The Impact of Senior Pastor Leadership Behavior on Volunteer Motivation
Stephen G. Fogarty
Alphacrucis College, Sydney Australia
volunteer motivation, self-determination theory, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, nonprofit leadership, church leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, trust, value congruence
This study examines the impact of organizational leadership on volunteer motivation in nonprofit organizations by exploring (a) the impact of the transactional and transformational leadership behaviors of senior pastors on volunteer motivation within church congregations and (b) the mediating effects of volunteer trust in and value congruence with the senior pastor on this relationship. Volunteer motivation is conceptualized using self-determination theory, which posits that people are motivated to satisfy their innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness and connects these needs to levels of motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic. The leadership behaviors of senior pastors are conceptualized using transactional and transformational leadership theory which employs the behavior categories of contingent reward, active and passive management by exception, idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. A sample of 790 volunteers attending 28 different Australian Christian Churches (ACC) rated the leadership behaviors of their senior pastor as well as their own motivation and their trust in and value congruence with the senior pastor. Regression analyses indicated that senior pastors’ transactional leadership behaviors predicted volunteers’ extrinsic motivation and that transformational leadership behaviors predicted intrinsic motivation. In addition, volunteers’ trust in and value congruence with senior pastors partially mediated the relationship between transformational leadership and intrinsic motivation. Theoretical and practical implications of these results are presented and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Senior pastors of church congregations have a highly visible leadership role. They usually rely upon their ability to articulate a value-based vision and to model appropriate behaviors to motivate the members of their congregation to voluntary service. How can senior pastors motivate volunteers to higher levels of commitment and performance? This question focuses on the practical importance of leadership within nonprofit organizations.
Given the practical importance of this topic, relatively few studies have explored organizational leadership behavior and outcomes within church congregations or other volunteer settings (Bae, 2001; Balswick and Wright, 1988; Butler and Herman, 1999; Callahan, 1996; Catano, et al., 2001; Choi, 2006; Crain-Gully, 2003; Druskat, 1994; Johnson, 2007; Knudsen, 2006; Larsson and Ronnmark, 1996; Lichtman and Malony, 1990; Onnen, 1987; Rowold, 2008; Rowold and Rohmann, 2009; Son, 2003), and none of these studies has focused on the relationship between leadership behavior and volunteer motivation. The present study aimed at extending our understanding of the impact of organizational leadership behavior on volunteer motivation in nonprofit organizations. More specifically, the impact of the transactional and transformational leadership behavior of senior pastors on the motivation of volunteers in church congregations was investigated. Since previous studies have found that follower trust in and value congruence with a leader may increase their responsiveness to the leader (Jung and Avolio, 2000; Podsakoff, et al., 1990; Shamir, et al., 1993), this study also investigated the mediating impact of these variables on the effects of leadership on volunteer motivation.
Volunteers are individuals who provide unpaid help in an organized manner to parties with regard to whom the volunteer has no obligations (Millette and Gagné, 2008; Snyder and Omoto, 2004; Wilson and Janoski, 1995). Volunteers are eagerly sought after because they add value to organizations and endeavors (Wilson and Musick, 1997), and are typically employed in nonprofit organizations including churches and charities (Phillips and Phillips, 2010, 2011). Because volunteers do not receive direct personal tangible gains such as a salary, nonprofit organizations must find other ways to motivate volunteers to work well and to continue in volunteer activity, and by doing so retain the knowledge and skill resources of the organization (Millette and Gagné, 2008). Maintaining volunteer motivation at levels that result in sustained and productive voluntary service is critical to the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in fulfilling their stated missions.
Volunteer motivation is conceptualized using self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 2000, 2008), which posits that people are motivated to satisfy their innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to the desire to control one’s own behavior and activities in order to experience personal integration and freedom. Competence is one’s propensity to be effective in dealing with the environment while attaining valued outcomes within it. Relatedness refers to one’s desire to be connected to others. According to Deci and Ryan, the satisfaction of all three of these needs is “essential for ongoing psychological growth, integrity, and well-being” (2000, p. 229).
