Leadership Styles Affecting Job Satisfaction

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Every company has a leader or multiple leaders who are responsible for managing the company. They hire staff, control the workflow, establish the structure of the company, gather and redistribute resources, and perform other managing duties. Leadership is a difficult process, and different people choose different approaches to it. There is a multitude of leadership style categories that separate them like transformational, transactional, and passive or avoidant styles. Each holds its characteristics and can have its effects on the job satisfaction of employees.

Transformational leadership is based on the positive concepts of fairness and integrity in the workplace. A leader who uses a transformational leadership style has to be clear in the goals he chooses for the company. Their interaction with the employees is supportive and often has an inspirational quality. However, the employees are expected to perform quality work and act selflessly to achieve the common goals of the company. On the other hand, transactional leadership is mostly focused on the results of the work performed by employees. Such leaders utilize a strict system of rewards and penalties to control their staff. The routine of work has to be maintained, and the most effective measures are taken to do so.

The transactional style of leadership is often based on reacting to the current situation rather than developing new solutions to issues. Self-interest is above all in the transactional style, which makes it a complete opposite of transformative leadership. Passive or avoidant leadership styles are rarely seen as desirable, but unfortunately, they are often present in business at large. Passive leadership avoids making any actions unless a problem is threatening the well-being of the company. Leaders who practice it rarely interact with their employees, and their decisions often do not affect the workflow of the company. Such practices are sometimes developed accidentally due to the desire for empowerment for the employees. However, if this trend continues, the desired empowerment disappears and leads to passive leadership.

Each style affects the employees differently and depending on the situation it may lead to benefits of issues for the company. Job satisfaction is a measure that is hard to define, but it has a significant effect on the workflow of the company. It describes how much the employees are enjoying the job they do. An employee can be perfectly content with their position if they see themselves as a valued member of the organization due to various factors. They may include the way they are reimbursed for the work they do, the positive attention from the leaders, the importance of their work, schedule, and other aspects that can affect their perception of the role they have in the company. Therefore, it is important to choose a leadership style that would provide job satisfaction to the majority of employees.


Taibah University is located in Medina, Saudi Arabia. It is a large institution that has more than 20,000 enrolled students at any given time. Its wide array of academic programs requires a large number of full-time faculty members to operate successfully. 624 full-time faculty members are employed by the university, and their job satisfaction affects the success not only of the university itself but of the students that study in it. Therefore, it is important to establish a leadership style that is most effective at fostering job satisfaction among the faculty members. Certainly, Taibah University employs professional people who can withstand the stress of faculty work but there is no reason to subject them to a leadership style that does not provide a positive contribution to their work and the education of their students. This literature review will provide quantitative and peer-reviewed material to examine the effect of different leadership styles on employees.

Problem Statement

Taibah University employs 624 full-time faculty members and to successfully lead them an effective style needs to be chosen. The style of leadership that the administrator uses can have a significant effect on the job satisfaction of the faculty members. The lack of job satisfaction among them can bring a variety of negative outcomes for the organization and its students. For example, teachers that do not feel valued by their manager are likely to perform only the minimum of the required activity instead of living up to their potential. In worse cases, it can lead to employee burnout and resignation.

Study Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine all the available literature on transformative, transactional, and passive leadership styles, as well as its effect on the job satisfaction of full-time employees. The material for the review was found using the internet scholarly search engine Google Scholar. More than 100 papers were examined for relevant information but only 20 fully applied to the topic of examination. The results of the study can be used to choose the style of leadership that would create the most job satisfaction for the faculty members.

Literature Review

Criteria for Literature Selection and Data Collection

The materials for the literature review were selected based on the following criteria. To make sure that the materials contain relevant and current information, no article older than ten years old were included in the review. All resources had to come from scholarly, empirically-based, peer-reviewed sources. These stipulations limited the search primarily to scholarly journals that are dedicated to leadership and management. The collected resources were separated into four categories based on the four questions the review was designed to answer. The first was dedicated to a more general effect of all administrator leadership styles on job satisfaction, and the other three were focused on transformative, transactional, and passive styles. This way each of the topics could be covered in-depth and then analyzed.

Effect of Administrator Leadership Styles on Job Satisfaction of Employees

Before the examination of specific leadership styles, it is important to establish the extent of the effect that they can have on the job satisfaction of full-time employees. One of the more general resources on this topic was published in the International Journal of Educational Management in 2013. It provided a multilevel analysis of the way principal leadership affects teachers in educational settings. The study has been done to establish the effect that administrative leadership has for middle school teachers. The authors focused on data from 178 schools that employed 2,967 teachers. The grand scale of research made their findings more legitimate and representative of reality. The researchers found that some aspects of the administrative leadership style had significant effects on the job satisfaction of the teachers. Specifically, when principals collaborated with the teachers, their attitude toward the leader and their job became much more favorable (Duyar, Gumus, & Bellibas, 2013). This research could suggest that leadership styles that promote collaboration are more beneficial to the level of job satisfaction among employees. However, other resources need to be considered before a concrete decision can be made.

