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Transformational
Transformational leadership, leadership
work engagement, and
occupational success
663
Sylvie Vincent-Hoper and Clara Muser
University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany, and
Monique Janneck
Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
Luebeck University of Applied Sciences, Luebeck, Germany

Abstract
Purpose The aim of the present study is to give insights into the interplay between leadership,
well-being and occupational success by examining the indirect effect of transformational leadership on
subjective occupational success mediated by work engagement.
Design/methodology/approach A gender-sensitive approach was applied in order to reveal
possible differences in the relations and to deduce gender-specific recommendations. Data were
retrieved from 530 women and 602 men. The participants were questioned on their leaders behavior,
their work engagement, and occupational success.
Findings Results show significant positive relations between transformational leadership, work
engagement, and subjective occupational success for men and women. Work engagement is found to
partially mediate the relation between transformational leadership and subjective occupational
success. A significantly higher mediation effect was found for women, although the mediation is
present in both gender groups.
Practical implications Both for men and women transformational leadership training, as well as
interventions promoting work engagement, are promising approaches for the enhancement of
occupational success.
Originality/value The findings advance the understanding of how leaders enhance employees
occupational success and provide gender-specific insights into the mediating mechanism of work
engagement regarding this relation.
Keywords Transformational leadership, Well-being, Work engagement,
Subjective occupational success, Gender differences, Mediator, Quality of life, Gender
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
The demographic change is becoming a main issue in todays rising economies.
Keeping employees healthy and efficiently working over a long working life is
becoming a central challenge for human resource management. An indicator of good
mental health is employees work engagement (Schaufeli et al., 2008). Work
engagement has been defined as a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is
characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli et al., 2006, p. 702). It is
considered as the positive counterpart of burnout and highlights positive
affective-cognitive aspects of well-being (Schaufeli et al., 2006; Maslach et al., 2001). Career Development International
Vol. 17 No. 7, 2012
pp. 663-682
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) 1362-0436
and the European Social Fund (ESF) (grant number 01FP0831/01FP0841). DOI 10.1108/13620431211283805
CDI Another relevant fact is that women are still gravely underrepresented in leadership
17,7 positions (European Commission, 2010). With regard to the demographic change and
the assurance of future growth and stability, it becomes crucial to use womens
potential and to promote their career advancement in a sustainable way (European
Commission, 2010). According to Kauppinen (2010) women report more work-related
stress and show twice as many mental health problems than their male colleagues.
664 Consequently, organizational structures need to be adjusted to foster female career
opportunities and healthy career-promotion.
Supervisors are supposed to make a big contribution to obtaining and maintaining
healthy, well-trained, and efficiently working employees on a long-term basis by
defining an environment in which employees can thrive and experience well-being
(Mullen and Kelloway, 2010; Nielsen et al., 2008). There is a large body of research on
the effects of transformational leadership on employees performance and occupational
success. Transformational leaders motivate their followers to perform beyond
expectations by evoking followers higher order needs (Bass, 1998). However, the
pathways of that relation are still not well understood. There is a need to clarify how
leaders affect their employees occupational success. We suppose that employees work
engagement is a mediating factor regarding this relation and an important prerequisite
for sustainable career success.
Consequently, this study aims to give insights into the interplay between
transformational leadership, work engagement and occupational success by
examining the indirect effect of transformational leadership on subjective
occupational success mediated by work engagement.
Given the under-representation of women in higher positions, the question arises as
to whether leadership styles might have a different impact on male and female
followers occupational success. We therefore investigate the relation between
leadership, well-being, career success and the mediating mechanism separately for
men and women, which might lead to more suitable recommendations and
interventions for the two groups.