Self-determination theory connects the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness to levels of motivation, from extrinsic to intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation refers to engaging in an activity for instrumental reasons, such as acquiring a reward or avoiding a penalty, where the primary motivators are external to the volunteer. By contrast, intrinsic motivation refers to engaging in an activity for its own sake, because one finds it enjoyable and interesting, where the primary motivators are internal to the volunteer as s/he seeks to fulfill the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Extrinsic motivation has been demonstrated to predict lower quality task performance and shorter volunteer tenure whereas intrinsic motivation predicts higher quality task performance and longer volunteer tenure (Deci and Ryan, 2008; Millette and Gagné, 2008).
Transactional and Transformational Leadership Behaviors
Millette and Gagné (2008) have suggested that supervisory style is likely to be an important factor impacting the level of volunteer motivation. Transactional and transformational leadership behaviors have been identified as appropriate and effective components of supervisory style within nonprofit organizations (Bae; 2001; Balswick and Wright, 1988; Butler and Herman, 1999; Callahan, 1996; Catano et al., 2001; Choi, 2006; Crain-Gully, 2003; Druskat, 1994; Johnson, 2007; Knudsen, 2006; Larsson and Ronnmark, 1996; Onnen, 1987; Rowold, 2008; Rowold and Rohmann, 2009; Son, 2003). Therefore, the leadership behavior of senior pastors is conceptualized using transactional and transformational leadership theory.
Transactional leadership involves a reciprocal process of exchange between leader and followers (Bass, 1985; Riggio et al., 2004). It is defined in terms of three inter-related behaviors: (a) contingent reward, (b) active management by exception, and (c) passive management by exception (Yammarino and Bass, 1990). Contingent reward implies the provision of an adequate exchange of valued resources for follower support (Judge and Bono, 2000). Active management by exception involves monitoring performance and taking corrective action. Passive management by exception means intervening only when problems become serious. Both active and passive management by exception involve enforcing rules to avoid mistakes (Judge and Bono, 2000). The impact of transactional leadership behaviors on volunteer workers will be to provide them with a clear understanding of their tasks and the desired outcomes, to create in them an expectation of the rewards for achievement, and to assist them in improving their performance.
Transformational leadership “transcends transactional leadership because it is built around the notion that leaders and followers are held together by some higher-level, shared goal or mission, rather than because of some personal transaction” (Riggio et al., 2004, p. 51). It involves a reciprocal process of inspiration between leader and followers which results in both performing beyond expected levels of commitment and contribution, and which is based on the leader developing “positive, rich, emotional relationships with followers that build commitment to a common purpose or cause” (Riggio et al., 2004, p. 50). Transformational leadership is defined in terms of four interrelated behaviors: (a) idealized influence, (b) inspirational motivation, (c) intellectual stimulation, and (4) individualized consideration (Riggio et al., 2004; Yammarino and Bass, 1990). Idealized influence involves leaders serving as idealized role models for followers (Avolio and Bass, 2004; Judge and Bono, 2000; Riggio et al., 2004). Inspirational motivation “arouses followers’ enthusiasm and sense of team spirit” (Riggio et al., 2004, p. 51) as the leader provides followers with a clear vision of the organization’s future, the value of high standards of operation, and a sense of meaningfulness in their work (Avolio and Bass, 2004). Intellectual stimulation involves leaders encouraging followers to be innovators and creative problem solvers (Avolio and Bass, 2004; Yammarino and Bass, 1990). Individualized consideration involves the leader’s attention to the unique gifts and talents of each follower and the leader’s ability to coach or mentor followers with challenges and opportunities that suit each individual (Avolio, et al., 1999; Bass, 1985; Yammarino and Bass, 1990; Yammarino, et al., 1993).
Overall, transformational leadership theory encapsulates a “sense of moral good and a passionate commitment to the cause” (Riggio et al., 2004, p. 52) that is essential for leadership in nonprofit organizations which are mission-driven and which rely on the motivation and performance of volunteers to achieve the organizational mission. The impact of transformational leadership behaviors on volunteer workers will be to augment the effect of transactional leadership behaviors by providing volunteers with vision and values to motivate them to continue in voluntary activity at high levels of volition and quality performance (Bass, 1985; Judge and Piccolo, 2004).
