Original Research

The role of emotional intelligence and autonomy in transformational leadership: A leader member exchange perspective

Maryam Waglay, Jurgen R. Becker, Marieta du Plessis
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 46 | a1762 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v46i0.1762 | © 2020 Maryam Waglay, Jurgen R. Becker, Marieta du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 November 2019 | Published: 30 April 2020

About the author(s)

Maryam Waglay, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Jurgen R. Becker, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Marieta du Plessis, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: The role of emotional intelligence, autonomy and leader member exchange (LMX) is examined in the relationship between transformational leadership and unit-level performance.

Research purpose: The goal of the present study was to investigate the role of emotional intelligence and autonomy in the effectiveness of leadership in organisations through high LMX relationships.

Motivation for the study: The relationship between transformational leadership and unit-level performance is well documented. However, the specific role of emotional intelligence, job autonomy and high-quality LMX relationships as transmission mechanisms is not well understood.

Research approach/design and method: The study used an ex post facto research design and a convenience sampling approach. A sample of employees working as managers (n = 226) in a large financial institution in South Africa participated in the study. The proposed conceptual model was empirically tested by means of simple and hierarchical regression analyses.

Main findings: The results suggest that transformational leadership is effective in driving follower performance through emotional intelligence and strong LMX relationships. Furthermore, LMX and emotional intelligence fully mediate the relationship between transformational leadership and job performance.

Practical/managerial implications: The effectiveness of transformational leaders can be explained through the strong LMX relationships that they develop with followers by using emotional intelligence as an influencing strategy.

Contribution/value-add: The study aims to explain the primary mechanism through which transformational leaders encourage job performance and high unit-level performance. The results indicate emotional intelligence as an important mechanism used by transformational leaders to build strong teams, which ultimately results in high-performing teams.


Keywords

transformational leadership; leader member exchange (LMX); emotional intelligence; job performance; job characteristics; autonomy.

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