Leadership and Employee Job Outcomes During COVID-19 Pandemic

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 31
Words: 8751
Reading time:
32 min
Study level: Master

Abstract

The recent study aims to examine the impact of leadership on employee outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study selected a sample of n= 50 top management employees from different public and private sector companies in different countries (non-UAE). The research utilized questionnaires to collect data from these individuals. Through a structural summation modeling method, the study was able to validate results pertaining to leadership behavior, innovative job activities, HRM practices, and job performances. The main objective of the study was to establish the relationship of incorporating different leadership styles with employees’ outcomes. Findings revealed a strong relationship between positive employee outcomes and the incorporation of different leadership models. The findings establish that, despite COVID-19, transactional and transformational leaders who were flexible enough to include other leadership models were able to achieve better results. However, the study recommends the need to conduct further studies on leadership in relation to other natural calamities.

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Summar

The goal of this study is to examine what factors have an effect on the employee’s behavior and motivation during major work-related disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the way employees and managers interact with one another and forced the latter to develop new strategies that would help support the motivation of the staff. This study aims to examine this problem and, in particular, focus on the strategies that leaders and HRMs use. Even though business managers can have a significant influence on their workers’ jobs, their responsibility can make it challenging to maintain a consistent and effective performance. These responsibilities include solving complex issues, creating a positive work environment, and ensuring the team’s success (Abdullah & Anwar, 2021). All these roles can rapidly become unbalanced when managers lack the quality to lead their employees. For instance, a drastic alteration in the marketplace could take the attention of leaders away from that of their team members, and as a result, the productivity of the team may be negatively impacted. By adopting different leadership styles, managers can stabilize the scarce resources of their businesses. According to research, leaders play an important role in employee motivation and engagement, especially during challenging times such as the current COVID-19 situation (Abdullah & Anwar, 2021). Thus, by incorporating different leadership styles, a manager can apply the necessary style that best fits the organizational needs, work environment, and team members.

Currently, businesses, including non-profit organizations, have had the challenge of facing a fast-moving and fast-changing business environment, globalization, and complexities. These changes in the business environment have been noted by Human Resource professionals concerning the significance of leadership in businesses due to its impact on workers’ overall performance, retention, and service quality (Bartsch et al., 2020). Today, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is noticeable that leaders are increasingly facing significantly complex duties and tasks (Asbari et al., 2020). These duties and tasks include ambiguous work surroundings and limited resources. Therefore, these leaders need to acquire the attributes and competencies to be good managers. To be more specific, business managers require aspiration, vision, personal integrity, and effective managerial skills to work successfully with employees and volunteers of their firms.

Individuals view leadership from different perspectives depending on what they want to achieve. Research states that leadership could be viewed as a control that occurs via a system of communication to achieve organizational objectives (Bartsch et al., 2020). Other studies document that management could influence individuals and organizations (Caligiuri et al., 2020). Nevertheless, the only person who can possess such traits is referred to as an effective leader who can influence his followers. As a result, an organization would be able to perform even in adversities or harsh business environments. Moreover, these managers contribute more advantages to the organization compared to other business resources, such as lower-ranking employees (Bartsch et al., 2020). Thus, management that can influence workers’ effectiveness, satisfaction, and performance and promote a positive workplace attitude is vital for a business.

Literature Review

Leadership behavior and job performance

This literature review will be divided into three parts according to each of the three-hypothesis developed for this research study. The initial findings from the literature support the hypothesis that the leadership and HRM practices that the organization’s management selects strongly impact the employees’ behaviors, especially during severe disruptions. Studies by Dirani et al. (2020) and Wilson et al. (2020) and the theory of leadership, in general, support the hypothesis that the behaviors of leaders have an effect on the employees, their motivation, and their performance.

Hypothesis (H1): Leadership behaviors positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the first hypothesis of this study, the approach that leaders take to manage their employees defines the outcomes of work. Notably, the leadership theory consists of several approaches to managing people with an emphasis on different factors, such as encouraging the employees, focusing on completing the task or adjusting the executive’s behavior to focus on innovation. Among the varied leadership styles, the transactional and transformational ones are the most suitable for the conditions under which companies had to work after the beginning of the pandemic. Most research primarily focuses on the transactional and transformational leadership (Glenn & Glenn, 2020). These, according to Dirani et al. (2020), have been proven to be highly effective when it comes to improving ones’ managerial skills. In this case, managers can inspire, mobilize and stimulate their workers to achieve the desired goal. Several researchers have discussed the leadership subject regarding the impact of managers’ behavior on their employees (Dirani et al., 2020). Most of these pieces of research conclude leadership has an impact on the outcome of workers, including their innovation, commitment, citizenship behaviors, and satisfaction (Haque, 2021). Specifically, transactional and transformational leadership styles were said to have more impact on outcomes, behaviors, and attitudes of employees (Wilson, 2020). These leadership styles, including delegation, participative, and authoritarian leadership, play a significant role. They help an organization in an adverse business environment, thereby securing the future of the business.

