Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, and affective organizational commitment: a closer look at their relationships in two distinct national contexts

  • Youngsam ChoEmail author
  • Mannsoo Shin
  • Tejinder K. Billing
  • Rabi S. Bhagat
Original Article


This study compared the relationship between leadership style and affective organizational commitment (AOC) for Korean and U.S. employees, based on path-goal leadership theory and culturally endorsed implicit leadership theory. The results showed that the positive relationship between transformational leadership and AOC was stronger for U.S. employees than their Korean counterparts, whereas transactional leadership was positively related to AOC only for Korean employees. Also, we tested Bass’s (Leadership and performance beyond expectations, Free Press, New York, 1985) augmentation effect and House’s (Leadersh Q 7(3):323–352, 1996) negative moderating effect of the two leadership styles. Interestingly, our results differed from theirs in this cross-national context. The findings provide important theoretical and managerial implications.


Transformational leadership Transactional leadership Affective organizational commitment Korea The U.S. 



This study is partially supported by Korea University Business School Research Grant.


  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, N. J., & Meyer, J. P. (1990). The measurement and antecedents of affective, continuance and normative commitment to the organization. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 63(1), 1–18.Google Scholar
  3. Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass and Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications. NY: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bass, B. M. (1999). Two decades of research and development in transformational leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 9–32.Google Scholar
  6. Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1990). Developing transformational leadership: 1992 and beyond. Journal of European Industrial Training, 14(5), 21–27.Google Scholar
  7. Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2000). Multifactor leadership questionnaire: Manual leader form, rater, and scoring key for MLQ (Form 5x-Short). Redwood City, CA: Mind Garden.Google Scholar
  8. Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., Jung, D. I., & Berson, Y. (2003). Predicting unit performance by assessing transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 207–218.Google Scholar
  9. Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Handbook of leadership (Vol. 11). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  11. Birasnav, M. (2014). Knowledge management and organizational performance in the service industry: the role of transformational leadership beyond the effects of transactional leadership. Journal of Business Research, 67(8), 1622–1629.Google Scholar
  12. Brislin, R. W. (1970). Back-translation for cross-cultural research. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1(3), 185–216.Google Scholar
  13. Bycio, P., Hackett, R. D., & Allen, J. S. (1995). Further assessments of Bass’s (1985) conceptualization of transactional and transformational leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(4), 468–478.Google Scholar
  14. Byrne, A., Dionisi, A. M., Barling, J., Akers, A., Robertson, J., Lys, R., et al. (2014). The depleted leader: the influence of leaders’ diminished psychological resources on leadership behaviors. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(2), 344–357.Google Scholar
  15. Chiaburu, D. S., Smith, T. A., Wang, J., & Zimmerman, R. D. (2014). Relative importance of leader influences for subordinates’ proactive behaviors, prosocial behaviors, and task performance. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 13(2), 70–86.Google Scholar
  16. Clugston, M., Howell, J. P., & Dorfman, P. W. (2000). Does cultural socialization predict multiple bases and foci of commitment? Journal of Management, 26(1), 5–30.Google Scholar
  17. Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  19. De Luque, M. S., & Javidan, M. (2004). Uncertainty avoidance. In R. J. House, P. J. Hanges, M. Javidan, P. W. Dorfman, & V. Gupta (Eds.), Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  20. Den Hartog, D. N., House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Ruiz-Quintanilla, S. A., & Dorfman, P. W. (1999). Culture specific and cross-culturally generalizable implicit leadership theories: Are attributes of charismatic/transformational leadership universally endorsed? The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 219–256.Google Scholar
  21. Dorfman, P. W., Hanges, P. J., & Brodbeck, F. C. (2004). Leadership and culture variation: The identification of culturally endorsed leadership profiles. In R. J. House, P. J. Hanges, M. Javidan, P. W. Dorfman, & V. Gupta (Eds.), Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Dorfman, P. W., Howell, J. P., Hibino, S., Lee, J. K., Tate, U., & Bautista, A. (1997). Leadership in Western and Asian countries: Commonalities and differences in effective leadership processes across cultures. The Leadership Quarterly, 8(3), 233–274.Google Scholar
