Moderator or mediator? Examining the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm.
Goodwin, Vicki L.
Whittington, J. Lee
Murray, Brian
Nichols, Tommy
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Name: Journal of Managerial Issues Publisher: Pittsburg State University - Department of Economics Audience: Academic; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Human resources and labor relations Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pittsburg State University - Department of Economics ISSN: 1045-3695
Date: Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 4
Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Company business management

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A field study of 209 leader-follower dyads was conducted to examine the role of trust within the transformational leadership paradigm. Specifically, the goal was to answer the question, "Is trust simply an outcome of transformational leadership or does it serve a more complex role as a moderator or a mediator?" Results from the analysis using a bootstrapping technique with structural equation modeling revealed no support for the role of trust as a moderator of the relationship between transformational leadership and a variety of follower outcomes. However, trust fully mediated the relationships between transformational leadership behavior and organizational citizenship behavior, performance, and affective commitment.

An examination of the leadership literature reveals that trust has been more frequently cited in discussions of transformational leadership than any other leadership theory (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002). Research described in a number of articles has examined the relationship between transformational leadership and trust (Bass, 1985; Bass and Avolio, 1994; Dirks and Ferrin, 2002; Jung and Avolio, 2000; Podsakoff et al., 1996; Podsakoff et al., 1990) identifying trust as an outcome (or correlate) among other outcomes of transformational leadership (e.g., Avolio et al., 2004). Other research suggested a more complex role for trust within the transformational leadership paradigm. Some have viewed trust as a moderator within the context of situational influences in the transformational leadership paradigm (e.g., Neeraj, 2009). Yet others have viewed trust as a mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership and other outcomes (e.g., Jung and Avolio, 2000). If trust acts as a moderator of the relationships between transformational leadership and follower attitudes and behaviors, then the full potential of transformational leadership may not be realized if trust is absent. On the other hand, if trust acts as a mediator in these relationships, then it may not only be a direct outcome of transformational leadership, but it also may explain how or why transformational leadership relates to other outcomes as well. The purpose of this research is to conduct an empirical analysis of the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm. Relevant research is reviewed in the discussion that follows; the proposed hypotheses are then presented.


Clear implications for the effect of trust in leadership on follower behavior have been emphasized in publications in the popular management press (Kouzes and Posner, 2008; Covey, 1990; Covey, 2008; Galford and Drapeau, 2003 a, b) and in scholarly research articles (e.g., Mulder, 2009; Colquitt et al., 2007). Trust is not only important for sustaining individual and organizational effectiveness (McAllister, 1995), but it also lies at the heart of relationships and influences the behavior of each part',' toward the other (Robinson, 1996). The leader-follower relationship is no exception. When subordinates trust a leader, they are willing to be exposed to the leader's actions, and are certain that their interests will not be abused (Mayer et al., 1995). If this trust is broken, it can have severe undesirable effects (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002).

In the process of motivating followers to implement their shared vision, transformational leaders become role models for their followers demonstrating what it means to persevere and make self-sacrifices when needed (Jung and Avolio, 2000). Through observation of their leaders, followers develop trust in them because of their leaders' personal commitment to achieving the vision. Furthermore, transformational leaders empower and encourage followers to think for themselves, which instills trust in the leader (Bass and Avolio, 1995). On the flip side, transformational leadership can involve moving followers from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Followers may experience higher levels of fear, anxiety, frustration, and uncertainty; all of which can be alleviated by the trust they have in their leaders (Kotter, 1996).

Interpersonal trust can be described as an expectancy held by an individual that another individual can be relied upon (Rotter, 1967). There are two types of interpersonal trust--cognition-based trust and affective-based trust (McAllister, 1995). Cognition-based trust comes from knowledge of an individual that provides evidence of trustworthiness. Affective-based trust comes from the emotional bonds between individuals. Followers of transformational leaders are likely to have both types of trust in their leaders because of the role-modeling they have observed in their leaders and the interpersonal ties that develop between them.

