Improved performance and enthusiasm in the workplace are typically listed among the most sought-after characteristics of workplace performance. As a rule, the specified effects are achieved by increasing the levels of employee engagement (Graffigna, 2017). The latter notion has been a buzzword in leadership and performance management research for a while. Defined as the “an active, fulfilling concept that reflects the simultaneous expression of multidimensional energies – physical, affective and cognitive – that benefit organizations and employees” (Eldor & Vigoda-Gadot, 2016, p. 531), employee engagement invites numerous opportunities. The subject matter is often conflated with motivation, yet the two notions are slightly different, the former one implying sincere emotional investment in a company’s performance (Graffigna, 2017). Research points out that employee engagement entails a boost in performance rates, thus contributing to the profitability of an organization (Popli & Rizvi, 2016). In turn, the rates of employee engagement are quite difficult to gauge and are even more difficult to change once the staff’s attitudes toward their job are established. Nonetheless, with effective leadership, one can alter employees’ perceptions and increase their engagement, which can be achieved with the help of the Transformational, Charismatic, and Situational Leadership styles.
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Constituents of Employee Engagement: What Needs to Be in the Focus
As emphasized above, it is important to keep in mind that employee engagement hinges primarily on two factors, namely, the emotional rapport with the organization and the reward retrieved in the process. As a rule, four essential items are identified when talking about the constituents of employee engagement (Jena, Pradhan, & Panigrahy, 2018). These are loyalty, commitment, motivation, and trust. While the four concepts in question are related, each will require a specific leadership approach. Namely, the levels of motivation will rise with the help of the Transformational Leadership, whereas commitment, trust, and loyalty can be increased by applying the Charismatic approach (Jena et al., 2019). By navigating between the two frameworks with the help of the Situational Leadership approach, one will be able to achieve noticeable progress.
Leadership and Employee Engagement: The Connection
Research proves that there is a distinctive link between the choice of a leadership strategy and the levels of engagement that employees show in the workplace. Namely, Gangai, and Agrawal (2017) assert that the extent of employee engagement can be regulated and increased by applying Situational, Transformational, Shared, and Charismatic leadership strategies. The specified frameworks will help to build the self-reliance, trust, and commitment needed for employees to become invested in the company’s performance and align their personal needs with those of n organization.
A rise in employee engagement is typically associated with the presence of specific factors that drive the extent of staff members’ motivation up and encourage them to be proactive in the workplace setting. Specifically, the levels of employee satisfaction are traditionally seen as the foundational concept that defines the presence and rate of employee engagement (Albrecht & Anglim, 2018). In addition, several authors point to the necessity to introduce staff members to the corporate needs and the intricate mechanism of the company’s functioning in order to build their engagement. The rationale behind the proposed strategy is quite simple; once staff members familiarize themselves with the company and relate to its goals, they will become more passionate about its performance (Chandani, Mehta, Mall, & Khokhar, 2016). Moreover, once staff members realize that each of their decisions and actions has a tangible weight to it, they will become more careful and thoughtful in performing their workplace duties.
Types of Leadership for Promoting Employee Engagement
Being one of the best known and widely applied leadership strategies currently, the concept of the Transformational strategy suggests that staff members become motivated and, therefore, engaged, as soon as their vision is transformed to align with that one of the organization. Therefore, the Transformational Leadership approach can be considered the cornerstone principle in boosting employee enthusiasm. Indeed, research points out that the application f the Transformational Leadership framework entails a drastic change in attitudes and perceptions of one’s workplace duties, hence the rise in the extent of engagement (Besieux, Baillien, Verbeke, & Euwema, 2018). Overall, there are strong indications that the specified approach leads to stellar outcomes in terms of building employee engagement.
The application of the Charismatic Leadership as a part of the Trait Theory is usually deemed as a suitable strategy for fostering the needed range of engagement in employees. Studies mention that there is the connection between the extent of a leader’s charisma and the levels of emotional rapport with the consequent rise in engagement observed in staff members (Zhao & Sheng, 2019). However, the proposed model of maintaining the extent of employee engagement is often acknowledged to be insufficient as a standalone tool since, with the removal of an appropriate role model, staff members typically fail to develop the needed behaviors and attitudes on their own (Zhao & Sheng, 2019).