Transformational leadership and subjective occupational success


Transformational leadership goes beyond exchange relations and is comprised of four
dimensions (Bass, 1998): idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual
stimulation, and individualized consideration. Transformational leaders are executives
who promote and motivate their followers by projecting and communicating attractive
visions, common goals and shared values as well as by setting an example for the
requested behavior (Bass and Avolio, 1990; Bass and Riggio, 2006). Transformational
leaders are supposed to challenge employees positively (Bass and Avolio, 1990) and to
increase their employees willingness to exert effort in their job leading to successful
performance which in turn results in more performance satisfaction and fulfillment
(Xanthopoulou et al., 2008). In several studies, transformational leadership style was
positively linked to subordinates job performance, including in- and extra-role
performance (Bono and Judge, 2003; Choi, 2006; Dirks and Ferrin, 2002; Mullen and
Kelloway, 2010; Podsakoff et al., 1996; Rowold and Schlotz, 2009; Walumbwa et al.,
2008), followers extra effort (Bass, 1990), organizational citizenship behavior (Dirks
and Ferrin, 2002; Piccolo and Colquitt, 2006; Podsakoff et al., 1996), organizational
citizenship performance, and lower turnover intentions (Dirks and Ferrin, 2002).
Similarly, leaders communication of a vision of quality and intellectual stimulation Transformational
were found to have small but nevertheless significant effects on the employees leadership
performance quality and quantity (Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1996).
Trust in the leader and model-learning are two further career-boosting
characteristics of transformational leadership: Perceived as trustworthy, respected
and admirable role models, leaders who exhibit idealized influence may enhance their
subordinates ability to undertake calculated risks to advance their careers (Sosik and 665
Godshalk, 2000, p.370). In this way, effective transformational leadership behavior is
expected to enhance the followers career development.
Therefore, we predict a positive relation between transformational leadership and
occupational success:
H1. Transformational leadership is positively related to subjective occupational
success.

Transformational leadership and employee well-being


There is a great body of research examining the relation between transformational
leadership and well-being (e.g. Kuoppala et al., 2008; Nielsen et al., 2008; Skakon et al.,
2010). Idealized influence and intellectual stimulation were significantly related to
positive emotional arousal, personal goals, capacity belief and context belief, which in
turn predicted commitment to change (Attridge, 2009; Lo et al., 2010). Moreover,
visionary leadership and vision itself were found to correlate with higher job
satisfaction, commitment, work engagement and lower turnover (Attridge, 2009). As
Zhu et al. (2009, p. 595) concluded, by offering constructive and positive feedback to
their followers [leaders] improve followers sense of self-determination, psychological
meaningfulness and safety which [. . .] are seen as being antecedents to follower work
engagement.
Furthermore, transformational leadership was positively associated with mental
health and affective well-being via the experience of meaningful work (Arnold et al.,
2007; Nielsen et al., 2008). Subordinates were found to consider their work as more
important and more self-congruent when they had a transformational leader (Bono and
Judge, 2003). Promotion of their followers process of learning and self-improvement,
strong relations with each of their subordinates as well as direct communication are
further characteristics of transformational leadership that improve employee health
and work performance (Arnold et al., 2007).
Transformational leadership is expected to raise followers to higher levels of
potential while satisfying their higher order needs and thereby increasing employee
dedication. There is empirical evidence that transformational leadership is positively
associated with organizational commitment and work engagement, even in different
organizational and cultural settings (Attridge, 2009; Avolio et al., 2004; Cotton and
Hart, 2003). Similarly, supervisor support was found to significantly promote work
engagement, flow of information and a positive work environment, which is
encouraging, supporting, innovative and appreciative (Bakker et al., 2007).
Taken together, many studies support a positive relation between transformational
leadership and well-being and work engagement in particular. Thus, we hypothesize
the following:
H2. Transformational leadership is positively related to work engagement.
CDI Employee well-being and subjective occupational success
17,7 Several studies provide evidence for the positive relation between employee well-being
and various performance measures, such as job performance, and individual
occupational or organizational outcomes (Harter et al., 2002a, b; Judge et al., 2001; Taris
and Schreurs, 2009; Grebner et al., 2008; Lyumbomirsky et al., 2005). According to
Bakker et al. (2008), good health enables employees to use all of their mental and
666 physical resources, allowing them to cope better with challenging work situations and
to attain their career goals or fulfill common visions. However, only very few studies
have examined well-being and subjective occupational success.
Regarding work engagement in particular, numerous studies have linked this
variable to job satisfaction, low absenteeism, low turnover, high organizational
commitment, successful business-unit outcomes (customer satisfaction, productivity,
profit, employee retention and employee safety) and to general performance as well as
to in- and extra-role performance (Bakker et al., 2008; Harter et al., 2002a; Salanova et al.,
2005; Xanthopoulou et al., 2008; Xanthopoulou et al., 2009). Bakker et al. (2008)
explained these effects as resulting from the employees feeling of being vital and
strong as well as their enhanced enthusiasm about their work, which in turn results in
better financial outcomes and more satisfied clients and customers. Bakker and
Demerouti (2008) postulated that engaged workers perform better than non-engaged
workers [because they] often experience positive emotions, including happiness, joy,
and enthusiasm; experience better health; create their own job and personal resources;
and transfer their engagement to others (p. 215).
Given this positive evidence for the relation between work engagement and positive
career outcomes, we postulate the following:
H3. Work engagement is positively related to subjective occupational success.

