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Career Development International The influence of transformational leadership on followers’ affective commitment: the
Career Development International The influence of transformational leadership on followers’ affective commitment: the

Career Development International

The influence of transformational leadership on followers’ affective commitment: the role of perceived organizational support and supervisor's organizational embodiment Florence Stinglhamber Géraldine Marique Gaëtane Caesens Dorothée Hanin Fabrice De Zanet

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Florence Stinglhamber Géraldine Marique Gaëtane Caesens Dorothée Hanin Fabrice De Zanet , (2015),"The influence of transformational leadership on followers’ affective commitment: the role of perceived organizational support and supervisor's organizational embodiment", Career Development International, Vol. 20 Iss 6 pp. - Permanent link to this document:

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The influence of transformational leadership on followers’ affective commitment:

the role of perceived organizational support and supervisor's organizational embodiment

In the past decades, a substantial body of research has been accumulated on

transformational leadership theory. In particular, empirical evidence has consistently reported

positive associations between such leadership and followers’ attitudes (e.g., satisfaction with

leader, and organizational commitment) and behaviors (e.g., job performance) at the individual,

group, and organizational levels (e.g., Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Wang et al., 2011). More recently,

significant progress has been made in understanding how or when transformational leadership

behaviors are more effective to influence followers’ attitudes and behaviors (Avolio et al., 2009).

However, prior research has not provided a key to understanding why the transformational

leadership of the immediate supervisor influences subordinates’ attitudes or behaviors toward the

whole organization. Proponents of multi-foci approaches suggest that employees may develop and

engage in relationships with the organization as a whole that are apart from those they have with

other entities pertaining to this workplace such as the supervisor (see for example the target

similarity model of Lavelle et al., 2007). In the same time, they do not exclude, even though they

considered them as less important, cross-foci or “spillover” effects among entities that are nested

within each other. Yet, while transformational leadership is associated with outcomes oriented

toward the supervisor (e.g., satisfaction with leader), empirical results have also consistently

reported a relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ attitudes and behaviors

toward the organization (e.g., Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Leithwood and Sun, 2012). These findings

indicate that employees generalize, to some degree, the treatment they receive from their

supervisor in terms of transformational leadership to the organization as a whole. However, little is

known so far on this spillover effect from transformational leadership to organizational outcomes.

However, little is known so far on this spillover effect from transformational leadership to organizational outcomes.
However, little is known so far on this spillover effect from transformational leadership to organizational outcomes.

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In this research, we examine the process and the boundary condition for this generalization

or this spillover effect to occur. Specifically, this research examines why and when followers of

transformational leaders exhibit increased affective organizational commitment. Relying on

organizational support theory (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger and Stinglhamber, 2011), we

argue that, because the leader represents the organization, his/her transformational leadership is

indicative for subordinates of the favorable treatment received by the organization, leading to

higher perceived organizational support (POS) and, finally, affective commitment. In this respect,

we extend the work of Twigg et al. (2008) who showed that perceived union support mediates the

relationship between transformation leadership of the union steward and commitment to the union.

Nevertheless, building on the recent work of Eisenberger and colleagues (Eisenberger et al., 2010;

Eisenberger et al., 2014; Shoss et al., 2013), we test the view that the transformational leadership-

affective organizational commitment association via POS varies depending on employees’

consideration of supervisors as organizational agents. Precisely, the extent to which employees

identify their supervisor with the organization (supervisor’s organizational embodiment, or SOE,

Eisenberger et al., 2010) would thus be a boundary condition of the effect of transformational

leadership on POS and, finally, affective organizational commitment. To the best of our

knowledge, this study is the first that applies the SOE construct to the relationship between

transformational leadership and its outcomes.

Our study responds to Avolio et al.’s (2009) call for papers which examine simultaneously

the moderating and mediating mechanisms that link transformational leadership to follower

outcomes. Above and beyond its theoretical contribution by specifying the why and the when

(Whetten, 1989), this research has also important practical implications. It will indicate whether

hiring transformational leaders or implementing interventions stimulating the transformational

leadership of their managers is a sufficient condition to have trickle down effects of this positive

the transformational leadership of their managers is a sufficient condition to have trickle down effects of
the transformational leadership of their managers is a sufficient condition to have trickle down effects of

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form of leadership on perceptions and attitudes beneficial to the organization. Examining the

process and the boundary condition of this spillover effect from transformational leadership to

organization-directed outcomes is thus an extremely valuable objective for both scholars and

practitioners.

Transformational Leadership and Followers’ Affective Commitment

The present study focuses on the theory of transformational leadership. According to Bass

(1985), transformational leaders influence followers to transcend self-interest for the greater good of

their unit and organization in order to achieve higher levels of performance. They motivate their

followers to perform beyond expectations by generating higher-order needs among them and

promoting a climate of trust. By appealing to followers’ ideals and values, transformational leaders

arouse commitment to a well-articulated vision and inspire followers to develop new ways of

thinking.

Bass’s original theory included four transformational leadership sub-dimensions. Based on

the results of empirical studies, Bass and his colleagues (e.g., Bass et al., 2003) later expanded the

theory. In its current form, transformational leadership is theorized to comprise the following five

sub-dimensions (cf. Antonakis et al., 2003): (a) idealized influence (attributed) refers to the degree

to which the leader is admired, respected and trusted, is perceived as charismatic, appeals to

followers on an emotional level and is viewed as focusing on higher-order ideals and ethics; (b)

idealized influence (behavior) refers to the degree to which the leader takes charismatic actions that

are consistent with ethics, principles, and values; (c) inspirational motivation refers to the ways

leader motivates followers by creating and presenting a vision of the future that is appealing and

inspiring, stressing ambitious goals, and communicating with enthusiasm and optimism about

future goal attainment; (d) intellectual stimulation refers to leader’s actions that challenges

assumptions, and stimulates followers to view problems and old situations from new perspectives,

actions that challenges assumptions, and stimulates followers to view problems and old situations from new perspectives,
actions that challenges assumptions, and stimulates followers to view problems and old situations from new perspectives,

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to think creatively and find solutions to difficult problems; and (e) individualized consideration

refers to leader’s behavior that consists in providing support and encouragement to followers,

coaching or mentoring them, attending to each follower’s needs, and listening to their concerns.