The benefits from trust ira the leader-follower relationship are significant, and trusted leaders have a potential advantage over leaders who are not trusted by their followers (Covey, 1990). Galford and Drapeau (2003a, b) discuss the importance of interpersonal trust as a reciprocal process between leaders and followers. Covey (2008) states that when this trust is absent, relationships and organizations pay a "trust tax" due to a lack of candor, hidden agendas, and dysfunctional organizational politics. On the other hand, when followers trust their leaders, they may exhibit more organizational citizenship behaviors that better equip the leader to accomplish the goals of the organization (McAllister, 1995; Colquitt et al., 2007). Followers' trust in the leader may boost their confidence in the character of the leader, thus encouraging them to reciprocate with care and concern for their leaders (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002). When followers trust their leaders, they perform better and exhibit less counterproductive behavior that may come from their intentions to quit (Colquitt et al., 2007).

The review of the literature that identifies the significance of trust in the leaderfollower relationship suggests that it is a key component of the transformational leadership paradigm. In the paragraphs that follow, the specific focus will be on how trust has been examined in its relationship with transformational leadership.


Transformational leadership is theorized to inspire followers to performance beyond expectations by encouraging followers to transcend their own self-interests, raising their level of consciousness concerning outcomes, and by raising or expanding follower needs levels (Bass, 1985). This move to higher performance is accomplished through the use of: (a) inspirational motivation, which is the ability to articulate an appealing, inspiring vision to followers through the communication of high expectations; (b) idealized influence, or charisma, which causes followers to identify with their leaders, admire them, and appeal to their leaders on an emotional level; (c) intellectual stimulation, which stimulates innovation and creativity while challenging the followers' beliefs, encouraging dissent, and questioning assumptions; and (d) individualized consideration, a behavior focused on attending to the needs of followers. These behaviors have been linked to a number of positive outcomes including satisfaction, productivity, and motivation (Bass, 1990).

Several studies have examined trust as an outcome (or correlate) of transformational leadership among other individual and organizational outcomes. Podsakoff et al. (1990) found that intellectual stimulation was negatively associated with a measure of trust that assessed how fairly followers felt they were treated by their managers. Because intellectual stimulation involves challenging the assumptions that support the status quo, they suggested this result may be due to the association between intellectual stimulation and higher levels of role ambiguity, conflict, and stress in the workplace; however, this relationship may be unique to the short-term, becoming positive in the long-term. Relationships between other dimensions of transformational leadership and trust were positive. Gillespie and Mann (2004) computed an aggregate index of trust from scores on measures of cognitive trust (Butler, 1991), affective trust (derived from McAllister, 1995), and behavioral trust (constructed using Zand's 1972 reciprocal model of trust) because of high intercorrelations. They found that all components of transformational leadership were positively correlated with trust although the correlation for intellectual stimulation was lower than the others.

Podsakoff et al. (1996) assessed trust by asking followers how fairly they felt they were treated by their managers. They found that when leaders provided an appropriate model, individualized support, and fostered acceptance of group goals (all aspects of transformational leadership), employee trust was higher. They also found, however, that trust was associated with the greatest number of moderating effects (using the substitutes for leadership model; Kerr and Jermier, 1978) more than other outcomes of transformational leadership.

In a meta-analysis to summarize and evaluate primary relationships between trust in leadership and 23 constructs, Dirks and Ferrin (2002) found a strong correlation (0.72) between transformational leadership and trust. They suggest that the distinction between transformational leadership and trust is unclear and should be examined further, particularly focusing on measurement issues and on causal processes involved. However, Dirks and Ferrin (2002) also found that trust was strongly related to attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction and organizational commitment), followed by citizenship behaviors, and finally job performance. These results are similar to those obtained for transformational leadership and attitudes [satisfaction with the leader (Bycio et al., 1995; Podsakoff et al., 1990); employees' affective commitment to the organization (Bycio et al., 1995; Whittington et al., 2004)], organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs; Whittington et al., 2004), and job performance (Bass, 1985; Bass and Avolio, 1994; Hater and Bass, 1988; Keller, 1992; Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Howell and Avolio, 1993; Whittington et al., 2004). Taken together, results in these research studies suggest that the nomological network including both trust and transformational leadership needs examination to clarify the appropriate relationships between these constructs and those outcomes to which both have been linked. Because both transformational leadership and trust have similar relationships to a variety of outcomes, yet they also have a strong relationship with each other, a potential clarification of the network of relationships may be obtained by examining trust as a mediator.