Gender differences
Most studies examining the relations between transformational leadership, well-being
and occupational success have not investigated gender differences. The few studies
that considered gender revealed no significant differences. Gender had no explanatory
value in predicting weekly work engagement or performance (Schaufeli et al., 2006;
Kuhnel et al., 2009). Similarly, it did not have any explanatory power in the mediation
model in which weekly work engagement mediated the relation between job resources
and performance (Bakker and Bal, 2010).
With respect to the impact of well-being on occupational success, Leon (2010)
showed that stress had a dramatic impact on career satisfaction for both men and
women. Additionally, subjectively evaluated predictors of career success were
predominantly equal for both sexes. Analogously, the regression analysis conducted
by Abele and Spurk (2009) revealed no significant explanatory value for gender on
career satisfaction.
Against this empirical background we predict the following:
H4. There are no significant gender differences in respect to the relations between
transformational leadership, work engagement and subjective occupational
success.
Proposed mediating model Transformational
A few studies have examined the mediating effect of well-being regarding the relation leadership
between job resources and various positive outcomes (Salanova et al., 2010; Grebner
et al., 2010).
Work engagement, as one important indicator of well-being, is assumed to result from
access to supervisor-related resources supporting and empowering followers to show
more effort and commitment to the organization and to perform well (Laschinger et al., 667
2009). Across different countries and occupations, several studies have provided evidence
for the mediating effect of work engagement on the relation between organizational
resources and job performance or other positive work outcomes, such as proactive work
behaviors, extra-role behaviors and commitment (Laschinger et al., 2009; Llorens et al.,
2006). Xanthopoulou et al. (2008) showed that colleague support had an indirect effect on
in-role performance through the mediator effect of work engagement. Additionally, work
engagement was found to fully mediate the relation between organizational resources and
service climate, which was influenced by the followers empathy and excellent job
performance (Salanova et al., 2005). Furthermore, work engagement partially mediated
the relation between supervisor coaching and financial returns (Xanthopoulou et al., 2009).
Bakker and Demerouti (2008) have proposed an overall model of work engagement
that assumes that job resources, such as social support from colleagues and
supervisors and performance feedback, start a motivational process that leads to work
engagement, and consequently to higher performance. Based on this model and
previous findings on the antecedents and consequences of work engagement, the
present study investigates the mediating effect of work engagement as a positive
indicator of well-being on the relation between transformational leadership and
subjective occupational success (see Figure 1):
H5a. The relation between transformational leadership and subjective occupational
success is significantly mediated by work engagement.
Gender differences were not analyzed in any of the studies mentioned previously. As
reported, gender differences in respect to the relations between transformational
leadership, well-being or work engagement, and occupational success were not
significant. Therefore, we predict the following:
H5b. There are no significant gender differences in respect to the investigated
mediation effect of work engagement.

Figure 1.
Proposed mediation
model: work engagement
as mediator in the relation
between transformational
leadership and subjective
occupational success
CDI Methods
17,7 Participants and procedure
Data were collected by means of an online questionnaire within a four-month period.
Participants were recruited via opinion polls and professional associations. Since this
study was performed as part of a research project on womens careers in engineering,
participants were largely engineering and computing professionals. However, employees
668 from other occupational fields were also included in order to obtain a wider sample. In
order to analyze the effects of leadership, only employees with a direct supervisor were
included. 1,132 employees with a direct supervisor completed the questionnaire. Gender
distribution was almost equal (53.2 per cent male, 46.8 per cent female). Participants were
aged 18 to 64 years (M 39.19, SD 10.22). About half of the participants (55 per cent)
worked in scientific and engineering fields (e.g. production industry, building industry,
water and power industry, engineering, research and development, transport and
logistics, information technology) and the remaining 45 per cent worked in different
occupational areas (e.g. service industry, education, social services, health care, or
trading). Most frequently, participants worked in large companies with more than 500
employees (38.5 per cent), 11.1 per cent in companies with 251-500 employees, 22.3 per
cent in companies with 51-250 employees, and 28.4 per cent in companies with less than
50 employees. On average, participants had been employed for 16 years (SD 11.22).
About half the participants (50.4 per cent) had no managerial responsibility, 30.7 per cent
had low level responsibility, 18.9 per cent higher levels of managerial responsibility.