In 2009, a large research study on the job satisfaction of nurse teachers was published by Li Gui, Louise Barriball, and Alison While. It was based on a comprehensive literature review of resources published from 1976 to 2007. The study specifically focused on the job satisfaction of nurse teachers, but its results are sufficiently relevant to the present literature review due to the similarity of its topic. The first part of the paper was focused on the measurements of job satisfaction and how they may be identified. At the end of the first part, the researchers concluded that the definition by which job satisfaction is measured has not drastically changed over the years (Gui, Barriball, & While, 2009a). The second part was dedicated to the analysis of the data on the effect of various aspects including leadership styles. The effect of leadership styles on job satisfaction has been recorded to be significant across the majority of the examined materials. The strength of relationships varied from strong to very strong with only a small fraction of the results showcasing a weak relationship. This is one of the more concrete conclusions of the paper, however. (Gui, Barriball, & While, 2009b). For this literature review, it has merit due to the almost unanimous results on the relationship of leadership styles on job satisfaction of teachers.

A similar conclusion is shown in a study focused on the job satisfaction of banking sector employees in Chennai, India (Sowmya & Panchanatham, 2011). The authors examined the situation from a perspective similar to the previously examined studies. Eight public sector banks and five new private sector banks were taken as a control group for the study. The study was done through questionnaires that were distributed among 120 employees of the bank. Five major factors of job satisfaction were recorded after the analysis of the completed questionnaires. The first is the pay and promotion that the employees receive. The second factor included organizational aspects such as pride in the company, respect that they receive, and the confidence in company management. The third factor concerned the leadership style of the supervisor.

People who felt that their supervisor treated them well, informed them of all the changes in the organization, and generally behaved respectfully and helpfully felt a greater level of job satisfaction. The fourth factor was the job condition, and the fifth was co-worker behavior. The prevalence of leadership behavior in the surveys filled out by the participants in the study shows that people perceive it as an important component of their job satisfaction (Sowmya & Panchanatham, 2011). The study is focused on a very specific group of employees, which limits its relevance but just as with the previous study, the similarity of the results suggests that the effect of leadership styles on job satisfaction is at the very least probable if not completely evident.

A different multilevel study was published in 2012. Unlike the employee-focused studies discussed so far, this research was done from the perspective of the leader. The study focused on the way leadership of principals affects the job satisfaction of teachers. The goals of the examined leaders have shown to be the same as the employees. Job satisfaction was recorded to be desirable because it benefited both principals and teachers. The authors presented a very detailed examination of the way leaders can foster job satisfaction through various strategies and styles. Some of the most commonly used included teacher empowerment, the creation of supportive relationships between teachers and leaders, and collaborative culture in the organization. If such relationships are not properly established, the job satisfaction level of teachers becomes too low to maintain proper work.

The study considers it to be one of the leading factors of teachers leaving their profession or transferring to other educational institutions. The study considers a variety of scenarios and previously discussed types of leadership, but the majority of the examined results are supporting the idea that job satisfaction is significantly affected by the leadership styles of principals and especially their willingness to be supportive and actively involved in the work of teachers. The absence of administrative leadership is seen in a negative light and leads to a reduction in job satisfaction and eventual loss of the employee. The paper is presented in clear language that does not overly rely on professional jargon. Its material is thoroughly researched and appears sensible and credible. It can be considered as a major example of the relationship between leadership styles and job satisfaction. The types of effective leadership that the paper explores can also be used as evidence for the later section of the study (Shen, Leslie, Spybrook, & Ma, 2012).

Jody Harpell and Jac Andrews also examined the effect of administrative leadership on the employees of companies. Their research touches upon similar ideas that others covered on the topic. Specifically, they conclude that teachers should be empowered by the leader to achieve higher motivation and job satisfaction. The article also promotes self-management teams because they are seen as more flexible, especially when the leadership styles of the administrators change over time. This position goes against the previously stated importance of creating a relationship between the principal and teachers. Perhaps the self-management style that the authors propose does not completely sever the relationship between leaders and teachers, but overall, they do not promote a hands-on approach to team management. However, Harpell and Andrews recommend a transformational style of leadership to be utilized by the administrator, which involves a more active approach to leadership from the principal than the previous statement would suggest (Harpell & Andrews, 2010). Overall, the article echoes the previously explored ideas about the effect that leadership styles have on job satisfaction.