Trust has often been examined as a mediator in relationships between transformational leadership and leader, follower, and/or organizational outcomes. Avolio (1999) has claimed that the effect of transformational leadership on employee outcomes such as performance and commitment is an indirect rather than a direct effect. In addition, Yukl (1989) and Covey (1990) have both suggested that it is the trust that is engendered by transformational leaders that creates the heightened levels of commitment and performance associated with transformational leadership. Yuk (1989) suggests that followers may be motivated by transformational leaders to perform beyond expectations because followers trust and respect them. Podsakoff et al. (1990) consider follower trust in the leader to be one of the most important variables that can mediate the effectiveness of transformational leadership. As a mediator, trust is a direct outcome of transformational leadership behavior, but it also explains how or why other outcomes occur when leaders are transformational (Frazier et al., 2004). With partial mediation, there are other mechanisms involved in the understanding of how or why the outcomes occur; whereas, with full mediation, the mediator is the sole mechanism through which they occur. If trust does fully mediate transformational-outcome relationships, its role becomes very significant in this framework.

Research provides a number of results supporting trust as a mediator. Pillai et al. (1999) find trust to be a key mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). MacKenzie et al. (2001) also find trust to mediate the relationship between transformational leadership and OCBs. Jung and Avolio (2000) provide evidence for trust as a mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership and followers' performance. In research by Pillai et al. (2003), trust also mediates the relationship between transformational leadership and voting in the 2000 U. S. presidential election. The authors conclude that voters who rate their candidates as transformational trust in them, which influences their decision to vote for them. Furthermore, Farrell et al. (2004) find that when CEOs exhibit transformational leadership, their top management team trusts them more, and this leads to the ability to combine and exchange information (i.e., the top management team exhibits the ability to acquire, integrate, and exploit new knowledge). Finally, Connell et al. (2003) provide positive support for trust as a mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership and turnover intention, affective commitment, and continuance commitment. Although there is evidence for trust as a mediator in the transformational leadership paradigm, another possible function for trust is that of a moderator. As a moderator, trust would clarify conditions under which relationships between transformational leadership and other outcomes occur.


Trust has been proposed as a potential moderator in the transformational leadership paradigm (Bass, 1985; Bass and Avolio, 1994). The level of trust in the leader may explain conditions under which transformational leadership is judged to be effective or not. That is, trust, as a moderator, would clarify the boundaries within which the relationships between transformational leadership and outcomes occur.

In recent research, Neeraj (2009) examined the moderating effect of trust on the relationship between transformational leadership and job satisfaction. He found that when employees had high levels of trust in their leaders, the relationship between transformational leadership and job satisfaction was stronger than with lower levels of trust. Thus, high trust enhanced this relationship, providing an additional boost to the positive relationship expected between transformational leadership and job attitudes. Although there is substantially less empirical work on the role of trust as a moderator in the transformational leadership paradigm, it may be worth investigating further particularly within the context of the current interest in pseudo-transformational leadership. Research in pseudo-transformational leadership (see Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999; Nichols, 2008) suggests leaders may appear to be transformational when they are not. Their motives are not pure and their ethics are questionable, but they understand the value of behaving as transformational leaders. To the degree followers are aware of their charade, these leaders may not be trusted. Therefore, it is possible that these pseudo-transformational leaders, while exhibiting transformational behaviors, may not produce positive outcomes because of low trust.

This review of the literature supports the need to clarify the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm. The intention of this research is to examine competing theoretical models of trust relative to transformational leadership to produce an empirically derived answer to this question. With the interest in transformational leadership over the last 35 years, it is incumbent upon researchers to identify any qualifications for relationships between transformational leadership behavior and other variables just as has been done for other leadership styles (e.g., Fiedler, 1967; House, 1971).


