Research Examines What Makes Productive Leadership and Employee Engagement

September 28, 2021by Elise Sanchez0

Summary of:

Li, P., Sun, J.,Taris, T.W., Xing, L., & Peeters, M.C.W., (2018). Country differences in the relationship between leadership and employee engagement: A meta-analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, (101458), 1-14,

Background & Theory

The type of leadership an organization has is related to important organizational outcomes and follower engagement. In this article, researchers wanted to find out how closely correlated good leadership and successful employee engagement are to each other. Currently, there is little knowledge about whether or not this relationship is contingent upon (1) types of leadership styles and (2) national culture.

Research Question(s)

Researchers Peikai Li, Jian-Min Sun, Toon W. Taris, Lu Xing, and Maria C.W. Peeters in “Country differences in the relationship between leadership and employee engagement: A meta-analysis” set out to answer the following question:

    1. What are the country differences in the relationship between leadership and employee engagement?


The research was conducted by an extensive search to identify as many published and unpublished studies as possible. Databases utilized in the search were PsycINFO, Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest Dissertation, Scopus, and Google Scholar. The search included terms related to (1) leadership and (2) engagement.


Overall, the researchers found that abusive supervision was negatively associated with work engagement. Within the study, other leadership styles and dimensions of national culture were included. The leadership styles included the following: servant, empowering, ethical, and charismatic, while the dimensions of national culture were: gender egalitarianism, human orientation, performance orientation, future orientation, and power distance. All of these different dimensions and types of leadership styles had different positive and negative effects on people depending on their cultural background.

What This Means

  • Each workplace is unique in how employees need leadership to meet their needs. It is important to note that cultural differences play a major role in how people respond to leadership.
  • A 2016 research that was conducted before these findings showed that in the US only 34% of employees were engaged in their work. In other European countries like Sweden, Greece, and Germany, these findings were as low as 6.1%, 4.8%, and 4.3%. This not only has a negative effect on productivity but monetarily as well.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: In a diverse setting, it can be easy to see how people’s differences in background will require different styles of leadership. Knowing this, finding a baseline type of leadership that can adhere to everyone in the working environment is important.

For everyone: Being a leader means understanding how to lead diverse groups of people. Knowing how to motivate people correctly and also knowing what makes them tick comes from investing in workplace interpersonal relationships. Building these relationships can aid in better leadership ability.

Elise Sanchez

Élise Sanchez is a double alumnus from Pepperdine University where she holds a Masters in Dispute Resolution from the Caruso School of Law and a Bachelors in both International Relations and French from Seaver College. During her time in her studies she found her passion for being an advocate for those who need help amplifying their voices. After finishing her International Relations degree, she decided to go on for her MDR to learn how to be a better advocate and peacekeeper.

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