Numerous studies on leadership have focused on the effects of transformational leadership

on followers’ work attitudes and behaviors at both an individual and organizational level (e.g.,

Dumdum et al., 2002; Lowe et al., 1996). In particular, this research stream has shown that

transformational leadership is positively related to followers’ (affective) organizational

commitment in a wide variety of samples (e.g., Bono and Judge 2003; Bycio et al., 1995; Dumdum

et al., 2002). Affective organizational commitment is defined as an “emotional attachment to,

identification with, and involvement in the organization” (Meyer and Allen, 1991, p. 67) and refers

to a desire to remain in the organization. Beyond the fact that affective commitment represents an

attitude directed toward the organization, which was necessary given the purpose of this research,

this variable has been chosen as the outcome variable of this research because of its well-known

benefits for both employees and organizations. Affective commitment has been found to be

strongly related to employee-relevant outcomes such as stress, health and well-being, work–

nonwork conflict, and career success and to organization-relevant outcomes such as intended and

actual voluntary turnover, in-role and extra-role performance, and absenteeism (e.g., Cohen and

Golan, 2007; Kim et al., 2015; Marique et al., 2013; Ng and Feldman, 2014; Stinglhamber et al.,

2015; see Meyer et al., 2002 for a meta-analysis). It thus predicts a stable, long-term relationship

between employees and employers (Korek et al., 2010; van Dam, 2008).

Although the empirical data remains scant, a few authors have begun to examine the

mechanisms that may help explain this relationship between transformational leadership on the one

hand and affective commitment on the other hand. This recent research on the underlying

processes emphasized the mediating role of followers’ attitudes toward leaders, such as trust in

on the underlying processes emphasized the mediating role of followers’ attitudes toward leaders, such as trust
on the underlying processes emphasized the mediating role of followers’ attitudes toward leaders, such as trust

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leaders and perceived fairness from leaders (e.g., Pillai et al., 1999). Other studies have suggested

that transformational leadership effects are explained by followers’ appraisals of themselves (e.g.,

self-efficacy) or their colleagues (e.g., team-efficacy) (e.g., Bono and Judge, 2003; McCann et al.,

2006; Walumbwa et al., 2004). Finally, some authors have examined the role of mechanisms

rooted in the job, such as meaningful task content (e.g., Korek et al., 2010). Compared with this

still growing research on the mediating processes, there has been surprisingly little empirical

research on potential moderators of transformational leadership as it relates to affective

organizational commitment. Among these few studies, Walumbwa et al. (2007), for instance,

showed that individual differences such as allocentrism and idiocentrism moderate the

transformational leadership-affective commitment relationship. Furthermore, the authors found that

these relationships varied as a function of societal culture.

Although these findings are obviously very important to develop a deep and complete

understanding of the transformational leadership - affective commitment relationship, they are not

useful to fully understand why and when the transformational leadership of immediate supervisors

impacts on an attitude directed toward the organization as a whole such as affective organizational

commitment. With this objective in mind, we identified in the present paper two variables that may

play a significant role in the transformational leadership - affective commitment relationship.

Mediating Role of POS in the Transformational Leadership effect on Followers’ Affective

Commitment

Organizational support theory (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger and Stinglhamber,

2011) states that employees develop a general perception concerning the extent to which the

organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being (i.e., POS). Based on the

reciprocity norm (Gouldner, 1960) and the socio-emotional need fulfillment (Armeli et al., 1998),

high POS would strengthen affective commitment (Eisenberger et al., 2001; Eisenberger et al.,

(Armeli et al. , 1998), high POS would strengthen affective commitment (Eisenberger et al. , 2001;
(Armeli et al. , 1998), high POS would strengthen affective commitment (Eisenberger et al. , 2001;

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1986). In agreement with this view, numerous studies reported POS and affective commitment to

be strongly related (e.g., Caesens et al., 2014; Chambel and Sobral, 2011; Eisenberger et al., 1990;

Marique et al., 2013). More precisely, Rhoades et al. (2001, Study 2) have demonstrated, using a

panel design, that POS is an antecedent of affective commitment.

According to Eisenberger et al. (1986), the development of POS is afforded by the natural

tendency of employees to personify their organization by ascribing humanlike characteristics to it.

Based on this organization’s personification, employees would view the treatment received from

their organization as an indication that it favors or disfavors them. Accordingly, a variety of

favorable work-related experiences have been found to be positively and significantly related with

a high POS (cf. Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002). Among these positive work experiences,

treatment received from the supervisors exerts a considerable influence over POS (Eisenberger and

Stinglhamber, 2011). By their role in influencing organizational culture and setting policies and

procedures for the organization (Levinson, 1965), supervisors may convey a low/high level of

organizational support. In line with this view, perceived supervisor support and leader-member

exchange have been found to be positively related to increased POS (Eisenberger et al., 2002;

Sluss et al., 2008). Comparatively, little is known on the relationship between transformational

leadership and POS. Whereas several authors reported a positive relationship between these two

constructs (Al-Hussami, 2009; Bai et al., 2012; Cho et al., 2011; Connell et al., 2003; Hyatt,

2007), most of these articles did not explicitly focus on this relationship. As a result, the rationale

underlying this relationship has not been developed and the boundary conditions in which

transformational leadership is more (or less) effective in predicting POS have not been examined.

