Applying the Full Range of Leadership: Developing Followers and Employee Engagement in the Workplace

Applying the Full Range of Leadership: Developing Followers and Employee Engagement in the Workplace

Sharon E. Norris (Spring Arbor University, USA) and Ashley R. Norris (Carnegie Library, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7799-7.ch007
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Engaged employees are connected, present, authentically self-expressive in their work roles, and committed to their organizations. Disengaged employees are disconnected and detached from their work. The extent to which employees are engaged is malleable and subject to influence and change; therefore, employee engagement can be developed. When employees believe they are supported with opportunities for growth and development, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. In this chapter, employee engagement, employee development, and full range leadership are discussed along with how leaders use transactional, transformational, and laissez-faire leadership to develop followers and encourage employee engagement.
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There is an epidemic within today’s contemporary organizations, which has been referred to as employee disengagement (Swindall, 2010). Disengagement at work is a coping mechanism that employees use when they perceive a lack of support from coworkers and supervisors (Thanacoody, Newman, & Fuchs, 2014). It has been reported that more and more workers are actively disengaged and afraid to speak up regarding policies, procedures, or business practices out of fear of negative consequences such as retribution (Maylett & Warner, 2014; Wilson, 2014). When employees are disengaged, they alienate themselves from their work, safeguard themselves, and suppress their thoughts and feelings resulting in health and wellness issues, intention to quit, high turnover rates, reduced productivity, and lower moral (Anuradha, Lakshmi, & Ghuman, 2017; Blauner, 1964; Seeman, 1972; Lencioni, 2007).

Today’s organizational leaders sometimes make short-term decisions to keep pace with the changing demands of the marketplace but end up violating the psychological contract and creating an environment where employees experience less job security, uncertainty in career opportunities, and challenging organizational climates (Imperatori, 2017). These working conditions take a toll on employees and ultimately diminish the effectiveness of the organization. While some workers resign and leave the organization, others stay employed but mentally quit and emotionally detach. Going to work everyday for the paycheck becomes a way of life. According to the Gallup Organization (as cited by Swindall, 2007), people without passion for their work make up 55% of the people in organizations and those actively disengaged make up 19% with only 26% of employees who are actively engaged.

When employees lose their motivation and enthusiasm on the job, it can be easy for leaders to simply blame employees for poor attitudes and expect workers to turn things around for themselves. Yet, organizational leaders are the ones responsible for the culture and climate of the organization, and signs of disengagement need to be addressed through effective leadership. Ignoring disengaged employees can do quite a bit of damage as the employees who are engaged can become weary when working with peers who lack passion for their work. Leaders need to gain insights on how to keep the entire workforce motivated and engaged on an ongoing basis.

It is possible for employees who are engage to become disengaged and visa versa. Employee engagement is malleable and state-like, making it subject to influence, change, and development, and by its nature, is cognitive and affective. For example, people are more likely to be engaged when they perceive they are supported and when they experience positive emotions (Biswas & Bhatnagar, 2013; Fredrickson, 2009; Youssef-Morgan, & Bockorny, 2014). Since employee engagement is not fixed and subject to change, many leaders view employee engagement initiatives as a strategic employee development opportunity that can improve employee performance and enhance overall effectiveness of their organizations.

Employee engagement is a powerful antecedent to a variety of positive employee attitudes and behaviors such as organizational commitment and organizational citizenship behaviors (Whittington, Meskelis, Asare, & Beldona, 2017). Employee engagement is also associated with effective employee performance, retention, productivity, and overall business growth (Yadav, 2016). Given the desirability of these outcomes, organizational practitioners are interested in knowing how to help individual employees overcome any potential barriers to making positive changes as well as how employee engagement can be collectively nurtured within organizations (Herman, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Employee Engagement: The level to which employees are involved and committed to their role within an organization.

Leadership Development: The process of acquiring effective leadership behaviors.

Transactional Leadership: A leadership style that directs employee behavior and rewards successful completion of tasks.

Employee Development: Training and educational opportunities for employees that provide opportunities and experiences that benefit individual employees as well as the organization.

Full Range Leadership: The capacity of a leader to draw upon transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership behavior as necessary for employees and the organization.

Transformational Leadership: A leadership style that elicits trust and mutual support where leaders are role models and strive to make work tasks challenging and meaningful for followers.

Laissez-Faire Leadership: A leadership style where followers are granted full autonomy and decision-making power.

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