Perhaps, one of the most commonly used approaches to leadership, the Situational framework implies the leader’s ability to navigate a workplace situation to select the strategy that suits the existing circumstances best. The Situational approach represents a specimen of the Contingency theory of leadership, hence the focus on the assessment of key circumstances affecting the choice of a leadership framework (Breevaart & Bakker, 2018). Typically represented by the best-fit model theory, the specified approach to leadership provides one with an opportunity to retain flexibility during decision-making and especially in communication with employees (Breevaart & Bakker, 2018).
Another crucial addition to the set of leadership strategies that can potentially increase the levels of employee engagement, shared leadership needs to be discussed. As its title suggests, shared leadership invites staff members to participate in the process of leading a team and making decisions in the corporate context (Nwachukwu, Chladkova, Zufan, & Olatunji, 2017). Although the specified approach implies certain risks and demands a perfectly thought-out approach tow guiding staff members in their leadership endeavors, it also implies a rapid development of responsibility and the related qualities in employees (Nwachukwu et al., 2017). With the development of shared leadership, employees gain a proper understanding of the corporate needs and goals, as well as the role that each individual participant plays in the company’s progress (Nwachukwu et al., 2017). As a result, employees acquire the understanding and appreciation of the company needed to gain the required amount of engagement (Nwachukwu et al., 2017). Therefore, the introduction of Shared Leadership as the tool for offering employees a chance to experience a personal change causing them to become more enthusiastic.
Overall, the assessment of the role that leadership plays in employee engagement proves that a correctly chosen leadership framework can help in increasing the extent of engagement among staff members. Although the levels of employee engagement also depend on a variety of other factors, such as incentives, workplace benefits, and relationships in the workplace, the choice of the leadership approach also contributes to the engagement rates significantly. The presence of clear criteria for good performance, the set expectations and, most importantly, encouragement and a good example that an effective leadership provides define the levels of employee engagement to a considerable extent.
Challenges Associated with Promoting Employee Engagement
It is worth noting that the process of changing the extent of employee engagement by applying a new leadership strategy may require dealing with several challenges. For example, the problem with the lack of trust in staff members toward managers is one of the most common factors in a failure to increase the extent of employee engagement (Mansor, Mun, Farhana, & Tarmizi, 2017). Jindal, Shaikh, and Shashank (2017) explain that trust needs to be earned very carefully and does not necessarily depend on the extent and number of incentives that staff members receive.
Moreover, establishing a proper communication channel that allows to contribute to staff members’ engagement and the increase in their agency within a company is another problem that leaders and managers often have to face. Specifically, the lack of feedback and reciprocity from both sides often appears to be the major issue that needs to be addressed (Kovaitė, Šūmakaris, & Stankevičienė, 2020). The specified concern can be managed by introducing innovative tools for managing communication and feedback received from employees.
The promotion of agency and initiative in staff members is another issue that a leader may have problems addressing in the workplace while raising the levels of their engagement. Although the idea of becoming more proactive and playing a more important part in a company may seem enticing to some staff members, others may become concerned with the increased responsibility and the range of tasks to perform. Therefore, resistance to change is expected as a way of expressing these fears and dealing with the situation. To manage the described complication, a leader will need a combination of the Transformational, Charismatic, and Situational approaches to leadership. Namely, the Transformational one will change their perspective, the Charismatic one will motivate them, and the Situational one will help to find balance between the two strategies.
Gaps in Knowledge and Areas for Further Research
Despite the presence of literature on the subject matter and the overall coverage of the effects that proper leadership strategies have on the extent of employee engagement, there are certain gaps that could be filled with the help of further research. For instance, a comparison of how different leadership types can increase the extent of employee engagement might be necessary to assist organizations that are struggling with the coordination between the specified variables. In addition, few studies have pointed out the
The phenomenon of employee engagement is quite difficult to manipulate since it hinges primarily on the emotional attitudes of staff members toward their job, yet it can be amended by applying Transformational, Situational, and Charismatic Leadership styles. Due to the opportunity to build an emotional rapport with staff members, the proposed approaches to leadership can contribute to forming the sense of responsibility in staff members, allowing them to accept corporate values, adopt the behaviors suggested by a leader, and contribute to the development of independency in decision-making in the workplace. The proposed characteristics are expected to increase the employees’ perception of their value and personal contribution to the company’s development, which, in turn, will entail a rise in their self-worth and their workplace enthusiasm. In addition, a well-developed system of rewards is expected to raise the levels of engagement in employees as well. Due to the creation of a stronger and more reciprocal rapport between employees and managers with the help of a better feedback system, the levels of motivation will rise, allowing to keep staff members’ engagement rates high as well.
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