  23. Engelen, A., Schmidt, S., Strenger, L., & Brettel, M. (2014). Top management’s transformational leader behaviors and innovation orientation: A cross-cultural perspective in eight countries. Journal of International Management, 20(2), 124–136.Google Scholar
  24. Fischer, R., & Smith, P. B. (2003). Reward allocation and culture a meta-analysis. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(3), 251–268.Google Scholar
  25. Flatten, T., Adams, D., & Brettel, M. (2015). Fostering absorptive capacity through leadership: A cross-cultural analysis. Journal of World Business, 50(3), 519–534.Google Scholar
  26. Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1998). Multivariate data analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  27. Hanges, P., Lord, R., & Dickson, M. (2000). An information-processing perspective on leadership and culture: A case for connectionist architecture. Applied Psychology, 49(1), 133–161.Google Scholar
  28. Hater, J. J., & Bass, B. M. (1988). Superiors’ evaluations and subordinates’ perceptions of transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73(4), 695–702.Google Scholar
  29. Herbert, K., Mockaitis, A. I., & Zander, L. (2014). An opportunity for east and west to share leadership: A multicultural analysis of shared leadership preferences in global teams. Asian Business & Management, 13(3), 257–282.Google Scholar
  30. Hildisch, A. K., Froese, F. J., & Pak, Y. S. (2015). Employee responses to a cross-border acquisition in South Korea: The role of social support from different hierarchical levels. Asian Business & Management, 14(4), 327–347.Google Scholar
  31. Hoffman, R. C., & Shipper, F. M. (2012). The impact of managerial skills on employee outcomes: A cross cultural study. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(7), 1414–1435.Google Scholar
  32. Hofstede, G. H. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  33. Hong, G., Cho, Y., Froese, F. J., & Shin, M. (2016). The effect of leadership styles, rank, and seniority on affective organizational commitment: A comparative study of US and Korean employees. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 23(2), 340–362.Google Scholar
  34. Hong, G., & Kim, E. (2017). Overcoming country-of-origin image constraints on hiring: The moderating role of CSR. Asian Business & Management, 16(4–5), 253–271.Google Scholar
  35. House, R. J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16(3), 321–339.Google Scholar
  36. House, R. J. (1996). Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 7(3), 323–352.Google Scholar
  37. House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and oganizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Howell, J. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, locus of control, and support for innovation: Key predictors of consolidated-business-unit performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(6), 891–902.Google Scholar
  39. Jackson, T. A., Meyer, J. P., & Wang, X.-H. (2013). Leadership, commitment, and culture: A meta-analysis. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(1), 84–106.Google Scholar
  40. Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., De Luque, M. S., & House, R. J. (2006). In the eye of the beholder: Cross cultural lessons in leadership from project GLOBE. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(1), 67–90.Google Scholar
  41. Jia, J., Yan, J., Cai, Y., & Liu, Y. (2018). Paradoxical leadership incongruence and Chinese individuals’ followership behaviors: Moderation effects of hierarchical culture and perceived strength of human resource management system. Asian Business & Management, 17(5), 313–338.Google Scholar
  42. Judge, T. A., & Piccolo, R. F. (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(5), 755–768.Google Scholar
  43. Kim, T. G., Lee, J. K., & Lee, J. H. (2013). Do interpersonal relationships still matter for turnover intention? A comparison of South Korea and China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(5), 966–984.Google Scholar
  44. Kirkman, B. L., Chen, G., Farh, J.-L., Chen, Z. X., & Lowe, K. B. (2009). Individual power distance orientation and follower reactions to transformational leaders: A cross-level, cross-cultural examination. Academy of Management Journal, 52(4), 744–764.Google Scholar
  45. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9(2), 151–173.Google Scholar
  46. Lord, R. G., Foti, R. J., & De Vader, C. L. (1984). A test of leadership categorization theory: Internal structure, information processing, and leadership perceptions. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 34(3), 343–378.Google Scholar
  47. Lord, R. G., & Maher, K. J. (2002). Leadership and information processing: Linking perceptions and performance. NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  48. Mathieu, J. E., & Zajac, D. M. (1990). A review and meta-analysis of the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment. Psychological Bulletin, 108(2), 171–194.Google Scholar
  49. Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. (1991). A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment. Human Resource Management Review, 1(1), 61–89.Google Scholar