Yet, there is good reason to assume a significant link between transformational leadership

and POS (Eisenberger and Stinglhamber, 2011). The transformational leader coaches and mentors

his/her followers, pays attention to their individual needs, and allows them to develop in a

leader coaches and mentors his/her followers, pays attention to their individual needs, and allows them to
leader coaches and mentors his/her followers, pays attention to their individual needs, and allows them to

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supportive environment. Through these actions, he/she certainly communicates to his/her followers

that he/she cares about their concerns. Moreover, the transformational leader stresses ambitious

goals and exhibits high standards and expectations. Also, he/she challenges followers’

assumptions, thoughts and imagination, and encourages them to proactively seek out opportunities

and to solve complex organizational problems. As a whole, through these diverse actions, the

transformational leader displays confidence in followers’ abilities, and more generally conveys that

he/she values their contributions. By generalization, because the leader represents the organization,

the climate of supportive leadership that he/she creates among his or her subordinates should

expand to the whole organization, leading to higher POS. In agreement with numerous studies

which showed that POS is positively related with affective commitment, the impact of

transformational leadership on POS should, in turn, extend to affective commitment. However, we

assume that this influence of transformational leadership on POS and finally affective commitment

should precisely vary upon the extent to which the supervisor is a good representative of the

organization.

Moderating Role of SOE on the Transformational Leadership - Followers’ Affective Commitment

Relationship via POS

Levinson (1965) maintained that employees view the directive, evaluative, and coaching

functions of supervisors as carrying out responsibilities assigned to them by the organization and,

therefore, interpret favorable or unfavorable treatment received from supervisors as representing

the organization. Incorporating this view, Eisenberger and colleagues (2010) proposed that

employees form a perception, called supervisor’s organizational embodiment (SOE), concerning

the extent of their supervisor’s shared identity with the organization. Based on the degree of

perceived similarity between supervisor’s characteristics and those of the organization, employees

would see their supervisors more as organizational representatives or more as individuals in their

organization, employees would see their supervisors more as organizational representatives or more as individuals in their
organization, employees would see their supervisors more as organizational representatives or more as individuals in their

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own right. This variation in supervisor’s perceived alignment with the organization would

influence the extent to which employees generalize the favorableness of their exchange

relationship from the supervisor to the organization. Eisenberger et al. (2010) suggested that

employees are motivated to form SOE to infer the degree to which their favorable or unfavorable

exchange relationship with their supervisor is indicative of a similar exchange relationship with

their organization. This is because employees’ favorable exchange relationship with the

organization would fulfill socio-emotional needs and indicate that increased efforts on the

organization’s behalf will be recognized and rewarded (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Rousseau, 1989,

1998).

According to Eisenberger et al. (2010), the greater such SOE, the greater is the experience

of treatment received from the supervisor as treatment by the organization. Consistent with this

proposition, they found that the relationship between leader-member exchange and affective

organizational commitment increased as a function of SOE. Employees who perceive an important

overlap in identity between their supervisor and the organization thus responded to a high-quality

exchange relationship with their supervisors with enhanced emotional attachment toward the

organization. Furthermore, the moderating influence of SOE on the relationship between leader-

member exchange and affective organizational commitment carried over to job performance. In the

same vein, Shoss et al. (2013) showed that, to the extent SOE was high, employees’ abusive

supervision was related to reduced POS, which in turn was associated with increased

counterproductive work behavior and reduced performance. Finally, Eisenberger et al. (2014)

recently found that leader-member exchange is more strongly related to POS when employees

highly identified their supervisors with the organization (i.e., high supervisor's organizational

embodiment), and this interaction extends to reduced withdrawal behavior.

In line with the above findings, we suggest in the present research that SOE would

extends to reduced withdrawal behavior. In line with the above findings, we suggest in the present
extends to reduced withdrawal behavior. In line with the above findings, we suggest in the present

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moderate the relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ attitudes toward the

organization (here, POS and then affective organizational commitment). Several authors in the

literature on leadership have suggested that a leader is often seen as a representative character who

embodies organization’s identity, so that his or her displaying behavior may influence not only

subordinates’ attitudes toward this leader, but also their attitudes toward the whole organization

(e.g., Neubert et al., 2009; Shamir et al., 1998). In line with this proposition, we posited that, for

employees who identify the supervisor with the organization to only a small extent,

transformational leadership should have little influence on subordinates’ POS and their subsequent

affective commitment toward the organization. For these employees, transformational leadership

would be attributed primarily to the individual characteristics of the supervisor, with only modest

credit given to the organization. But for employees who strongly identify their supervisor with the

organization, transformational leadership should have a strong influence on their POS and in fine

their affective commitment to this organization.

In sum, we predicted in the present study that when SOE is high, high transformational

leadership would elicit strong feelings of being supported and cared by the organization, and this

high POS would lead to high affective commitment. In contrast, when SOE is low, high

transformational leadership will result in a lesser gain in POS, leading to a lesser gain in affective

commitment. Accordingly, we hypothesized the following:

Hypothesis: The effect of transformational leadership on affective organizational

commitment through POS will be stronger when SOE is high than when SOE is low.

Examining the moderating effect of SOE on the transformational leadership - affective

organizational commitment relationship via POS represents a valuable contribution to the literature

over and above Eisenberger et al.’s recent findings (Eisenberger et al., 2010; Eisenberger et al.,

2014) since (a) evidence has shown that leader-member exchange and transformational leadership

2010; Eisenberger et al. , 2014) since (a) evidence has shown that leader-member exchange and transformational
2010; Eisenberger et al. , 2014) since (a) evidence has shown that leader-member exchange and transformational

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are distinct even though related constructs (e.g., Wang et al., 2005), and (b) they both contribute

unique variance in the prediction of affective organizational commitment (e.g., Lee, 2005).

However, given the results found by Eisenberger and colleagues, we found it important to control

for leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE in our research to show that our findings

go deeper in the understanding of the relationship between leadership styles and followers’

attitudes toward the organization. For a better understanding of our assumption, Figure 1 provides

with an overview of our conceptual model.

