Bojović, I. and Jovanović, S. “Transformational leadership and psychological needs of employees” (2020). Technium Social Sciences Journal, 226-235.
Background & Theory:
Transformational leaders are those with charismatic personas that are able to execute a vision to a group of people in ways that inspire them to work autonomously. These leaders offer rewards and promotions for group-achieved results, stimulate individual intellects, and are rooted in integrity. Self-determination theory is a model of motivation that elaborates on what motivates employees in the workplace through a psychological lens. Looking at transformational leadership through a self-determination theory lens, this literature review uncovers the idea that transformational leaders contribute to meeting the psychological needs of their employees.
Research was compiled to answer the following question:
- What psychological needs are positively correlated with transformational leadership?
This literature review was composed through the review of 40 past studies on transformational leadership and self-determination theory.
Through the review of research, it was found that transformational leadership is positively correlated with the satisfaction of the psychological needs of relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Adversely, the transactional leadership style, which consists of rewarding good employees and punishing bad employees, was found to be negatively correlated to the fulfillment of these needs.
First, the psychological need of relatedness is crucial in the working environment, considering that the workplace can provide great social support. A key characteristic of transformational leadership is providing a sense of relatedness among employees, which increases commitment to the group and leader. This sense of relatedness is developed through boosting relationships between leaders and followers, as well as strengthening relationships between followers. Relatedness between leaders and followers is created by emphasizing the belief in moral values and the goals of the team. Relatedness between followers is developed via the emphasis of common goals and past achievements, among other things.
Second, the psychological need of autonomy is also positively correlated with transformational leadership. Past research suggests that transformational leadership actually fosters autonomy among employees, including individual motivation to work. Transformational leaders give employees a sense of autonomy by setting appealing goals, respecting individual opinions, and valuing employee perspectives in decision making. Instead of closely monitoring employees, these leaders inspire and motivate employees to achieve group goals, valuing engagement and encouraging self-initiation.
Third, the psychological need of competence is positively correlated with transformational leadership because transformational leaders intellectually stimulate employees to challenge set-in-stone ways of doing things. By allowing individuals to be innovative in their thinking, leaders motivate them to thrive and advance. Past research suggests that this psychological need is best fulfilled in an environment that provides challenges, feedback, and a supportive climate.
What We Can Learn:
Looking over this research, we can take away this key insight:
- To be a transformational leader, three basic psychological needs must be fulfilled for followers: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Past research has found that such transformational leadership leaves a positive impact on employee motivation, organizational job performance, creativity, morale, and more.
For Consultants: The absence of transformational leadership in an organization may lead to an unhealthy culture and workplace conflict. Providing effective transformational leadership training that focuses on meeting the psychological needs of employees is key to transforming such organizations.
For Everyone: As a leader, it is important to recognize whether you are meeting the needs of your followers. As a follower, it is helpful to understand whether your leaders are meeting your basic needs. Recognizing this can be the first step to enacting sustainable change.