Based upon the discussion above, two alternative hypotheses are proposed that are developed to identify the best explanation for the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm. This study allows the examination of both hypotheses within a single context considering trust as a mediator versus trust as a moderator between transformational leadership and individual outcomes commonly examined in their relationships with transformational leadership. Previous research consistently reports significant relationships between transformational leadership and performance and attitudinal outcomes (Bass, 1985; Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Keller, 1992; Howell and Avolio, 1993; Bass and Avolio, 1994; Hater and Bass, 1988; Bycio et al., 1995; Whittington et al., 2004). Not only has transformational leadership repeatedly been associated with inrole performance, it also has long been associated with "performance beyond expectations," best captured by the extra-role behaviors associated with the organizational citizenship behavior construct (OCB, Organ, 1988). Transformational leadership also has been shown to consistently relate to positive emotional reactions as captured by the affective commitment construct (Allen and Meyer, 1990). As these relationships are well-established, they are examined in this research with the inclusion of trust. Analyses of these hypotheses allow for the examination of the direct relationship between transformational leadership and trust. However, if trust mediates or moderates relationships between transformational leadership and these outcomes that are consistently associated with it, then trust takes on a different role in the transformational paradigm than these other outcomes.

H1: Trust is a moderator of the relationship between transformational leadership behavior and the outcomes of follower organizational citizenship behavior, affective commitment, and performance.

H2: Trust is a mediator of the relationship between transformational leadership behavior and the outcomes of follower organizational citizenship behavior, affective commitment, and performance.



The sample was obtained from organizations with which one of the investigators had done extensive consulting. Subjects were from twelve different organizations representing a variety of industries (e.g., manufacturing, government agencies and departments, and health care), departments (e.g., production, accounting, and personnel), and position levels (ranging from first-line supervisors to company president). No assumptions were made relative to their leadership skills; rather they were chosen for participation in the study as "leaders" based on their formal positions.

One hundred out of 140 managers completed the required questionnaires (71% response rate). Each manager provided a list of up to ten direct report subordinates, from which three were randomly selected. From the 420 subordinates selected, 209 participated (50% response rate). The average number of subordinates per manager was 2.10.

Performance for the 82 subordinates who did not respond to the questionnaires was compared to those who participated. No significant differences were found between groups. The majority of managers were white (87.7 %) and male (70.9 %), with an average tenure in their organization of 10.5 years. Twenty-five percent of the managers were firstline supervisors, 50% were second-line managers, and 24.7 % were third-line managers or above. The majority of subordinates were white (81.4 %) and male (65.7 %), with an average tenure in their organization of 7.8 years, and with their present managers of 2.5 years. Forty-nine percent of the subordinates did not hold supervisory, positions, 31.2% were first-line supervisors, and 17.3% worked at the second level of management or higher.


The managers received a packet containing an evaluation form to assess each subordinate's performance and organizational citizenship behavior, and a demographic questionnaire. The subordinates were given packets containing a social-report instrument for evaluating their manager's leadership style, their level of trust in their manager, their affective organizational commitment, and a demographic questionnaire. Both managers and subordinates received detailed instructions for completing the instruments, and a postage-paid envelope for returning the completed survey to the researchers. Each survey was coded to allow matching of manager and subordinate responses, resulting in 209 dyads that were used in the analyses.


Transformational leader behavior was assessed by subordinates' responses to the subscales in the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ-5X; Bass and Avolio, 1994). Item responses for each subscale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 5 (frequently) were averaged to obtain a total score ([alpha] = 0.88, 0.90, 0.89, and 0.91 for ascribed charisma, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, respectively).

Because the hypotheses did not differentiate among the transformational leadership subscales individually, the data were submitted to confirmatory factor analysis to validate a single, global scale. The results from the confirmatory factor analysis strongly supported the expectations. The model chi-square was not significant ([chi square] = 0.99, p = 0.61), and the fit statistics suggested a well-fit model (goodness-of-fit index = 0.996; adjusted goodness-of-fit index = 0.979; comparative fit index = 1.00; residual mean square error of approximation = 0.00). Accordingly, besides those relationships previously defined for the model, there was no indication of the need to designate relationships among the latent scale variables, among the latent variables and other manifest scale scores, among the latent variable error variances, or among the manifest variable error variances. Based on these factor analytic results, the scale reliability estimates, and previous theoretical development and studies validating the transformational leadership construct dimensionality and subscales, it was concluded that the items used in the study measured a single, global construct having four dimensions that were captured with the subscales of the MLQ. In further analysis, a single scale was used to represent transformational leadership ([alpha] = 0.97). The scale was formed by calculating the factor scores of the first principal component of a factor analysis of the four subscale scores, which yielded only one factor with an eigenvalue greater than one (eigenvalue = 3.42; percent of variance = 85.61).