Method

Sample and Procedure

Insert Figure 1 about here

Data were collected through a Web-based survey in one of Belgium’s leading water

producers. Among the 782 employees who received the questionnaire, 287 responded to the items

capturing our variables of interest as part of a larger survey. Following Baruch and Holtom (2008),

the response rate of 37% is within the norm of one SD of the average response rate for studies that

utilized data collected from individuals. Average age was 40 years (SD=8.48 years) and 76% were

male. On average, respondents worked for their organization for 12.26 years (SD=8.80) and with

their current supervisor for 4.23 years (SD=3.16; 7% of missing data).

Measures

All measures were translated using the standard translation-back-translation procedure

recommended by Brislin (1980).

Transformational leadership. We measured transformational leadership with the 20-item

Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ-Form 5X) (Bass and Avolio, 2004). In line with

Antonakis et al. (2003) validation study, this questionnaire captures the five sub-dimensions of

2004). In line with Antonakis et al. (2003) validation study, this questionnaire captures the five sub-dimensions
2004). In line with Antonakis et al. (2003) validation study, this questionnaire captures the five sub-dimensions

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transformational leadership, i.e. idealized-influence attributed (a sample item was “my supervisor

instils pride in me for being associated with him/her”), idealized-influence behavior (a sample item

was “my supervisor talks about his/her most important values and beliefs”), inspirational

motivation (a sample item was “my supervisor talks optimistically about the future”),

individualized consideration (a sample item was “my supervisor spends time teaching and

coaching”), and intellectual stimulation (a sample item was “my supervisor re-examines critical

assumptions to question whether they are appropriate”). Respondents rated their agreement with

each statement using a 5-point Likert-type scale (1=not at all; 5=frequently if not always).

SOE. In line with the measure used by Eisenberger et al. (2014) and Shoss et al. (2013), we

relied on 5 items to assess employees’ SOE. Four items were taken from the original scale

developed by Eisenberger and his colleagues (2010) (e.g., “My supervisor is representative of my

organization”). The fifth item (i.e., “My supervisor and my organization are alike”) was added in

order to increase potential scale reliability. For this and the following measures, respondents rated

their agreement with each statement using a 5-point Likert-type scale (1=strongly disagree;

5=strongly agree).

POS. We measured employees’ POS using the 8-item version of the SPOS (Eisenberger et

al., 1986; Eisenberger et al., 1990). Consistent with Rhoades and Eisenberger’s (2002)

recommendation, this scale encompasses the two facets of the definition of POS. A sample item

was “My organization really cares about my well-being”.

Affective organizational commitment. To measure employees’ affective attachment to the

organization, we relied on the 6-item scale of Meyer et al. (1993). A sample item was “My

organization has a great deal of personal meaning for me”.

Control variables. As shown in Table 1, except age which is correlated to affective

commitment, none of the demographic variables displays a significant correlation with the

which is correlated to affective commitment, none of the demographic variables displays a significant correlation with
which is correlated to affective commitment, none of the demographic variables displays a significant correlation with

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dependent variables included in the study (i.e., POS and affective organizational commitment).

Therefore, following Becker’s (2005) recommendation, we control only for age in the analyses we

ran in order to reduce model complexity. Furthermore, as explained above, given the results

previously found by Eisenberger and his colleagues (Eisenberger et al., 2010; Eisenberger et al.,

2014), we decided to control for leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE. To

measure leader-member exchange, we used the 7-item scale of Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995). As

sample item was “How well does your leader recognize your potential?” For each item, a specific

5-point response scale was used (e.g., 1=not at all to 5=fully).

Results

Insert Table 1 about here

Means, standard deviations, internal reliabilities, and correlations 1 among variables are

displayed in Table 1.

Discriminant Validity of the Constructs

Using Lisrel 8.8, we conducted CFAs to examine the distinctiveness of the five constructs

included in our analyses, i.e. transformational leadership 2 , SOE, POS, affective commitment, and

1 As it can be seen in Table 1, the correlation between transformational leadership and leader-member exchange is very high. While these two constructs are conceptually distinct, very high correlations were regularly found in prior research. In particular, similar values were found in studies of Bai et al. (2012), Bettencourt (2004), Liden et al. (2008), and Rowold and Borgmann (2014). Importantly, Rowold and Borgmann (2014) recently showed that the typically strong correlation between transformational leadership and leader-member exchange is, at least partially, due to the influence of interpersonal affect, and is thus the result of another influencing parameter rather than due to content similarities. Furthermore, we conducted confirmatory factor analyses on these two constructs only. These analyses indicated that a two-factor model is the best depiction of our data compared to a one-factor model (∆χ²= 284.89, p<.001). Finally, the analyses reported in Table 3 (see below) showed that transformational leadership predicts POS over and above leader-member exchange, indicating that each construct contributes unique variance in the prediction of POS and they are thus not redundant. Despite the high correlation, we thus considered transformational leadership and leader-member exchange as two distinct constructs in our analyses.

2 As recommended by several scholars (e.g., Bass (1998) and in line with prior studies (e.g., Avolio et al., 1999; Walumbwa et al., 2004; Wang and Huang, 2009), we decided to use a global score for the transformational leadership construct. This decision was first guided by the main objective of our study which was to examine the consequences for organizations of having transformational leaders and not to test for potential differential effects of the five sub- dimensions of transformational leadership. Second, our decision to collapse the sub-dimensions into an overall

five sub- dimensions of transformational leadership. Second, our decision to collapse the sub-dimensions into an overall
five sub- dimensions of transformational leadership. Second, our decision to collapse the sub-dimensions into an overall

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our control variable (i.e., leader-member exchange). As the number of indicators was large relative

to the overall sample size, we reduced the number of indicators per factor to limit the number of

estimated parameters. Using the balancing technique (i.e., constructing parcels by alternating high

and low loadings), we reduced the number of indicators per factor to three, except for

transformational leadership for which we kept 5 indicators corresponding to the 5 sub-dimensions.

This parceling strategy allows us to preserve the common construct variance while minimizing

unrelated specific variance (Little et al., 2013). As shown in Table 2, the results indicate that the

five-factor model fitted the data well and was significantly superior to all more constrained models.