The materials gathered about this topic had a common through-line that showed that the leadership styles chosen by the administrator could have a significant effect on the job satisfaction of the employees. Even in the articles that were not fully dedicated to leadership styles, the behavior of the supervisor or manager has been cited as a factor in the motivation and satisfaction of the staff. While this is only a portion of the available information on the topic, it could be used to state that leadership styles are important and therefore, the most appropriate one should be chosen.

Effect of Transformational Leadership on the Job Satisfaction of Employees

Transformational leadership was already mentioned in the previous resources as a possible leadership style that can improve the job satisfaction of the employees. However, the first study about the effect of transformational leadership that was selected for this literature review was performed by Mehmet Top, Mesut Akdere, and Menderes Tarcan. They focused their research on the transformational leadership that is utilized in Turkish hospitals. For the study, they measured job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational trust of the participating employees. The variety of variables that the authors chose made this study more unique and gave it a perspective that is rarely seen in the studies of transformational leadership.

The study involved 2108 employees, which makes it one of the largest empirical studies on transformational leadership available to date. The sample size of the study made its results carry more weight because it represents a large portion of the professionals working in the examined field. After examining and analyzing all the data collected through the study, the authors concluded that people who work with transformational leaders have higher job satisfaction, act more involved, feel more empowered and motivated. Their trust and commitment to the organization were also recorded to be higher than in organizations that do not practice transformational leadership (Top, Akdere, & Tarcan, 2015).

A smaller study published in the American Journal of Economics examined the various components of transformational leadership to finch which one has the most effect on job satisfaction of the employees. The authors separated transformational leadership into charisma, individual consideration of the employee by the leader, and intellectual stimulation. The study sample consisted of 320 randomly chosen employees of Malaysian Universities. The authors hypothesized that all three components would have a positive effect on the job satisfaction of the employees. However, the study found that only intellectual stimulation has a significantly positive effect, while the effect of charisma is statistically insignificant, and individual consideration was seen as a negative factor for job satisfaction. The last statement contradicts the previously gathered information, but the authors believe that I might have to do with the busy schedule of the leaders not allowing for proper individual consideration of the employees. They also believe that regional differences in the culture of Malesia might affect the results of the study (Hanaysha et al., 2012). Such concerns were not expressed in the majority of papers which makes this an issue that should be considered in future research. Nevertheless, the study supports the notion that transformational leadership has a positive effect on the job satisfaction of employees. The unique region of the study could give a more holistic idea of job satisfaction because most papers focus on the western regions of the world.

Another study that considered the impact of transformational leadership on various aspects of employment was made by Marni’s Atmojo, who published it in the International Research Journal of Business Studies in 2015. The paper is focused on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and employee performance in organizations that utilize transformational leadership. The author recorded a significant level of influence over all three characteristics. He proposed that the attention to the individual needs of the employees that transformational leadership provides is one of the reasons behind the improvement of job satisfaction among the participants. The study also touches upon the importance of job satisfaction and its effect on employee performance. The satisfied employees performed better than those who felt dissatisfied with their job (Atmojo, 2015). The scope of the article is relatively small, but its conclusion can contribute to the overall positive attitude towards transformational leadership that other studies showcased.

The job satisfaction of teachers under transformational leadership is also explored in a study by Maria Menon. As with the previous studies, Menon sought to examine the link between leadership styles and job satisfaction of teachers. Unlike the previous studies, however, she also examines transactional and passive leadership behaviors that will be covered in the further sections. She selected 438 school teachers in the Republic of Cyprus to participate in the study. The study comes to a decision that contradicts the previously gathered information. The examined results suggest that transformational leadership on its own is insufficient to provide job satisfaction for teachers. Instead, the results that the leadership archives are perceived to be the most effective factors for job satisfaction. The results suggest that when teachers are satisfied, they are more likely to identify the transformational qualities of the leaders, regardless of the style they employ (Menon, 2014). These results are unusual, but they suggest that transformational style is not infallible and may need to be combined with others to be effective.

Lastly, a study of transformational leadership and job satisfaction in the petroleum sector of Libya supports the notion that transformational leadership has a positive effect on job satisfaction and organizational commitment of the employees (Shurbagi, 2014). The results of the study were consistent with previously discussed studies despite the difference in the professions between teachers and workers of the petroleum industry (Shurbagi, 2014). This study can suggest that the benefits of the transformational style of leadership are relatively universal due to their attention to the needs of the employees.