Measures
Transformational leadership. Based on the most common conceptualization of
transformational leadership (Bass, 1998), we assessed transformational leadership
using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ 5x, Bass and Avolio, 1995; Bass
and Riggio, 2006; Felfe, 2006). This instrument measures the following five subscales
with four items each: idealized influence attributed:, e.g. My supervisor instills pride
in me for being associated with him or her. (a 0:88), idealized influence behavior:,
e.g. My supervisor specifies the importance of having a strong sense of purpose
(a 0:69), inspirational motivation:, e.g. My supervisor articulates a compelling
vision of the future (a 0:85), intellectual stimulation:, e.g. My supervisor seeks
differing perspectives when solving problems (a 0:85), and individualized
consideration:, e.g. My supervisor spends time teaching and coaching (a 0:86).
All leadership items were completed on a five-point frequency scale ranging from 1
(never) to 5 (almost always). Due to the high intercorrelations between the
transformational leadership subscales (Heinitz et al., 2005) we computed an overall
transformational leadership score.
Work engagement. Work engagement was assessed with the short version of the
Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES, Schaufeli and Bakker, 2003), which includes
three subscales: Vigor (three items;, e.g. At my work, I feel bursting with energy),
dedication (three items;, e.g. I am enthusiastic about my job) and absorption (three
items;, e.g. I am immersed in my work). All items were scored on a seven-point rating
scale ranging from 1 (never) to 1 (always). We computed an overall work engagement
score, as recommended by Schaufeli et al. (2006).
Subjective occupational success. Three work-related success outcomes were
considered: Career satisfaction, i.e. contentment with ones job-related developments,
such as acquired skills and successful steps towards career goals, was measured with a Transformational
five-item scale developed by Greenhaus et al. (1990). The items (e.g. I am satisfied with leadership
the progress I have made toward meeting my overall career goals) were scored on a
five-point scale ranging from 1 (not true at all) to 5 (completely true). Social success,
i.e. ones social achievements in the sense of supporting, motivating or advising others,
was assessed using the respective six-item subscale of the Subjective Occupational
Success Scales by Grebner et al. (2010). For the items (e.g. I helped others to succeed), 669
a seven-point Likert scale from 1 (never) to 7 (all the time) was used as response format.
Thirdly, career success was measured with four items (e.g. I made some good career
moves) taken from the same scale using a seven-point scale ranging from 1 (does not
apply at all) to 7 (does apply completely).

Results
Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations for the study variables are displayed in
Table I. We used Spearmans rho correlations because the scales were not normally
distributed. All measures demonstrated traditionally acceptable internal reliability
levels (Everitt and Skrondal, 2010). Consistent with our first hypothesis,
transformational leadership is positively associated with all indicators of subjective
occupational success r 0:19 to 0:42; p # 0:001). In line with our second hypothesis
transformational leadership is positively related to work engagement
(r 0:46; p # 0:001). Furthermore according to our third hypothesis employee work
engagement is positively related to all indicators of subjective occupational success
(r 0:41 to 0:46; p # 0:001). Hence, H1, H2 and H3 are confirmed.

Gender differences
In order to test H4, gender-segregated correlation analyses were computed. Correlation
differences were tested for statistical significance by using Fishers z-transformation.
Cohens d was computed as an effect size measure (Cohen, 1988).
Two significant differences could be found (see Table II).
The correlation between work engagement and career satisfaction was r 0.38
(p , 0.001; Z-valuemen 0.40) for men and r 0:50 (p , 0.001; Z-valuewomen 0.55)
for women. The difference is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed, Z-test
value 2.05) with a small effect size of d 2 0.15.
The correlation between transformational leadership and career satisfaction also
shows a significant gender difference (p , 0:05; two-tailed; Z-test value 2.23) with

Scales M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

1. Sex
2. Age 39.19 10.22 20.15
3. Transformational leadership 3.19 0.85 0.03 2 0.14 (0.97)
4. Work engagement 4.34 1.17 0.01 0.00 0.46 (0.95) Table I.
5. Career satisfaction 3.26 0.86 20.05 0.03 0.42 0.44 (0.92) Correlations of sex, age,
6. Social success 4.51 1.05 0.02 0.12 0.19 0.46 0.26 (0.89) transformational
7. Career success 3.58 1.30 20.04 2 0.06 0.28 0.41 0.36 0.45 (0.80) leadership, work
engagement and
Note: n 1,132; M Mean; SD Standard deviation; r Spearman, r $ 0.12 # 0.001 (two-tailed); subjective occupational
Cronbachs alphas appear on the diagonal in parentheses success
CDI
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670

women
Table II.
Comparison of
correlations for men and
Scales rmen zmen rwomen zwomen z-test value p Effect size