All the individual items loaded reliably on their predicted factors, with standardized loadings

ranging from .84 to .91 for transformational leadership, .86 to .96 for SOE, .87 to .92 for POS, .81

to .88 for affective commitment, and .90 to .92 for leader-member exchange. Based on these

findings, the five variables were treated as separate constructs in the subsequent analyses.

Tests of the Hypothesis

Insert Table 2 about here

Our hypothesized model suggests that POS mediates the relationship between

transformational leadership and affective organizational commitment and SOE moderates the first-

stage of this mediation, i.e. the path between transformational leadership and POS. In other words,

we hypothesized that the indirect effect of transformational leadership on affective commitment

measure of transformational leadership was supported by empirical evidence. More precisely, a principal components analysis revealed that the transformational leadership items formed a single factor as indicated by a first factor accounting for 62% of the total variance, a natural break between the large first eigenvalue (i.e., 12.33) and the eigenvalues of the remaining presumptive factors (i.e., 1.07; .90; .81; etc.), and strong loadings on the first factor (i.e., loadings ranged from .61 to .86, with a mean loading of .78). Furthermore, a second-order confirmatory factor analysis where the sub-dimensions of transformational leadership served as indicators of a higher-order transformational leadership factor demonstrated a good fit to the data (χ²(165) = 499.49, CFI = .98; SRMR = .04, RMSEA = .08). First- order factors (i.e. the sub-dimensions of transformational leadership) loaded on the second-order factor (i.e. transformational leadership) with very acceptable standardized loadings (i.e., .92 for idealized influence (attributed), .93 for idealized influence (behavior), .89 for intellectual stimulation; .92 for intellectual stimulation, .89 for individualized consideration).

(behavior), .89 for intellectual stimulation; .92 for intellectual stimulation, .89 for individualized consideration).
(behavior), .89 for intellectual stimulation; .92 for intellectual stimulation, .89 for individualized consideration).

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through POS will vary depending on the level of SOE. We first tested this hypothesis by

performing a path analysis using Lisrel 8.8. As recommended by Aiken and West (1991), variables

included in an interaction were mean-centered and these centered scores were then used to

compute the interaction term. As Table 3 shows, leader-member exchange is the only control

variable that has a significant influence on POS. Controlling for this effect, both transformational

leadership and its interaction with SOE were statistically significant predictors of POS.

Consistently with the results of Eisenberger et al. (2010), the interaction between leader-member

exchange and SOE is significantly related to affective commitment, just as age is. Controlling for

these variables, POS and affective commitment are strongly and significantly associated. This path

analysis was repeated without controlling for age, leader-member exchange and its interaction with

SOE and the results were essentially identical 3 .

To further examine the interactive effect of transformational leadership and SOE on POS,

lines representing the relationship between transformational leadership and POS were plotted at

high and low levels of SOE (+/- 1SD). As shown in Figure 2, the relationship between

transformational leadership and POS was statistically significant when SOE was high (B=.37,

p<.001), and not significant when SOE was low (B=-.03, n.s).

3 We also compared the explained variance of our model with a model that does not include transformational leadership and its interaction with SOE. To do so, we used hierarchical linear regressions in order to obtain the significance of the F change associated with the R² change of each step. In the regression where POS is the dependent variable, we thus introduced leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE in the first step and transformational leadership and its interaction with SOE in the second one. Results indicated a R² of .31 (p < .001) for the first step and a ∆R² of .03 (p < .01) for the second one. Thus, the explained variance of POS significantly increases by adding transformational leadership and its interaction with SOE. The effect is however small and mainly due to the interaction term. Literature nevertheless indicates that even effect sizes labeled small can have substantial practical and theoretical importance and must thus not be ignored (Aguinis et al., 2005; Cohen, 1988; Cohen et al., 2003; Dawson, 2014). In the regression where affective commitment is the dependent variable, we introduced age, leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE in the first step, transformational leadership and its interaction with SOE in the second one, and POS in the last one. Results indicated a R² of .19 (p < .001) for the first step, a ∆R² of .01 (p > .05) for the second one, and a ∆R² of .27 (p < .001) for the last one. These results are consistent with the results of the path analyses which showed that neither transformational leadership nor its interaction with SOE has a significant effect on affective commitment whereas POS is strongly related to affective commitment.

with SOE has a significant effect on affective commitment whereas POS is strongly related to affective
with SOE has a significant effect on affective commitment whereas POS is strongly related to affective

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Second, we used Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS macro (model 7) to obtain bias-corrected

bootstrapped confidence intervals for the conditional indirect effects (Edwards and Lambert, 2007;

Preacher et al., 2007). Importantly, the estimates and bias-corrected bootstrapped 95% confidence

intervals for the conditional indirect effects using 5000 bootstrap samples indicate that the indirect

effect of transformational leadership on affective commitment via POS is significant when SOE is

high (+1SD) (indirect effect=.24; SE=.07; BCa95%CI = [.11; .38]). However, when SOE is low (-

1SD), the indirect effect of transformational leadership on affective commitment through POS was

not significant (indirect effect=-.02; SE=.06; BCa95%CI = [-.15; .11]). Finally, the index of

moderated mediation (Hayes, 2015) is significantly different from 0 (index=.16; SE=.06;

BCa95%CI = [.05; .28]). Again, this bootstrap analysis was repeated without controlling for age,

leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE and the results were similar.

Insert Table 3 and Figure 2 about here

Discussion

We found that, to the extent SOE was high, transformational leadership was related to

perceived organizational support which, in turn, was associated with affective organizational

commitment. In other words, when employees strongly identify their supervisor with the

organization, transformational leadership is positively related to a feeling of being supported and

valued by the whole organization, with positive consequences in terms of emotional attachment to

this organization. In contrast, when the supervisor is not identified to the organization, his or her

transformational leadership does not extend to perceived organizational support and, finally, to

affective commitment to the organization. The present research contributes to the existing literature

on the effects of transformational leadership on followers’ attitudes by demonstrating the relevance

of SOE and POS, thereby filling an important gap in proposing mechanisms explaining why and

by demonstrating the relevance of SOE and POS, thereby filling an important gap in proposing mechanisms
by demonstrating the relevance of SOE and POS, thereby filling an important gap in proposing mechanisms

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when transformational leadership of supervisors has spillover effect on organization-directed

attitudes or behaviors.