Effect of Transactional Leadership on the Job Satisfaction of Employees

The majority of studies found on the effect of transactional leadership on job satisfaction of employees involved the comparison of various styles of leadership between each other. For example, a study by Yu Sun, Esther Gergen, Michelle Avila, and Mark Green compares transformational and transactional leadership styles and their effects. Throughout the study, they point out how the transactional style is more widely used in the sphere of accounting due to its focus on routine tasks and results-based rewards. However, the benefits of efficiency that job satisfaction brings to the workplace were considered to be better for the organization as a whole by the authors. Therefore, despite the relevance of the transactional leadership style to the topic of their study, the authors still recommend transformational leadership (Sun, Gergen, Avila, & Green, 2016).

A more positive response was found in the study by Lorraine Borman and Kathleen Abrahamson that covered the use of all three styles among nurse leaders and their effect on job satisfaction. The authors focused only on one hospital for their sample but involved 117 staff nurses in the study. This could be considered a limitation of the study. After the data was analyzed, the authors determined that both transactional and transformational styles of leadership can have a positive effect on job satisfaction. However, the passive style of leadership led to lower levels of job satisfaction (Bormann & Abrahamson, 2014). Despite the small sample size of the study, it covered all three of the leadership styles that are being examined in this literature review which makes it more relevant.

Another study that compares the various styles of leadership and their effects on job satisfaction was done by Dimitrios Belias and Athanasios Koutelios. They approached the topic from the perspective of a literature review. The authors found that both transactional and transformational styles can facilitate job satisfaction among employees when used appropriately. The transactional style is seen to be beneficial when the leader needs to work in a specific framework that cannot be changed, while the transformational style is more applicable to frameworks that require innovation. The authors believe that transformational leadership can have a stronger effect on job satisfaction than transactional style, but do rule out its use (Belias & Koustelios, 2014). This statement is consistent with the results of the previous study which could suggest a trend in other comparative studies.

A study from Jordan also compares transactional and transformational leadership in the context of job satisfaction. The author finds both models to be beneficial to the organizations that employ them but in slightly different ways. The transformational style is once again stated as having a positive effect on job satisfaction, while transactional leadership can facilitate job performance through job rewards and sharing of knowledge among the staff. However, despite both styles being valid, no significant effect of transactional leadership on job satisfaction was noted by the author (Masa’deh, Obeidat, & Tarhini, 2016). This conclusion does not align with the previously examined research, but it could be explained that job satisfaction, in this case, is gained through the transactional reward system, which was already suggested by previous resources.

The common conclusion found in the majority of the examined articles is that the transactional leadership style is not as effective in fostering job satisfaction as transformational leadership. However, many of the authors found it to apply to more routine professions where it can provide benefits. Its effect on job satisfaction is not without merit, but it does not perform as well as the alternative.

Effect of Passive Leadership on the Job Satisfaction of Employees

Passive leadership was found to be a relatively unexplored topic during the search for materials. Just as the studies on the transactional style were mostly represented by research that compared various styles, the passive style was only examined when it was compared with other styles. For example, a study of the leadership styles of frontline medical imaging supervisors found passive leadership to have a significant negative effect on job satisfaction of the employees. The reason behind this decision is stated to be the lack of relationship between the leader and the employee (Watson, 2009).

A similar notion can be seen in the study by Fatameh Hamidifar. After examining various components of transactional, transformational, and passive leadership, he states that passive leadership does not have a positive effect on the job satisfaction of the employees. Also, he examines it as a component of transactional leadership and comes to the same conclusion (Hamidifar, 2010). A study from 2013 has an even more negative outlook on passive leadership. Its authors classify it as a characteristic of dysfunction in the workplace. Not only is it seen as harming job satisfaction, but it is stated to be one of the factors in the loss of engagement and burnout of the employees (Leary et al., 2013). Studies on how teachers experience passive leadership also echoed the same idea. Passive leadership had a significant negative influence on their job satisfaction (Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008; Sušanj & Jakopec, 2012; Wells & Peachey, 2011). The response from the researchers is almost unanimous in that passive leadership should not be chosen when job satisfaction is a goal for the organization.

Discussion and Conclusion

The examined materials have shown that the leadership style chosen by the administrator can have a significant effect on the job satisfaction of the employees. A great number of articles were especially relevant because they covered the job satisfaction of teachers and professors in educational settings. However, regardless of setting, leaders had a great effect on the satisfaction of employees. The examination of the three styles of leadership produced the following results. The transformational style of leadership was found to be the most effective in facilitating job satisfaction. Its focus on the creation of relationships between leaders and employees was stated as the primary reason behind this result. The transactional style was found to have a smaller effect on job satisfaction and only when the leader properly rewards the employees for their work. Finally, passive leadership was found to be dysfunctional and had a significant negative effect on job satisfaction in the majority of cases. Additional research may be required to reach a concrete decision on the matter, but currently, transformative leadership can be considered the primary choice for Taibah University if job satisfaction is a priority.


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