Proactivity Directed Toward the Team

Proactivity Directed Toward the Team and Organization: the Role of Leadership, Commitment and Role-breadth Self-efficacy Karoline Strauss, Mark A. Griffin and Alannah E. Rafferty 1 Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK, and 1 School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia Emails:;; Employees’ proactive behaviour is increasingly important for organizations se
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  Proactivity Directed Toward the Teamand Organization: the Role of Leadership,Commitment and Role-breadthSelf-efficacy Karoline Strauss, Mark A. Griffin and Alannah E. Rafferty 1 Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK, and  1 School of Psychology,University of Queensland, AustraliaEmails:;; Employees’ proactive behaviour is increasingly important for organizations seeking toadapt in uncertain economic environments. This study examined the link betweenleadership and proactive behaviour. We differentiated between organizational leader-ship and team leadership and proposed that transformational leadership by team leaderswould enhance commitment to the team, which would predict team member proactivity.In contrast, transformational leadership by leaders of the organization would enhancecommitment to the organization, which we expected to predict organization memberproactivity. Transformational leadership on both levels was expected to increaseemployees’ role-breadth self-efficacy, the confidence necessary to engage in proactivebehaviour. Our results demonstrate the importance of leadership as an antecedent of proactive work behaviour and suggest that leadership at different levels influencesproactivity via different mediators. Transformational team leaders seem to facilitateproactivity by increasing employees’ confidence to initiate change. Transformationalorganizational leaders on the other hand increase proactivity by enhancing employees’commitment to the organization. Employees’ proactive work behaviours are cru-cial to organizational success in rapidly changingeconomic environments (Crant, 2000; Frese andFay, 2001; Parker, 2000) and are especiallyimportant in uncertain environments where themost effective work behaviours cannot be pre-scribed in advance (Griffin, Neal and Parker,2007). Proactive individuals take self-directedaction to anticipate or initiate change in thework system or work roles (Grant and Ashford,2008). Proactive behaviour is crucial in theprocess of innovation, influencing the transitionfrom idea generation to idea implementation(Rank, Pace and Frese, 2004).In recent years, considerable research hassought to identify both individual factors (e.g.Bateman and Crant, 1993; Frese  et al  ., 1996) andcontextual characteristics (e.g. Fay and Sonnen-tag, 2002; Frese and Fay, 2001; Parker, Williamsand Turner, 2006) that might influence proactivebehaviour. Leadership is one potentially impor-tant contextual influence on proactivity (Crant,2000). However, recent studies of proactivityhave not demonstrated a link between leadershipand proactive behaviour (Frese, Teng andWijnen, 1999; Parker, Williams and Turner,2006). These studies have investigated suppor-tive leadership, which might not be the mostimportant leader behaviour for promotingproactivity.The current study investigates transforma-tional leadership. Transformational leaders influ-ence followers’ values, attitudes and emotions(Bass, 1985) and motivate followers to perform British Journal of Management, Vol. 20, 279–291 (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2008.00590.x r 2008 British Academy of Management. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, OxfordOX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA, 02148, USA.  beyond their expectations (Yukl, 1998). Wepropose that transformational leaders are likelyto encourage proactive work behaviours becausethey focus on change and improvement. Indeed,the positive influence of transformational leaderson organizational performance could resultprimarily from their impact on proactive workbehaviours (Bass, 1990).This study extends previous research linkingleadership and proactivity, in three ways. First,we distinguish between the team and organiza-tional level when considering both transforma-tional leadership and proactivity. Leaders at eachlevel can motivate employee behaviours viadifferent psychological processes (e.g. Chen andBliese, 2002). Proactive behaviours can also betargeted toward change at different levels such asthe individual task, the team or the organization(Griffin, Neal and Parker, 2007).  Team member proactivity  is aimed at changing the team situa-tion and the way the team works.  