Interpersonal trust was measured using subordinate responses to an eight-item scale consisting of two items modified from Earley (1986) and six items from a scale developed by Podsakoff and associates (Podsakoff et al., 1990). The items from Earley (1986) are "I place a great deal of trust in my manager" and "I am willing to rely on my manager." The items from the Podsakoff et al. (1990) scale included items such as "I feel quite confident that my leader will always treat me fairly." This measure of interpersonal trust was chosen because the focus was on the relationship between the leader and follower and how the follower's trust in the leader might relate to the transformational leadership-outcome relationship. Each of the items in the scale was measured on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree). A total score for trust was derived by averaging across the eight items. Coefficient alpha for trust was 0.96.

To establish that the measure of transformational leadership was sufficiently differentiated from the measure of trust, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to compare a one-factor to a two-factor latent variable model. The transformational leadership latent variable was constructed as described previously, and the trust variable was constructed as a single latent variable with eight manifest variables. In the first step, a CFA model was calculated with two latent variables. In the second step, a CFA model was calculated with a single, global latent variable. The change in chi-square and fit statistics was examined for an improvement in the two-factor relative to the one-factor model. The results demonstrated that a two-factor model was a statistically significant improvement over a one factor model according to the change in chi-square ([DELTA][[chi square].sub.(1)]= 169.59, p<0.01; [DELTA][GFI=0.20; [DELTA][CFI=0.10; [DELTA][RMSEA=0.08).

Affective organizational commitment was measured using subordinate responses to the eight-item affective commitment dimension in the organizational commitment scale developed by Allen and Meyer (1990). Each item was measured on a seven-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree) ([alpha] = 0.83).

Manager evaluations of subordinates' organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) were obtained from a 24-item social report scale adapted from Podsakoff et al. (1990), which measures five facets of OCB (Organ, 1988). Each of these items was measured using a seven-point Likert scale ranging from (1) Strongly Disagree to (7) Strongly Agree. Because responses to this scale did not meet the response distribution assumption for confirmatory factor analysis (i.e., they were not normally distributed), an exploratory factor analysis was conducted, which yielded only one factor with an eigenvalue greater than one. Therefore, total score measures were used in the analysis, and were obtained by averaging responses across all items ([alpha] = 0.95).

Subordinate performance was measured using a fixed-sum-weighted, Likert-type interval scale on three dimensions: quality of work, quantity of work, and promotability to the next level. For each of the items, managers were asked to indicate the percentage of time the subordinate's performance fell into one of four categories (Category 1--"Unsatisfactory: Needs to improve substantially;" Category 2--"Questionable: Needs some improvement;" Category 3--"Satisfactory: Meets normal expectations;" Category 4--"Outstanding: Substantially exceeds normal performance)." Category 1 was coded as 0, Category 2 as 1, Category 3 as 2, and Category 4 as 3, weighting each category by the percent of time reported by the manager (accounting for 100% of the subordinate's performance time). The resulting score for the employee on each dimension was the weighted average category level. Although this procedure is cognitively more difficult for managers to use, it forces them to explicitly assess the amount of time that the employee's performance falls into each category, and reduces the likelihood of leniency and halo rating errors (Bernardin, 1978). A statistical advantage of using a fixed-sum-weighted, Likert-type interval scale is that it produces a weighted average for each subject, and, consequently, is a continuous, rather than discrete, measure. Because the three dimensions are scored independently, the dimension scores can be evaluated for internal reliability using common indices, like Cronbach's alpha, and the dimension scores can be summed to an overall scale score. Summing the weighted evaluations of the three performance dimensions created a composite score for performance ([alpha] = 0.92).