Transformational leadership and work engagement 0.44 0.48 0.47 0.51 0.64 n.s. 2 0.04
Work engagement and career satisfaction 0.38 0.40 0.50 0.55 2.50 p , 0.05 (two-tailed) 2 0.15
Work engagement and social success 0.45 0.49 0.47 0.51 0.47 n.s. 2 0.03
Work engagement and career success 0.43 0.46 0.39 0.41 0.81 n.s. 0.05
Transformational leadership and career satisfaction 0.36 0.38 0.47 0.51 2.23 p , 0.05 (two-tailed) 2 0.13
Transformational leadership and social success 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.19 0.05 n.s. 2 0.00
Transformational leadership and career success 0.26 0.26 0.31 0.32 1.00 n.s. 2 0.06
Notes: rmen (n 602) and rwomen (n 530) are based on Spearman correlations; Zmen/women z-transformed correlation coefficients; Effect size Cohens d
effect size
correlation coefficients of r 0:36 (p , 0:001; Z -valuemen 0:38) for men and r 0.47 Transformational
p , 0.001; Z-valuewomen 0.51) for women. The effect size is small (d 20:13). leadership
Table II gives an overview of the correlation comparison for men and women.
To sum up, two out of seven correlations show significant gender differences.
Consequently, H4 postulating no gender differences could not be entirely confirmed.

Mediation model
671
To test the postulated mediation effect of work engagement on the relation between
transformational leadership and subjective occupational success proposed by H5a, we
used SEM with Amos Graphics 18.0 (Arbuckle, 2009). According to Baron and Kenny
(1986), the following four conditions are required for a mediation effect: The predictor
variable should have a significant effect on the outcome variable without controlling
for the mediator variable. The predictor should significantly affect the mediator. The
mediator should significantly affect the outcome variable while simultaneously
considering the predictor variable. The predictor-outcome regression path should
become zero (full mediation) or considerably weaker (partial mediation) after
controlling for the mediator.
Bootstrapping was applied to provide a better estimation of the sample, which
allows the approximation of the empirical distribution of the observed data by
constructing and replacing a number of random resamples of the observed dataset.
In order to analyze gender differences in the mediation model (H5b), a simultaneous
equations model for the two sets of data (male 602; female 530) was tested. Using
this multi-group analysis, the two data sets were compared on the same paths to find
the regression weights and determine whether there is a significant gender difference.
To test the mediation hypothesis, the regression paths of the three former conditions
were first tested as single regression models separately for men and women. These
consist of the paths between transformational leadership and occupational success
(career satisfaction, social success, career success) in the first model (see Figures 2 and 3),
the path between transformational leadership and work engagement (vigor, dedication,
absorption) in the second model, and the path between work engagement and
occupational success while controlling for transformational leadership in the third
model. In a last step, the mediation model was tested by simultaneously computing all

Figure 2.
Path model with total
effect of transformational
leadership on subjective
occupational success
(men)
CDI
17,7

672
Figure 3.
Path model with total
effect of transformational
leadership on subjective
occupational success
(women)

prior regression paths in a fourth model, which describes the effect of transformational
leadership on occupational success with work engagement as a mediator (see Figures 2
and 3).
With regard to the first model, the regression path from transformational leadership
to occupational success (career satisfaction, social success, career success) revealed a
significant positive effect of 0.43 for men and 0.52 for women (p , 0:001; see
Figures 2 and 3).
In the second model, transformational leadership had a significant positive effect on
work engagement (vigor, dedication, absorption) of 0.47 (p , 0:001) for men
and 0.51 (p , 0:001) for women.
The third model, comprising the regression path between work engagement and
occupational success as well as transformational leadership and occupational success,
showed a significant positive path coefficient for work engagement on occupational
success of 0.68 for men and 0.74 for women (p , 0:001).
The fourth model revealed that the direct effect from transformational leadership on
occupational success decreases to 0.16, (p , 0:001) for men to 0.17, (p , 0:001)
for women (see Figures 4 and 5).
Following the mediation test recommended by Kelloway (1998; see also Arnold et al.,
2007), we proceeded to estimate a sequence of contrasting models implementing a fully
mediated relation between transformational leadership and occupational success
(Model A, i. e. an indirect path from transformational leadership through work
engagement to occupational success), a partially mediated relation (Model B, i.e. the
fully mediated model with the addition of a direct path from transformational
leadership to occupational success), and a non-mediated model (Model C, i.e. a direct
relation between transformational leadership and occupational success).
The models were compared in terms of their chi-square (x 2 )-values, the
Standardized Root Mean Residual (SRMR), the Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA), and the Comparative Fit Index (CFI). A non-significant
chi-square indicates good model fit. However, the chi-square test is sensitive to sample
size, and because of that, it is unsuitable as the sole criterion for rejecting a model. Due
to the chi-squares dependence on sample size, a x 2 -value is recommended in relation to
the degrees of freedom (Normed Chi-square, NC), specifically x 2 =df # 5 (Marsh and
Transformational
leadership