Organizationmember proactivity  refers to individual behaviourthat changes the way the organization works andis focused not only on work groups or depart-ments but on the organization as a whole, goingbeyond organizational citizenship behaviours(Podsakoff   et al  ., 2000).Second, we directly compare proactivity withother forms of behaviour and develop differentialhypotheses for proactivity. In particular, wedistinguish  team member proficiency  from teammember proactivity and  organization member proficiency  from organization member proactiv-ity. Proficiency describes tasks that can beplanned and specified in advance such as coretasks. Proactivity involves self-starting goals andactive displays of initiative that can be differ-entiated both from core task performance andfrom passive aspects of citizenship such asadjusting to changing work conditions (Griffin,Neal and Parker, 2007). Previous research con-cerning proactivity and leadership has treatedperformance as a unitary construct or hasincluded proactivity as a part of citizenshipbehaviours (e.g. Bono and Judge, 2003). Proac-tivity is a specific form of motivated behaviour atwork (Bateman and Crant, 1993), and differentfrom task performance and citizenship beha-viours (Griffin, Neal and Parker, 2007; Parker,Wlliams and Turner, 2006). It is not a reaction toexternal demands, but self-starting and directedtowards the future. Proactive behaviour pro-motes change (e.g. Campbell, 2000; Crant, 2000;Frese and Fay, 2001; Morrison and Phelps, 1999;Parker, 2000) and plays a unique and crucial rolein the process of innovation (Rank, Pace andFrese, 2004).Third, we investigate psychological mediatorsof the relationships between transformationalleadership and proactivity. In particular we focuson the role of commitment and role-breadth self-efficacy. We first propose that transformationalleadership at the team level enhances commit-ment to the team, which in turn enhancesproactive behaviours directed toward the team.In contrast, transformational leadership at theorganizational level is proposed to enhancecommitment to the broader organization, whichenhances proactive behaviours directed towardsthe organization. We further propose that trans-formational leadership at the team level and atthe organizational level will both be positivelyrelated to employees’ role-breadth self-efficacy. Ingeneral, self-efficacy increases an individual’ssense of control and their belief that they canbe successful. Role-breadth self-efficacy specifi-cally describes individuals’ confidence in theirability to take on proactive, integrative andinterpersonal tasks, such as implementing newwork procedures (Parker, 1998). Individuals withhigh role-breadth self-efficacy have the confi-dence that they can take on new roles within theteam and contribute to the wider goals of theorganization. We thus expect role-breadth self-efficacy to enhance proactivity at the team andorganization level.Data were collected in a self-report study of employees in an Australian public sector organi-zation. The research framework we explore isoutlined in Figure 1. We explain each relation-ship in more detail below.The factors that enhance proactive workbehaviour include contextual factors such as thetype of work environment (Parker, Williams andTurner, 2006), individual differences in person-ality (e.g. Crant, 2000), and proactive motiva-tional states or orientations (Frese and Fay,2001). Our model investigates leadership as theprimary contextual factor and includes role-breadth self-efficacy and commitment as themore proximal motivational states. Each of thesefactors is explained in more detail below. We alsocontrol for tenure within the organization, thepersonality variable of negative affectivity, and a280  K. Strauss, M. A. Griffin and A. E. Rafferty r 2008 British Academy of Management.  common method marker variable (Lindell andWhitney, 2001) as part of our assessment of common method variance. The control variablesare described in the Methods section. Motivators of proactive behaviour Individual motivation is likely to be an importantpredictor because proactivity is difficult to pre-scribe within an organization and much proactivebehaviour depends on individual choice. Wepropose that affective commitment to either theteam or the organization will be an importantmotivator for proactive behaviour directed to-ward the team or the organization respectively.Commitment refers to the emotional bondbetween individuals and broader groups such asteams, professions, unions and organizations.Although the relationship between commitmentand core task behaviours has received broadsupport (e.g. Vandenberghe, Bentein and Stingl-hamber, 2004), research on proactivity andcommitment is scarce (Den Hartog and Belschak,2007), and empirical support for commitment asan antecedent of proactivity has been mixed.Parker, Williams and Turner (2006) foundproactive work role behaviour on an individuallevel to be unrelated to affective organizationalcommitment. However, their study assessedgeneral affective commitment and its relationshipto task-focused proactivity. Den Hartog andBelschak (2007) found that personal initiative, aspecific form of proactive behaviour, was relatedto commitment to the team.There are two reasons to propose that commit-ment specific to the team and to the organizationis important for proactivity. First, affectivecommitment involves the experience of positiveaffective states that are likely to encourageengagement in proactive behaviours (Parker,2007). Positive affect can promote more sponta-neous and innovative behaviours (George, 1990),promote a more responsible long-term focus(Isen and Reeve, 2005) and motivate individualsto set more difficult and challenging goals (Iliesand Judge, 2005). Second, affective commitmentinvolves psychological attachment to a socialentity beyond the individual. Employees’ attach-ment to their organization is an important motivefor engagement in behaviour that will benefit