The analysis proceeded in three steps. First, prior to the analysis of the hypotheses, the question of whether the effects of supervisors who reported for multiple subordinates (i.e., aggregate within supervisor) should be fixed was examined. Second, to test the moderation hypotheses, a structural equations path analysis composed of main and interaction variables was constructed. An examination of whether trust moderated the relationship between transformational leadership and the outcome variables was conducted by testing the change in chi-square between an unconstrained model including the interaction term and a constrained model omitting the interaction variable. Third, the mediation hypotheses regarding whether trust mediated the effect of transformational leadership behaviors on the outcome variables were tested using the path analysis. Tests were calculated by applying a bootstrapping procedure to estimate direct and indirect effects along with their associated standard errors and significance levels (Efron and Gong, 1983; Efron and Tibshirani, 1993).


Because 31% of the supervisors reported performance and organizational citizenship behaviors for more than one subordinate (mean = 1.35), Hausman tests (Hausman, 1978) were completed for each of the three outcome variables. A Hausman test addresses the question of whether there is a group level systematic effect, which determines whether a regression should be estimated as a fixed or random effects model. In this case, an examination was conducted to determine whether there was a need to control for supervisor means. The results showed that each test for the three outcome variables yielded a p-value greater than 0.05; therefore, a random effects regression without dummy variables to fix effects by supervisor was used.

Hypothesis Tests

Prior to testing specific hypotheses, the descriptive statistics and correlations were examined (see Table 1). It was found that trust correlated positively with transformational leadership behaviors, and both of them correlated with each of the outcome variables as expected. It also was observed that organizational citizenship behavior ratings correlated strongly with performance ratings (r = 0.70, p < 0.01) potentially in part because they both were collected from the supervisor, and the interaction variable correlated strongly with trust (r = -0.51, p < 0.01) and moderately with transformational leadership (r=-0.36, p<0.01) due to the variable construction. Consequently, covariances were estimated in the path analysis for these variables.

Hypothesis 1. To prepare the data for testing the moderating hypotheses, the process described by Aiken and West (1991) for centering data to mitigate the effect of collinearity of main effect variables with interaction terms was used. The data were centered by creating standardized z-scores for both the independent and dependent variables. Accordingly, the results were interpreted as standard deviation changes or standardized regression coefficients. An interaction variable also was created by multiplying the standardized scores for the trust variable with the transformational leadership behavior variable.

To examine the moderating relationship hypothesis, a nested testing procedure was employed. First a structural path model including both the main effect and interaction term was conducted. A chi-square statistic for the path model was calculated and acceptable fit statistics were found ([[chi square].sub.(2)] 0.38, p > 0.83; GFI = 1.00; CFI = 1.00; RMSEA = 0). Then the analysis for a constrained model was repeated by specifying the interaction variable path coefficients to equal zero. The change in [chi square] was examined to determine whether there was a significant change in fit of the model to the data, and it was found that there was not ([[chi square].sub.(3)] = 5.48, n.s.; [DELTA]GFI = 0.01; [DELTA]CFI = 0; [DELTA]RMSEA = 0.04). In corroboration of this conclusion, it also was observed that no path coefficient in the unconstrained model showed significance for the interaction variables. Based on these results, it was concluded that there was no evidence of a moderating role for trust in the relationship between transformational leadership and each of the outcome variables; thus, there was no support for Hypothesis 1.

Hypothesis 2. To test whether trust mediated the relationship between transformational leadership behaviors and the outcome variables, direct and indirect coefficients from the previously described constrained path model were examined, and bias corrected standard errors and significance tests were produced using bootstrapping (Efron and Gong, 1983; Efron and Tibshirani, 1993), which has been recommended as a preferred alternative to traditional hierarchical regression testing for mediation (Mallinckrodt et al., 2006; Shrout and Bolger, 2002). The bootstrap results were generated using a sample of 10,000 from which standard errors were estimated in order to calculate bias-corrected confidence intervals and test the direct and indirect effects. The results for the mediation-only constrained path analysis are provided in Table 2 and Figure 1.