Globally, these findings showed that transformational leadership plays a crucial role in

developing employee-employer relationship. If an employment relationship theoretically originates

on the basis of exchanges between the employee and the employing organization, the fact remains

that workers usually see employment as a relationship with specific organizational members, such

as their supervisors (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Gakovic and Tetrick, 2003; Hui et al., 2004;

Rousseau, 1995). As suggested by several authors (Graen and Scandura, 1987; Hui et al., 2004),

the relationship between workers and supervisors is the most powerful connection a worker can

develop in the organization. However, our results indicated that this link between leadership and

variables reflecting the relationship with the organization as a whole varies according to the

employee’s identification of the supervisor with the organization. Depending on SOE, the

supervisor is seen by subordinates as acting relatively more on the supervisor’s own behalf or more

as an organizational agent.

The moderating effect of SOE in the relationship between transformational leadership and

POS with consequences for affective commitment is in agreement with prior results on SOE

reported by Eisenberger and his colleagues (Eisenberger et al., 2010; Eisenberger et al., 2014;

Shoss et al., 2013). In conjunction with the present findings, the empirical evidence gathered so far

on SOE indicates that the more employees perceive their supervisor to share a common identity

with the organization, the more employees attribute their supervisor’s treatment to the

organization. In the present research, depending on SOE, the transformational leadership is

perceived more or less as an indicator of a general supportive climate in the organization, with

implications for employees’ affective commitment toward this organization. We decided to focus

on transformational leadership in this study because it is amongst the supervisory treatments most

We decided to focus on transformational leadership in this study because it is amongst the supervisory
We decided to focus on transformational leadership in this study because it is amongst the supervisory

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studied in relationship with affective commitment (Jackson et al., 2013; Meyer et al., 2002;

Trivisonno and Barling, in press). However, the general consistency between our results and the

results previously found on SOE (Eisenberger et al., 2010; Eisenberger et al., 2014; Shoss et al.,

2013) raises the question of the specificity of our results. One may indeed wonder whether the

same pattern of results would not emerge with any kind of leadership styles. This is probably

especially true for leadership styles such as charismatic leadership which is similar in many

respects to transformational leadership (Jackson et al., 2013). Therefore, we think that future

research aiming at providing a valuable contribution to the literature over and above recent

findings on SOE should examine whether the same kind of pattern emerges when controlling for

the supervisory treatments already tested in prior studies. By controlling for leader-member

exchange and its interaction with SOE, we precisely showed that our results exist over and beyond

the moderating role of SOE in the relationship between leader-member exchange and affective

organizational commitment reported by Eisenberger et al. (2010).

Interestingly, the present research reported no relationship between transformational

leadership and POS and then affective commitment at low SOE. This suggests that, despite

supervisors’ in-role tasks of directing, evaluating and coaching subordinates, they are not

automatically perceived by subordinates as inherently representing the organization. Further, the

organization is not perceived as bearing some degree of responsibility for the supervisors’ actions

if this supervisor is not perceived as embodying the organization. These findings are in accordance

with Eisenberger et al.’s (Study 1; 2010) and Shoss et al.’s (2013) results who found no

relationship between their independent and their dependent variable at low SOE. But they are in

contradiction with those of Eisenberger et al.’s (Study 2; 2010) and Eisenberger et al.’s (2014)

which showed that, even at low SOE, the independent and the dependent variable were related. As

suggested by Eisenberger et al. (2010), this difference in results may be due to the level of

variable were related. As suggested by Eisenberger et al. (2010), this difference in results may be
variable were related. As suggested by Eisenberger et al. (2010), this difference in results may be

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authority and power organizations provide supervisors and merits further investigation. Future

research should particularly examine whether, contrary to the results including leader-member

exchange, the absence of relationship between transformational leadership and POS at low SOE is

consistently replicated.

Above and beyond the literature on transformational leadership, these findings have also

basic implications for organizational support theory (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger and

Stinglhamber, 2011). To the best of our knowledge, this study is among the first published research

which explicitly examines the relationship between transformational leadership and POS. Our

findings indicate a positive link between these two constructs. These results are consistent with a

few previous studies which concomitantly measured transformational leadership and POS while

the research objective was not necessarily to test this relationship (e.g., Bai et al., 2012; Connell et

al., 2003). Future research might examine whether some sub-dimensions of transformational

leadership are more strongly related to POS and are thus more responsible for the positive link

between transformational leadership and POS.

Finally, our study sheds new light on the development of affective organizational

commitment and has thus important implications for this literature too. Research has indeed

showed the numerous consequences of having a workforce that is affectively committed to the

organization (Meyer et al., 2002). Far from being beneficial for the organization only, these

outcomes are also beneficial for the employee him/herself in terms, for example, of better health,

increased well-being or more career success. Regarding the latter, a recent meta-analysis indicated

that, although subjective career success should theoretically be the result of individuals’ total work

experiences across jobs, supervisors and organizations, employees are influenced by their

perceptions of their current employment situation (Ng and Feldman, 2014). Above and beyond the

impact of career commitment (e.g., Ballout, 2009), organizational commitment should thus be an

2014). Above and beyond the impact of career commitment (e.g., Ballout, 2009), organizational commitment should thus
2014). Above and beyond the impact of career commitment (e.g., Ballout, 2009), organizational commitment should thus

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important predictor of career success, in its subjective but also in its objective dimension (e.g.,

Bozionelos et al., 2011), and possibly via the networking behaviors that committed employees

engage in (Eby et al., 2003; Sturges et al., 2002; Wolff and Moser, 2009). Gaining a better

understanding of the development of commitment may thus be important for its numerous

outcomes and their own development. Future research might even examine whether our results

carry over to the consequences of affective commitment.

