGNA, Italy — Putting together a competent, reliable workforce starts at the top, according to new joint international research. Scientists from the University of Bologna and Utrecht University report engaging leadership can boost employees’ engagement and enhance overall team effectiveness.

What exactly does an “engaged employee” mean? Researchers explain that engaged workers think positively about their job and display vigor, dedication, and absorption in their work. Earlier studies indicate engaged workers usually display both greater well-being and better job performance.

Moving on to “engaging leadership,” this management style is all about fulfilling employees’ need for autonomy and ensuring workers feel competent, cared for, and appreciated. Previous research suggests an engaging leadership style may boost employee engagement. However, most of those earlier projects focused solely on a single point in time, thus failing to analyze the potential effects of engaging leadership over a sustained period.

To research this topic more thoroughly, study authors analyzed the impact of an engaged leadership style on both work engagement and team effectiveness among 1,048 employees across 90 teams operating within a Dutch workplace. Each worker took two surveys, one year apart, that asked about their supervisors’ level of engaging leadership, their own level of work engagement, and additional personal/team characteristics.

Next, a statistical analysis of all the responses was performed. That process ultimately led to the conclusion that supervisors who were seen as engaged leaders in the initial survey did indeed enhance employee engagement according to the second survey. As far as how this effect played out, researchers say employees working under engaging leaders displayed an uptick in personal psychological resources of optimism, resiliency, self-efficacy, and flexibility.

Additionally, engaged leaders also appear to benefit their teams by increasing “team resources,” defined as performance feedback, trust in management, communication, and participation in decision-making. These team resources also seem to influence individual employee engagement.

Moving forward, study authors say future research projects could expand on these findings by directly comparing the impact of engaging leadership versus other leadership styles on employees and teams over a long period of time.

“A leader who inspires, strengthens and connects team members fosters a shared perception of available resources (in terms of performance feedback, trust in management, communication, and participation in decision-making), and a greater psychological capital (ie, self-efficacy , optimism, resilience, and flexibility),” the study reads.

The study is published in PLoS ONE.

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