The resulting path model indicated that transformational leadership was significantly related to trust (b=0.77, p<0.001), but was not significantly directly related to any of the outcome variables (all p>0.05). Transformational leadership, however, was found to be indirectly related, and fully mediated by trust, in its relationship to each of the outcome variables ([b.sub.(OCB)]=0.43, p<0.01; [b.sub.(performance)] = 0.42, 7=0.42, p<0.01; [b(.sub.effective commitment) = 0.25, p<0.05). Based on what was observed in the analysis, the mediation hypothesis was fully supported by the data. Therefore, trust is not simply an outcome of transformational leadership, but is the basis for its influence on these individual level outcomes when all are considered within the same paradigm.



The purpose of this study was to discern the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm, including the examination of three follower outcome variables. The results extended previous research on transformational leadership and trust. First, no support was found for the role of trust as a moderator of the relationship between transformational leadership and follower outcomes. Second, the results of the regression analyses used in this study supported past research that examined trust as a mediator in relationships between transformational leadership and various outcome variables (e.g., Podsakoff et al., 1990; Pillai et al., 1999; Jung and Avolio, 2000; MacKenzie et al., 2001; Connell et al., 2003). Specifically, trust was found to fully mediate the relationships between transformational leadership behavior and organizational citizenship behavior, performance, and affective commitment.

Although trust is clearly positively related to transformational leadership and could be considered as simply another outcome of it, results from this research suggest a more significant role for trust in the transformational framework. Transformational leaders are, first of all, trusted by their subordinates, who in turn display positive job attitudes as well as positive intra- and extra-role performance. The results support Avolio's (1999) contention that the impact of transformational leadership on followers is not direct. Furthermore, that trust provides the conduit for this impact on follower outcomes has been confirmed.

Significant confidence can be placed in the present findings for a number of reasons. First, the results of this study provide added veracity because the use of multiple data sources eliminates the problems of monomethod bias, which are often an issue in similar studies. Common method variance is avoided by measuring the outcome variables through differing data sources; the managers rate organizational citizenship behaviors and performance, while the subordinates rate affective commitment. Second, validated, widely-used scales are utilized in this study, strengthening the reliability of the results. Third, a bootstrapping technique is employed that improves on earlier published analyses, which primarily employed standard multiple regression analysis. Shrout and Bolger (2002; see also Mallinckrodt et al., 2006) demonstrate that bootstrap techniques (Efron and Tibshirani, 1993) are preferable to hierarchical normal theory approaches (e.g., Baron and Kenny, 1986) because of the greater power that is retained in the analysis.

Although trust was not found to moderate the relationships in this model, additional work should continue to examine this role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm. First, theory and empirical research suggest researchers have more to learn about trust and its potential to affect relationships between transformational leadership and valued individual/organizational outcomes (Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999; Neeraj, 2009). Second, trust is a complex construct. Other aspects of trust are not considered in this study, such as propensity to trust, benevolence, and integrity (Mayer et al., 1995). Third, trust is measured from the subordinate's perspective, asking whether or not the subordinate trusts the leader. A different perspective, however, may shed light on the matter. How does the subordinate perceive the level of trust the leader has in him or her? Does this perception make him or her more likely to follow the leader, and does it affect subordinate attitudes and behavior? Brower et al. (2009) find that when subordinates are trusted by their leaders, they exhibit higher levels of OCBs and task performance, and have lower levels of intentions to quit. They suggest that when leaders trust subordinates, they engage in higher quality interactions that cause subordinates to feel empowered and confident, and that improve their feelings of loyalty toward the organization. As a result, they exhibit more positive and less negative behaviors in the workplace. Furthermore, what if a leader trusts a subordinate, but the subordinate does not trust the leader, or vice-versa (Brower et al., 2000)? Brower et al. (2009) have just begun an investigation of the significance of how any discrepancies in trust influence the role it plays in the transformational leader-follower relationship.