  50. Meyer, J. P., Stanley, D. J., Herscovitch, L., & Topolnytsky, L. (2002). Affective, continuance, and normative commitment to the organization: A meta-analysis of antecedents, correlates, and consequences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61(1), 20–52.Google Scholar
  51. Piccolo, R. F., Bono, J. E., Heinitz, K., Rowold, J., Duehr, E., & Judge, T. A. (2012). The relative impact of complementary leader behaviors: Which matter most? The Leadership Quarterly, 23(3), 567–581.Google Scholar
  52. Pieterse, A. N., Van Knippenberg, D., Schippers, M., & Stam, D. (2010). Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(4), 609–623.Google Scholar
  53. Pillai, R., Schriesheim, C. A., & Williams, E. K. (1999). Fairness perceptions and trust as mediators for transformational and transactional leadership: A two-sample study. Journal of Management, 25(6), 897–933.Google Scholar
  54. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2012). Sources of method bias in social science research and recommendations on how to control It. Annual Review of Psychology, 63(1), 539–569.Google Scholar
  55. Rosing, K., Frese, M., & Bausch, A. (2011). Explaining the heterogeneity of the leadership-innovation relationship: Ambidextrous leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(5), 956–974.Google Scholar
  56. Rowold, J., & Heinitz, K. (2007). Transformational and charismatic leadership: Assessing the convergent, divergent and criterion validity of the MLQ and the CKS. The Leadership Quartely, 18(2), 121–133.Google Scholar
  57. Schriesheim, C. A., Castro, S. L., Zhou, X. T., & DeChurch, L. A. (2006). An investigation of path-goal and transformational leadership theory predictions at the individual level of analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(1), 21–38.Google Scholar
  58. Spreitzer, G. M., Perttula, K. H., & Xin, K. (2005). Traditionality matters: An examination of the effectiveness of transformational leadership in the United States and Taiwan. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(3), 205–227.Google Scholar
  59. Tyssen, A. K., Wald, A., & Heidenreich, S. (2014). Leadership in the context of temporary organizations: A study on the effects of transactional and transformational leadership on followers’ commitment in projects. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 21(4), 376–393.Google Scholar
  60. Vandenberg, R. J., & Lance, C. E. (2000). A review and synthesis of the measurement similarity literature: suggestions, practices, and recommendations for organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 3(1), 4–70.Google Scholar
  61. Vecchio, R. P., Justin, J. E., & Pearce, C. L. (2008). The utility of transactional and transformational leadership for predicting performance and satisfaction within a path-goal theory framework. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81(1), 71–82.Google Scholar
  62. Waldman, D. A., Bass, B. M., & Yammarino, F. J. (1990). Adding to contingent-reward behavior: The augmenting effect of charismatic leadership. Group & Organization Studies, 15(4), 381–394.Google Scholar
  63. Walumbwa, F. O., Cropanzano, R., & Hartnell, C. A. (2009). Organizational justice, voluntary learning behavior, and job performance: A test of the mediating effects of identification and leader-member exchange. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(8), 1103–1126.Google Scholar
  64. Walumbwa, F. O., Orwa, B., Wang, P., & Lawler, J. J. (2005). Transformational leadership, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction: A comparative study of Kenyan and U.S. financial firms. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(2), 235–256.Google Scholar
  65. Wang, G., Oh, I.-S., Courtright, S. H., & Colbert, A. E. (2011). Transformational leadership and performance across criteria and levels: A meta-analytic review of 25 years of research. Group & Organization Management, 36(2), 223–270.Google Scholar
  66. Wang, P., & Walumbwa, F. O. (2007). Family-friendly programs, organizational commitment, and work withdrawal: The moderating role of transformational leadership. Personnel Psychology, 60(2), 397–427.Google Scholar
  67. Williams, L. J., Cote, J. A., & Buckley, M. R. (1989). Lack of method variance in self-reported affect and perceptions at work: Reality or artifact? Journal of Applied Psychology, 74(3), 462–468.Google Scholar
  68. Zhu, W., Sosik, J. J., Riggio, R. E., & Yang, B. (2012). Relationships between transformational and active transactional leadership and followers’ organizational identification: The role of psychological empowerment. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 13(3), 186–212.Google Scholar
  69. Zhu, J., Xu, S., Ouyang, K., Herst, D., & Farndale, E. (2018). Ethical leadership and employee pro-social rule-breaking behavior in China. Asian Business & Management, 17(1), 59–81.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business Administration, BERI, Gyeongsang National UniversityJinjuKorea
  2. 2.International Business Department, Korea University Business SchoolSeoulKorea
  3. 3.Rohrer College of Business, Rowan UniversityGlassboroUSA
  4. 4.Fogelman College of Business and Economics, University of MemphisMemphisUSA

Personalised recommendations