673

Figure 4.
Mediation model with
direct effect of
transformational
leadership on subjective
occupational success after
inclusion of work
engagement (men)

Figure 5.
Mediation model with
direct effect of
transformational
leadership on subjective
occupational success after
inclusion of work
engagement (women)
CDI Hocevar, 1985). General guidelines (Hu and Bentler, 1999) suggest that an RMSEA ,
17,7 0.05 indicates close fit, 0.05 # RMSEA , 0.08 reasonable fit, 0.08 # RMSEA , 0.10
acceptable fit, and RMSEA $ 0.10 unacceptable fit. For SRMR, a value less than 0.08
indicates good fit. For CFI, a value of 0.90 or higher indicates acceptable fit and 0.94 or
higher good fit (Hu and Bentler, 1999).
The fully mediated Model A provided good fit to the data, x 2 (84,
674 N 1,132) 397.410, NC 4.731, SRMR 0.067, RMSEA 0.057, CFI 0.966.
The addition of a direct path from transformational leadership to occupational success
in Model B (partial mediation) yield a slight better fit than the fully mediated model x 2
(82, N 1,132) 375.709, NC 4.582, SRMR 0.057, RMSEA 0.056, CFI 0.968.
The non-mediated Model C produced a worse fit to the data than did the proposed
mediation models x 2 (38, N 1,132) 253.086, NC 6.660, SRMR 0.072,
RMSEA 0.071, CFI 0.962.
The fact that the partially mediated model provided a marginally better fit to the
data than the fully mediated model and a considerable better fit than the non-mediated
model indicate a partial mediation effect for work engagement regarding the relation
between transformational leadership and employees occupational success. The results
indicate a stronger mediation effect for women, since the decrease of the effect from
transformational leadership to occupational success was higher for women ( 0.52
before and 0.17 after including the mediator variable) than for men ( 0.43 before
and 0.16 after including the mediator variable).
In order to specify gender differences within the mediation model (H5b), a
multi-group model with both gender groups was built and a multi-group analysis was
conducted. Multi-group analyses provide an identical model for all groups, but
providing individual parameters for each group, and showing possible significant
differences between the group models (Byrne, 2010). We compared the unconstrained
model, which consists of the two gender groups with their different regression paths,
and the baseline model, which assumes no gender differences. The statistical
comparison of the two models reveals a significant difference (p 0:021). Hence,
women and men differ significantly within the proposed mediation model.
H5b, which states that there are no gender differences regarding the mediation
effect of work engagement in the relation between transformational leadership and
subjective occupational success must be rejected.

Discussion
To summarize findings, the hypothesized relations between transformational
leadership, work engagement, and subjective occupational success are all supported
by highly significant positive correlations, which is congruent with previous findings.
In regard to gender differences in the examined relations, previous studies found no
differences (Abele and Spurk, 2009; Bakker and Bal, 2010; Leon, 2010). Contrary to this,
in the present study, two relations revealed significant gender differences, showing
significantly higher correlations for women between transformational leadership and
career satisfaction as well as between work engagement and career satisfaction. The
present findings suggest that high levels of transformational leadership and work
engagement have a bigger impact on womens career satisfaction than on mens career
satisfaction. However, effect sizes are small.
The partial mediator effect of work engagement in the relation between Transformational
transformational leadership and subjective occupational success fits well with leadership
previous studies showing a mediating role of work engagement regarding
organizational resources and successful job outcomes across different countries and
occupations (e.g. Laschinger et al., 2009; Llorens et al., 2006; Xanthopoulou et al., 2008,
2009). Hence, these results suggest that transformational leadership affects subjective
occupational success in both a direct and in an indirect way through increased work 675
engagement. This is consistent with previous findings on transformational
leaderships effect on well-being as well as on career and occupational outcomes
(e.g. Mullen and Kelloway, 2010; Xanthopoulou et al., 2008).
Unexpectedly we found gender differences within the mediation model. It is difficult
to compare this result with previous findings, as the few studies examining work
engagement as a mediator did not include gender comparisons. The direct path from
transformational leadership to occupational success is stronger for women than for men.
This result indicates that transformational leadership plays a more crucial role with
regard to subjective occupational success for women than for men. The mediation effect
is valid for both women and men, but the decrease in the direct effect of transformational
leadership on subjective occupational success after including work engagement is
stronger in the female group than in the male group. This means that the effect of
transformational leadership on occupational success is likely to operate more indirectly
through the enhancement of work engagement for women than for men.

