An alternative explanation for transformational leadership effectiveness: The role of leader proactive feedback-seeking behavior in the relationship between transformational leadership and subordinate performance
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Previous studies have provided a limited understanding of why and how transformational leadership relates to effectiveness. These studies have tended to focus on the transformation of subordinates' motivations and self-concepts in an effort to explain leadership effectiveness. Yet, transformational leadership can sometimes require leaders to adjust by aligning themselves with their subordinates (e.g., individualized consideration). This dissertation seeks to contribute to the literature by studying whether proactive feedback-seeking behavior by transformational leaders reflects their attempt to obtain information from subordinates to adjust and adapt their actions accordingly. More specifically, this dissertation investigates whether transformational leaders exhibit more proactive feedback-seeking behavior and if so, when this behavior leads to greater leadership effectiveness, particularly in terms of subordinate performance. The dissertation seeks to address the aforementioned issues by investigating three key questions. First, how does perceptual and informational uncertainty influence the association between transformational leadership and leader proactive feedback-seeking behavior? Second, how does leader proactive feedback-seeking behavior influence subordinates' leader categorization processes and interactional justice perceptions, which in turn should influence leadership effectiveness? Third, does the political skill of leaders enhance their ability to leverage more benefits and outcomes from proactively seeking feedback from subordinates? To test the nine hypotheses proposed in this study, a survey was conducted among a total of 60 supervisors, who collectively had 204 subordinates, in four small and medium-sized Chinese firms. Hierarchical ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analyses and structural equation modeling (SEM) were used to test the hypotheses. The overall results from hypothesis testing reveal that five of the nine hypotheses were fully supported. Specifically, when a leader displays higher levels of transformational leadership, he or she is perceived as exerting more proactive feedback-seeking behaviors. Such a perception on behalf of the leader's subordinates tends to lead to two consequences: a decrease in the discrepancy between the subordinates' prototype of leaders and their recognition of the actual leader, and an increase in their perception of interactional justice. Consequently, the changes in these two aspects will influence subordinates' attitudes toward their leaders (i.e., trust, identification, and satisfaction), which ultimately determines subordinate performance. The four hypotheses that were not supported all deal with the proposed moderation effects, and the results of the post hoc analyses suggest the different roles that might be played by these failed moderators. Finally, the theoretical implications of these findings, the limitations of the present study, and directions for future research are discussed.