Future research may consider utilizing all forms of trust to develop an inclusive measure or perhaps study each of these aspects of trust individually in a study similar to the one reported here. In this research, the relationships among transformational leadership, trust, performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and affective commitment were examined. There are a wealth of various other leader, subordinate, and organizational outcomes that may be considered, such as satisfaction, loyalty, implicit leadership theories, ethics, absenteeism, turnover, deviant workplace behavior, communication, office politics, conflict resolution, as well as organizational culture, structure, and productivity.

It is likely that the quality of the relationship between the leader and the follower also plays a role. The quality of the relationship is the focus of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, and high quality relationships focus on mutual trust, loyalty, and behaviors that extend beyond the employment contract. Indeed, the role-taking, role-making, and role routinization of LMX are essentially part of a trust-building process. Trust and LMX have been found to be strongly correlated (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002; Whittington, 1997); however, trust is not a proxy for LMX, but rather a consequence (Brower et al., 2000). The perception of subordinates that their leader trusts them may moderate the relationship between trust derived from LMX and various outcome variables. Future research should continue to examine the role of trust and the quality of leader-follower relationships on the relationship between leader behavior and subordinate outcomes.

Although it was not directly addressed in the present research, the effort required to build trust between a leader and his or her followers requires a leader to be "authentic." Authentic leaders are characterized as hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and transparent. These leaders are described as moral/ethical, future-oriented individuals who make the development of others a priority (Fry and Whittington, 2005). By being true to their own values, acting in ways that are consistent with those values, and communicating clearly, authentic leaders earn their follows' trust and develop them into leaders themselves. Unfortunately, some leaders who are driven to achieve do not concern themselves with the development of their authenticity. These leaders do not operate from the same value-centered foundation that authentic leaders do. Their attempt to mask their inadequacies, cultivate a certain persona they want to project, and close themselves off from others (Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999; Price, 2003) fosters mistrust and a sense of disconnection with followers. Thus, leader authenticity may shed some light on the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm (Nichols, 2008).

The findings from this study advance understanding of the relationship between transformational leadership behaviors, follower attitudes and performance, and the level of trust followers have in their leader. Whereas many organizational managers and leaders spend significant time and money learning how to enhance their leadership styles, these results indicate those efforts must be coupled with behaviors that will create high levels of trust with their followers to ensure the most positive outcomes. Because of the complexity of trust, however, further research is required to incorporate additional operationalizations of trust, additional follower and organizational outcomes, and new conceptualizations of leadership that incorporate the potential dark side to transformational leadership (e.g., authentic and pseudo-transformational leadership). There are many intriguing questions yet to be answered concerning trust and transformational leadership.


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Vicki L. Goodwin

Professor of Management, Department Chair

University of North Texas

J. Lee Whittington

Professor of management

University of Dallas

Brian Murray

Interim Dean, Associate Professor of Management

University of Dallas

Tommy Nichols

Assistant Professor of Management

Texas Wesleyan University
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics

                               Mean     s.d.      1       2       3

1  OCB                         122.35   21.02
2  Affirmative Commitment       38.78    9.64    0.23
3  Performance                   9.39    1.41    0.70    0.25
4  Trust                        41.49   11.54    0.41    0.48    0.46
5  Transformational            154.44   35.00    0.24    0.45    0.31
6  Trust by Transformational     0.76    1.21   -0.29   -0.37   -0.19

                                 4       5

1  OCB
2  Affirmative Commitment
3  Performance
4  Trust
5  Transformational             0.77
6  Trust by Transformational   -0.51   -0.36

*  [absolute value of r] >0.21, p<0.05;n=88

Table 2
Path Coefficients for Standardized Variables: Constrained
Mediation-Only Models

                   Trust            OCB            Performance
                   Direct     Direct    Indirect   Direct

Transformational   0.77 ***   -0.19     0.43 **    -0.11
Trust                         0.56 **              0.54     **
[R.sup.2]          0.59 ***   0.19 **                       0.22 **

                   Performance   Affective Comm.
                   Indirect      Direct              Indirect

Transformational   0.42 **       0.20                0.25
Trust                            0.33
[R.sup.2]                                 0.25 ***

* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001

(a) [chi square] = 5.86,p > 0.32 GFI = 0.98; CFI = 1.00; RMSEA = 0.04
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