Limitations of this study and implications for future research


One limitation of the present study is its cross-sectional design. Mediation analyses
imply causal mechanisms, but the relation in this study cannot be interpreted in a
causal direction. Similarly, most of the previously reported studies investigating the
relations between transformational leadership, well-being and occupational success
have been cross-sectional, making it hard to prove a causal relation between leadership
behavior and the employees outcomes (Nielsen et al., 2008). It could be possible that
transformational leaders only temporarily enhance employees well-being and that the
consistent challenging and high performance expectations of the leader may cause
strain over time. Hence, for future research, longitudinal studies are necessary. In terms
of a process which is described by Schaufeli et al. (2009) as a positive gain spiral (p.
893), it is also possible that high occupational success increases work engagement and
vice versa.
A second limitation of the present study is its single-source design, as only
subordinates were surveyed and no other additional evaluations or ratings, e.g. from
leaders or colleagues, were used, leading to common method variance. Thus, there is
the risk of overestimating correlations due to overlapping variability as only one
person rates all variables (Podsakoff et al., 2003). Studies including different sources
and methods would be advantageous for future research to confirm the relations
established in this study.
The one-sided way of looking at subjective occupational success could also be seen
as problematic. An additional incorporation of objective occupational success for
future studies would be interesting. A both-way perspective is recommended, since the
relevance of occupational outcomes can only then be fully interpreted if both subjective
and objective aspects are taken into consideration.
CDI In regard to gender differences, only biological gender differences were assessed.
17,7 However, for future research it might be interesting to consider gender differences in a
more differentiated approach. For example, the measurement of gender status beliefs,
as performed by Ridgeway (2001), or sex-role stereotyping, as proposed by Sczesny
and Stahlberg (2002), represent promising approaches, as these variables might have
an even stronger influence on career development and satisfaction than gender itself.
676 Finally, future research should include additional influence factors and
environmental conditions, such as workplace and personal characteristics. Leaders
are important shapers of the work environment. In this regard, investigating the
possible indirect effect of transformational leadership on occupational success via
work characteristics, analogously to the indirect effect of transformational leadership
on employees well-being (Nielsen et al., 2008), could be a promising approach.
Additionally, the leader-centric perspective, which is prevalent in most studies, could
be complemented by a follower-centric approach as the employees themselves play an
active role by influencing and shaping the organizational leadership endorsement
(Hollander, 1992). The leaders impression and influence on the followers is dependent
on their needs, attitudes, and expectations (Moss, 2009). In this regard, employees
individual characteristics might have a crucial impact on leaders behavior as well as
on the effect of leaders behavior on employee well-being.