theorganization. Den Hartog and Belschak (2007)have shown that affective commitment explains aunique proportion of variance in proactivebehaviour over and above the influence of general work affect.We propose that previous research has notconsistently identified commitment as an ante-cedent of proactive behaviour because of thenon-correspondence of the focus of commitmentand the target of proactive behaviour. Foci of commitment are the individuals and groups an TeamcommitmentTeam leadertransformationalleadershipOrganizationalcommitmentOrganization leadertransformationalleadershipTeammemberproficiencyOrganizationmemberproficiencyTeammemberproactivityOrganizationmemberproactivityRole-breadthself-efficacyH2aH2bH1bH1aH4aH3aH3bH4bH1aH1bControl measuresTenure, negative affectivity, work-home conflict Figure1. Hypothetical model  Leadership and Proactivity  281 r 2008 British Academy of Management.  employee is attached to (Reichers, 1986). Beingaffectively attached to one’s organization doesnot necessarily lead to a greater readiness forproactive work behaviour focused at the team.Williams and Anderson’s (1991) research onorganizational citizenship suggests that the rela-tionship between commitment and employeebehaviours will be stronger when the foci of commitment are consistent with the beneficiariesof these behaviours. Herscovitch and Meyer(2002) found commitment to a specific target abetter predictor of behaviour relevant to thistarget than general organizational commitment.Specific foci of commitment might primarilyrelate to proactive behaviour targeted at corre-sponding foci (Den Hartog and Belschak, 2007).We expect commitment to the team and theorganization to predict proactivity targeted to-wards corresponding foci. Because commitmenthas also been shown to predict task performance(e.g. Vandenberghe, Bentein and Stinglhamber,2004), we expect these commitments to alsopredict employees’ proficiency, which is theirfulfilment of prescribed or predictable require-ments (Griffin, Neal and Parker, 2007). H1a : Team commitment is positively related toteam member proactivity and team memberproficiency. H1b : Organizational commitment is positivelyrelated to organization member proactivity andorganization member proficiency.In addition, employees need to feel confident intheir ability to engage in proactive behaviour. Asproactive work behaviour can involve question-ing the status quo it is not always perceived as apositive behaviour, and can involve high socialcosts (Crant, 2000). With proactive behavioursrequiring both risk taking and effort, individuals’role-breadth self-efficacy is particularly importantfor these behaviours (Parker, 1998, 2000). Role-breadth self-efficacy refers to employees’ confi-dence in taking on new roles and challenging tasksand to carry out ‘a range of integrative andinterpersonal tasks’ (Parker, 2000, p. 450). It hasrepeatedly been shown to be a proximal predictorof proactive behaviour (e.g. Griffin, Neal andParker, 2007; Parker, Williams and Turner, 2006).We expected role-breadth self-efficacy to beparticularly important for both team and organi-zational proactivity, even more than for individualtask proactivity, because these activities requireindividuals to go beyond their core task and toshow initiative in a broader context. Individualswho report high role-breadth self-efficacy shouldalso be more likely to have confidence that theycan take on new roles within the team andcontribute to the wider goals of the organization.Therefore, we proposed the following hypotheses. H2a : Role-breadth self-efficacy will be posi-tively related to employees’ team memberproactivity. H2b : Role-breadth self-efficacy will be posi-tively related to employees’ organization mem-ber proactivity. The role of leadership Transformational leadership motivates employ-ees to go beyond standard expectations bytransforming followers’ attitudes, beliefs andvalues as opposed to simply gaining compliance(Bass, 1985; Yukl, 1999). Bass (1990) suggeststhat one reason transformational leadership canincrease performance (see Judge and Piccolo(2004) for a recent review) is because of itsimpact on proactive work role behaviours. Todate there has been little research connectingleadership to proactivity or the psychologicalprocesses through which transformational leader-ship enhances proactivity. In the current study wefocus on two psychological mechanisms throughwhich transformational leaders influence employ-ees’ proactive behaviour.First, transformational leadership behaviourshave been associated with followers’ identifica-tion with the leader and their identification withand attachment to the concerned group ororganization (e.g. Kark, Shamir and Chen,2003). We thus focus on commitment to theteam and to the organization as mediators in therelationship of transformational leadership andproactivity. Second, research suggests that trans-formational leaders increase followers’ efficacybeliefs (Shamir  et al  ., 1998). We investigatewhether employees’ role-breadth self-efficacymediates the relationship between transforma-tional leadership and proactivity. Below wedescribe the relationship between leadership andthose two motivational constructs in more detail.282  K. Strauss, M. A. Griffin and A. E. Rafferty r 2008 British Academy of Management.
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