Leadership Behaviors and Volunteer Motivation
Linking the two literatures of self-determination theory and transactional and transformational leadership theory is the observation that the augmentation effect of transformational leadership on the effectiveness of transactional leadership is likely to be related to volunteers’ extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Transactional leadership behaviors are likely to produce extrinsic motivation in volunteers as they are motivated to attain contingent rewards such as personal recognition or standing within the organization. Transformational leadership behaviors are likely to produce intrinsic motivation as volunteers are motivated by identification with and commitment to the mission of the organization. This personal identification and commitment is internally driven and volunteers are likely to sense that they are satisfying the needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. A leader’s exercise of transformational behaviors will augment the impact of his or her use of transactional behaviors by stimulating volunteer intrinsic motivation and producing more sustained and higher quality task performance.
Trust and Value Congruence
The effective exercise of leadership is based upon leader–follower relationships that incorporate followers’ trust in and value congruence with the leader (Yukl, 2006). Trust in a leader is “faith in and loyalty to the leader” (Podsakoff et al., 1990, p. 113). Value congruence with a leader is belief that the follower’s personal values are congruent with and aligned with those of the leader (Posner, 2010). Both transactional and transformational leadership behaviors can inspire trust and value congruence in followers.
Transactional leaders build followers’ trust by engaging in consistent behavior and by honoring agreements (Bass, 1985; Jung and Avolio, 2000; Podsakoff, et al., 1990). They stimulate followers’ value congruence by identifying mutual aspirations and acknowledging followers’ expertise, experience, and education (Jung and Avolio, 2000). Transactional leadership behaviors generate followers’ trust in and value congruence with the leader in relation to the nature of the organization, the task and outcomes required for efficient organizational operation, and the attendant contingent rewards. Jung and Avolio referred to such trust and value congruence as being “conditional” because they are established “through a reliable execution of contracts and exchanges” (p. 952). The trust and value congruence inspired in followers by a leader’s exercise of transactional leadership behaviors suffices to ensure a cooperative working relationship and the successful completion of the necessary tasks. It does not necessarily “change followers’ personal values” nor “develop a deep sense of trust and commitment to the leader” (Jung and Avolio, 2000, p. 951). The practice of transactional leadership behaviors by senior pastors is likely to establish and maintain volunteers’ trust in the competence and fairness of the senior pastor and volunteers’ value congruence with the practices and desired outcomes of the senior pastor. This trust and value congruence is likely to mediate the impact of the senior pastor’s transactional leadership behaviors on volunteers’ extrinsic motivation.
Transformational leaders increase followers’ trust levels by developing their skills and confidence to perform tasks and assume responsibility, by providing support and encouragement when necessary in the face of obstacles, difficulties, and fatigue, and through their own role modeling of desirable behavior and willingness to engage in sacrifice in order to achieve the organizational vision (Bass and Avolio, 1990; Yukl, 2006). They influence followers to adopt and internalize the leader’s values and vision by providing and communicating a desirable vision and by raising followers’ level of awareness about the importance and value of desired outcomes (Avolio and Bass, 1988; Jung and Avolio, 2000). Jung and Avolio (2000) point out that “value congruence achieved through a value internalization process and demonstrated trust in the leader,” are core mediating aspects of transformational leadership (p. 950). The practice of transformational leadership behaviors by senior pastors is likely to increase volunteers’ trust in the character and competence of the senior pastor and to produce change in volunteers’ values and to increase their value congruence with the senior pastor. This increased trust and value congruence is likely to mediate the impact of the senior pastor’s transformational leadership behaviors on volunteer intrinsic motivation.
The model presented in Figure 1 is based on self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 2000, 2008) and transactional and transformational leadership theory (Avolio and Bass, 2004; Avolio et al., 1999; Bass, 1985, 1998) and incorporates the mediating variables of volunteer trust (Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Jung and Avolio, 2000; Onnen, 1987; Podsakoff et al., 1990) and value congruence (Burns, 1978; Jung and Avolio, 2000). The model emphasizes the relationship between the transactional and transformational leadership behaviors of senior pastors and the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation of church volunteers. The independent variable is the transactional and transformational leadership behaviors of senior pastors, and the dependent variable is volunteer motivation. The relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable can be direct or mediated by volunteer trust in and/or value congruence with the senior pastor.