Implications for practice


When considering the challenge of demographic change, it becomes even more
important for organizations to keep their employees healthy and motivated. A crucial
resource for future growth lies in the untapped economic potential of women. It is
therefore important to identify ways in which the career development of women and men
can be supported in a sustainable manner. This study has shown that transformational
leadership has an important impact on both employees work engagement and subjective
occupational success. Consequently, a general implication for practice is the importance
of leadership training with a focus on transformational leadership behaviors. As
transformational leadership behaviors can be coached (Parry and Sinha, 2005)
supervisors can adapt to a leadership style that has positive effects on their employees. A
crucial part of leadership training should be to raise the leaders awareness of their
influence on their followers subjective well-being and work-related success.
Particularly with regard to the older work force, it is necessary to maintain and
foster motivation and the physical as well as mental resources of aging employees in
order to avoid early retirement, which leads to loss of important knowledge and skills
(von Bonsdorff et al., 2010). As employee engagement is a leading indicator of intent to
stay within a given organization (Harter et al., 2002b, p.14) and a crucial predictor of
subjective occupational success as shown in the present study interventions
should focus on the enhancement of work engagement. Considering the mediation
effect we found in this study, we suggest that subjective occupational success should
be fostered additionally by directly improving work engagement. Work engagement
can be increased through the facilitation of job resources, such as social support,
performance feedback, skill variety, autonomy, control, and learning opportunities
(Bakker, 2009).
Against the background of the demographic change, the under-representation of
women in leadership positions is an increasing problem. On the basis of our results,
gender-specific implications for the career advancement of women can be deduced. Transformational
Although correlations and regressions within the relations of transformational leadership
leadership, work engagement, and subjective occupational success were similar for
women and men, the present findings show significant differences. The correlations
between transformational leadership and career satisfaction and between work
engagement and career satisfaction were higher for women than for men. Therefore,
the interventions reported previously could be especially important for women. Work 677
engagement in particular should be targeted in personnel training for women.
Likewise, as the indirect effect of transformational leadership via work engagement
plays a significantly larger role in women than in men, special attention should be
turned to aspect which foster womens work engagement. To attract and retain female
employees, a stimulating and supportive work environment should be created. For this,
the design of work tasks and working conditions plays an important role. Work tasks
should be positively challenging so that they can rise to these challenges and thereby
develop their skills and abilities. Furthermore, women should be encouraged in their
work through positive and constructive feedback. Moreover, it is important that a
positive attitude towards the job is given, in terms of perceiving work tasks as
meaningful, interesting and in congruence with ones own values. If such a supportive
work environment and positive relations to the job is present, then work engagement
can be enhanced and lead to higher subjective occupational success.
For women and men, transformational leadership behaviors as well as direct
promotion of work engagement should be central targets of work-related interventions
for the sake of healthier and more engaged employees who are able to maintain
productive and successful in their job on a long-term basis.

Conclusions
This study attempted to investigate drivers of work-related success by analyzing the
interplay between transformational leadership, work engagement, and subjective
occupational success. The findings confirm significant positive relations between all
three variables. Transformational leadership has a positive direct effect as well as
indirect effect on subjective occupational success via the enhancement of work
engagement for both gender groups. Consequently, transformational leadership
appears to be relevant for the enhancement of employees occupational success. The
mediation effect of work engagement reveals to be stronger for women than for men.
Thus, the direct promotion of work engagement could be especially important in
counteracting the negative consequences of demographic change and the present
under-representation of women. It can also help to reduce employees health
impairment and enhance their subjective well-being. This study has made some
contribution to the understanding of the complex pathway of occupational
advancement and its underlying mechanisms. However, the issue of womens
relative disadvantage in occupational advancement needs further investigation in
order to identify resources and obstacles in their career development.

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Further reading
Hayashi, C., Olkkonen, H., Sikken, B.J. and Yermo, J. (2009), Transforming pensions and
682 healthcare in a rapidly ageing world: opportunities and collaborative strategies, World
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About the authors


Sylvie Vincent-Hoper is a Research Associate for Work and Organizational Psychology at the
University of Hamburg, Germany. She graduated and earned a doctorate in Psychology with a
thesis on leadership behavior. Her research focus is on the impact of leadership behavior on
employees well-being, career success, and innovative behavior. She is interested in analyzing the
mechanisms underlying these associations in order to gather insights into the interplay between
individual, social, and structural factors. Sylvie Vincent-Hoper is the corresponding author and
can be contacted at: sylvie.vincent-hoeper@uni-hamburg.de
Clara Muser is a student of the Masters course Human Resource Management at the
University of Hamburg, Germany. She graduated in Psychology (Bachelor of Science) with a
thesis on the impact of leadership behavior on employees well-being and career success. She is
interested in human resources issues, in particular personnel development with a special focus
on analyzing workplace structures and programs that increase employee well-being and
motivation with simultaneous increase in performance and productivity.
Monique Janneck is a Professor for Human-Computer Interaction in the Department of
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Luebeck University of Applied Sciences,
Germany. She graduated in Psychology and earned a doctorate in Informatics with a thesis on
the design of cooperative systems from a communication psychology perspective. Her research
focus is on the interplay between human behavior, social structures and technological
development. She is interested in the way humans interact with technology, the way theories and
findings on human behavior can inform the design of information technology, and the way
technology impacts individual, organizational, and social behavior and structures. Furthermore,
she is interested in gender issues in information technology.

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