Journal of Organizational Behavior

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Volume 40 Issue 3 (March 2019), Pages 231-385

The importance of group‐focused transformational leadership and felt obligation for helping and group performance (pages 231-247)

Summary Leaders face a challenge to simultaneously motivate workgroups and the individuals within them. Recent criticisms highlight the need to deconstruct broad leadership constructs to offer better theoretical insight into the effects of specific leadership behaviors on groups versus individuals. We address this call by exploring the effects of group‐focused and individual‐focused aspects of transformational leadership. Applying social identity theory, we theorize that group‐focused transformational leadership is key to fostering felt obligation, motivating helping behavior, and enhancing group performance, whereas individual‐focused leadership may only foster helping when individuals also feel a sense of obligation toward their workgroup. In a field study of 260 employees reporting to 36 supervisors in a skilled trade company, we find support for these predictions using multilevel structural equation modeling and multilevel mixed effects modeling. Thus, group‐focused (vs. individual‐focused) transformational leadership and subsequent felt obligation are important antecedents for encouraging helping and, in turn, workgroup performance.

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