Limitations and Perspectives for Future Research

The present study has some limitations that should be borne in mind when interpreting our

results. First, our cross-sectional design did not allow us to make causal inferences. Studies using

panel designs are thus needed to further explore the direction of causality of the detected

relationships. Second, common method bias may have cause inflation in the relationships among

variables measured from the same source. However, given that we were interested in employees’

perceptions, self-reported measures were the most appropriate way to assess our constructs.

Additionally, we were able to partially address the concern over method bias by assuring

participants of the anonymity of their responses and by performing analyses showing that a single-

factor solution provided a poor fit to the data (i.e., Harman’s single-factor test; Podsakoff et al.,

2003). Furthermore, as showed by Siemsen et al. (2010), common method bias is likely to lead to

attenuation and not inflation of the interaction term, so that finding significant interaction effects

despite this possible deflation is a strong evidence that an interaction exists.

Third, our study aims at focusing on organizational mechanisms (i.e., POS and SOE) which

underlie the transformational leadership-affective commitment relationship. Yet, prior studies have

shown that followers’ attitudes toward their leader or their job, or followers’ appraisals of

themselves (e.g., self-efficacy) or their colleagues are likely to explain this relationship too (e.g.,

Bono and Judge, 2003; Korek et al., 2010; Pillai et al., 1999). Future research should investigate

too (e.g., Bono and Judge, 2003; Korek et al. , 2010; Pillai et al. , 1999).
too (e.g., Bono and Judge, 2003; Korek et al. , 2010; Pillai et al. , 1999).

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how self-, job-, team- or supervisor-related attitudes combine with organizational processes in the

explanation of the relationship between transformational leadership and affective commitment.

Finally, although our study used affective commitment as final outcome, transformational

leadership influences other followers’ attitudes and behaviors directed toward the organization.

Accordingly, future research should attempt to test the generalizability of our results to other

organizational outcomes.

Practical Implications

Research has consistently reported the beneficial outcomes of a high POS and/or a high

affective commitment for both organizations and employees (Eisenberger and Stinglhamber, 2011;

Meyer et al., 2002). Yet, the present findings have several important practical implications related

to the advances in our understanding of the development of these two variables. Precisely, our

results indicated that it is the conjunction of a high transformational leadership and a high SOE that

produces the highest levels of POS and, subsequently, affective organizational commitment. In

addition, our findings showed that this effect occurs above and beyond the influence of leader-

member exchange. Clearly, these results indicate that developing high-quality relationships with

their subordinates is not sufficient for managers to maximise the level of affective organizational

commitment among these employees. If organizations want that favorable treatment from their

managers toward their subordinates spill over the general employee-employer relationship, they

cannot confine their efforts to the development of the quality of the exchanges between managers

and subordinates. Even though managers already have high-quality relationship with their

subordinates, stimulating a high transformational leadership among managers combined with a

high SOE among their subordinates indeed produces among the latter more perceptions of caring

and support from the organization with positive consequences in terms of organizational

attachment.

perceptions of caring and support from the organization with positive consequences in terms of organizational attachment.
perceptions of caring and support from the organization with positive consequences in terms of organizational attachment.

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Practically, these results therefore suggest that organizations need to take action on both

fronts, i.e. foster transformational leadership among their managers and at the same time enhance

employees’ perceptions of their managers as sharing identity with the organization. On the one

hand, organizations might provide their managers with training programs and feedbacks over their

performance as leaders to promote transformational leadership. On the other hand, to foster

perceptions of SOE, initial evidence showed that organizations may stimulate managers’

organizational identification (Eisenberger et al., 2010) and that it can be done by using

institutionalized organizational socialization tactics that emphasize common in-group identity

(Ashforth and Saks, 1996; Jones, 1986) and by implementing favorable human resource

management policies (Reade, 2001).

Although more research is still needed on the development of SOE, one can also assume

that providing managers with informal status in the organization will have a positive impact on

how much these managers are perceived as embodying the organization. Following Eisenberger et

al. (2002), employees’ attributions of informal organizational status to managers would be based

on personal observation of how much the organization provides managers with influence in

important organizational decisions and gives them authority and autonomy in their day-to-day

work (e.g., more independence and freedom in the way they determine their methods, pace, and

efforts to accomplish work tasks and more control over their schedules).

Finally, strengthening managers’ person-organization fit should also have a positive

influence on how much these managers are perceived as sharing identity with the organization.

This can be done by implementing, especially for newcomers, specific socialization tactics. In

particular, highly institutionalized socialization tactics remove much of uncertainty inherent to

early work experiences, and diffuse a common message about organization’s values and about the

uncertainty inherent to early work experiences, and diffuse a common message about organization’s values and about
uncertainty inherent to early work experiences, and diffuse a common message about organization’s values and about

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way employees should interpret and respond to situations. As such, they are important predictors of

how managers respond and adjust to their new environment (Kim et al., 2005).

In conclusion, the present study indicates that the pivotal role of transformational leadership

in developing employee-employer relationships varies according to the employee’s identification

of the supervisor with the organization. These findings show the importance of the SOE concept to

understand employees’ generalization of the relationship with his/her supervisor to the whole

organization. Given the influence of SOE, gaining a better understanding of its development is of

utmost importance. That suggests promising new avenues for future research.

better understanding of its development is of utmost importance. That suggests promising new avenues for future
better understanding of its development is of utmost importance. That suggests promising new avenues for future

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Biographical Details (if applicable):

Florence Stinglhamber is an associate Professor of Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management in the Psychology Department at the Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). Her research interests include perceived organizational support, employees’ identification and commitment in the workplace, perceived justice and trust, and employer branding. She is the (co-)author of a number of scientific articles and the co-author of the APA book titled “¨Perceived organizational support: Fostering enthusiastic and productive employees”.

Géraldine Marique received her PhD from the Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la- Neuve, Belgium) and is currently invited lecturer at the same university. Her research interests include employees' organizational identification and commitment, perceived organizational support, leadership, proactivity, and organizational justice.

Gaëtane Caesens is a PhD student in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY) of the Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). Her research interests focus on perceived organizational support, work engagement, and well-being.

Dorothée Hanin received her PhD from the Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) and is currently invited lecturer at the same university. Her research interests include employer branding, perceived organizational support, organizational identification and pride.

Fabrice De Zanet received his PhD in Management Sciences from the HEC Management School of the University of Liege (Liège, Belgium). He is currently Assistant Professor at the HEC Management School of the University of Liege. His research interests include leadership, trust, cooperation and organizational control.

of the University of Liege. His research interests include leadership, trust, cooperation and organizational control.
of the University of Liege. His research interests include leadership, trust, cooperation and organizational control.

(.93)

29

Note. N = 287. Cronbach’s alphas are provided in parentheses on the diagonal. SOE = supervisor’s organizational embodiment;

-.11

---

.25***

-.06

---

*** p < .001. support. Gender was coded 1 = male and 2 = female. Tenures are in years.

-.19**

-.03

.07

---

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.69***

.24 ***

-.16**

-.06

.29***

.12*

-.10

-.09

.12

Running head: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT

.42***

-.02

-.11

.07

.03

-.00

-.08

-.03

-.01

.02

.86***

.13*

-.06

-.09

-.11

8.80

3.16

8.48

.96

.43

12.26

40.42

1.24

3.26

4.23

organizational

Employee’s tenure with

Employee’s tenure in

the organization

Leader-member

** p < .01.

the supervisor

perceived

exchange

Gender

p < = .05.

Age

* POS

6.
7.

8.
9.

5.

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations
M
SD
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1.
2.
Transformational
.97
SOE
3.18
2.97
(.97)
leadership
.80
.05
(.93)
3.
4.
POS
3.04
.71
.42 ***
.03
(.90)
Affective commitment
3.47
.72
.30 ***
.05
.68 ***
(.87)
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30
.05 (.93) 3. 4. POS 3.04 .71 .42 *** .03 (.90) Affective commitment 3.47 .72 .30

2141.51

544.34

952.02

545.33

819.03

830.23

92.27

Note. N = 287. POS = perceived organizational support; SOE = supervisor’s organizational embodiment; CFI = Comparative Fit Index; SRMR =

30

.14

.14

.26

.17

.17

.18

.08

.04

.14

.12

.12

.12

.19

.23

Standardized Root Mean Square Residual; RMSEA = Root Mean Square Error of Approximation. *** p < .001.

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.90

.90

.90

.76

.87

.88

.98

119

118

113

113

113

113

113

Running head: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT

771.34 1179.02

1046.03 2368.51

319.27
1057.23

772.33

Four-factor model (transformational leadership and leader-

factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and SOE =

Four-factor model (SOE and leader-member exchange = 1

Four-factor model (POS and leader-member exchange = 1

factor) Two-factor model (POS and affective commitment = 1

factor; transformational leadership, SOE, and leader-

Four-factor model (POS and SOE = 1 factor)

member exchange = 1 factor)

member exchange = 1 factor)

One-factor model

1 factor)

factor)

9.
10.

8.

4.

6.
7.

5.

Table 2 Confirmatory Factor Analyses Fit Indices for Measurement Models Model χ 2 df CFI
Table 2
Confirmatory Factor Analyses Fit Indices for Measurement Models
Model
χ 2
df
CFI
SRMR
RMSEA
∆χ 2 (∆df)
1.
2.
Five-factor model
227.00
109
.99
.04
.06
---
Four-factor model (POS and affective commitment = 1
416.66
1050.04
113
.97
.05
.10
189.66
factor)
Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13.
113
.90
.14
.17
823.04
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14
.97 .05 .10 189.66 factor) Four-factor model (transformational leadership and POS = 13. 113 .90 .14

31

Affective commitment

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.00

SE

Stand. coeff.

.08

Running head: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT

SE

POS

Stand. coeff.

Results of the Path Analyses

Predictor

Table 3

Age

coeff. Results of the Path Analyses Predictor Table 3 Age Leader-member exchange .22* .07 .01 .07
Leader-member exchange .22* .07 .01 .07 Leader-member exchange x SOE .09 .09 .25* .08 Transformational
Leader-member exchange
.22*
.07
.01
.07
Leader-member exchange x SOE
.09
.09
.25*
.08
Transformational leadership
.21*
.07
.02
.07
SOE
.07
.04
.03
.04
Transformational leadership x SOE
.32**
.09
-.20
.09
POS
.65***
.05
Note. N = 287. POS = perceived organizational support; SOE = supervisor’s organizational embodiment. χ 2 (1) = 2.67;
CFI
1.00; ** SRMR
*
*** p RMSEA
p < = .05.
p < .01. = .02;
< .001. = .08.
embodiment. χ 2 (1) = 2.67; CFI 1.00; ** SRMR * *** p RMSEA p <

Running head: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT

32

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Supervisor’s Organizational Embodiment Perceived Affective Transformational Organizational Organizational
Supervisor’s
Organizational
Embodiment
Perceived
Affective
Transformational
Organizational
Organizational
Leadership
Support
Commitment
Leader-Member
Exchange
Figure 1. Conceptual model.

Leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE are used as controls and are thus

presented using dotted lines.

model. Leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE are used as controls and are thus presented
model. Leader-member exchange and its interaction with SOE are used as controls and are thus presented

Running head: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITMENT

33

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by Central Michigan University At 13:18 08 October 2015 (PT) Figure 2. POS as a function

Figure 2. POS as a function of transformational leadership at low (- 1 SD) and high (+ 1 SD)

levels of SOE.

2015 (PT) Figure 2. POS as a function of transformational leadership at low (- 1 SD
2015 (PT) Figure 2. POS as a function of transformational leadership at low (- 1 SD