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On the other hand, the transactional leadership model is mainly concerned with internal business guidelines. Studies define this model as one that outlines a structure that employees follow (Yuan et al., 2021). Thus, the leadership model mainly concerns itself with maintaining operational flow with a company. Leaders following this model primarily set goals, determine task requirements and define roles to promote workers’ outcomes, decrease their resistance and encourage their loyalty based on rewards (Othman et al., 2012). Transactional leadership models reward employees depending on the work output. In this case, if an employee works harder, they get more rewards and vice versa. Nevertheless, studies show that this form of leadership model has been less effective in recent times. Before the pandemic, this model influenced employee engagement, thereby increasing their output. However, because most people are currently working from home, research states that employee engagement is reduced (Reicher & Stott, 2020). The reason behind this is that there are numerous destructions at home, which reduces an employee’s concentration during projects. Communication is interfered with due to poor internet connectivity, and as a result, projects take too long to accomplish.

Despite being an effective method of leadership, the transactional model of leadership solely depends on the leader’s ability to reward excellent work. Since most people are working from home, their work output has been dwindling. Research states that most leaders are unhappy with their employees because they are well engaged (Yuan et al., 2021). Since managers are unhappy, they rarely provide incentives such as salary increments and promotions. Today, most leaders are blaming the adverse economic environment which has resulted from the spread of COVID-19. These leaders claim that these economic times have led to a reduction in product and service demand. As a result, most organizations are barely making a profit, thereby hindering the transactional process of the leadership model. Consequently, most public and private organizations have had to reduce salaries and remove some reward systems that motivate employees. These measures have negatively influenced the outcomes of employees in the work environment.

There are two dimensions of the transactional leadership model, and they include exception management and contingent rewards. To be more specific, contingent rewards are primarily founded on the assumption that the reward is chosen together with the task. In other words, the leader agrees with the follower concerning the sanction and reward (Wirawan et al., 2020). In this case, the employee’s target is to attain the target, which is the agreed-upon price. On the other hand, management by expectation involves following the progress of an employee. After identifying areas that require correction, a leader applies corrective measures to improve the outcomes of the employee in the future. These are essential, especially when an organization is to prepare for any future calamities that may affect the business.

Hence, these studies support the idea that a leader’s choice of approach when working with employees has an effect on their performance. Apart from the transformational and transactional leadership approaches, there are management strategies that focus primarily on the environment that the employees and leaders are in or on the completion of tasks. During the pandemic, most thriving organizations have incorporated situational leadership. According to research, this model plays a significant function in enhancing OCB (Yuan et al., 2021). Situational leadership includes aspects of a transformational leadership style. As a result, managers are capable of motivating their employees to conduct their tasks beyond organizational boundaries. This suggests that leaders, in this case, can expand the willingness of employees to engage themselves with extra organizational roles. Therefore, individuals will be motivated to perform tasks when challenging job complexities arise (Sultana, 2019). Additionally, this means that leaders can influence employee perception, thereby increasing their engagement and eventually improving their outcomes.

Similarly, transactional leadership can enhance OCB among employees in the workplace. Research states that contingent reward behavior has a connection with an increase in OCB among followers. The reason for this is that the employee ties his actions concerning OCB to the final rewards and incentives (Wirawan et al., 2020). Thus, to improve employees’ outcomes, leaders would require them to work within the confines of the incentives and rewards. However, unlike in transformational leadership, a transactional leader may reward the extra task performed by his or her employer (Masril, 2020). The extra task done depends on whether it aligns with the goal of the leader. If it does not align with his objective, then the transactional leader may refuse to award the employee. Furthermore, there is also a connection between OCB and the dimension of reward. In this case, there is a positive link between the two, thereby increasing employee outcomes.

Hypothesis (H2): HRM practices positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This hypothesis is based on the idea that a major disruption such as COVID-19 has had a negative effect on the employees. However, the use of proper HRM strategies could have minimized this effect. According to Caligiuri et al. (2021), the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a challenge for the HRMs since it created not only physical but also psychological distance among the employees and between the employees and their managers. Hence, the HRMs had to rethink the approaches they take toward management to mitigate these negative effects and influence the employees’ behavior positively.

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Evidently, the HRMs have faced many issues and had to rapidly adapt to the new work conditions after the beginning of the pandemic. According to Butterick and Charlwood (2021), the pandemic has led to a plethora of issues with the labor market and new challenges for the HRMs, and the authors encouraged human resource specialists to reflect on the ways that can help improve the situation and not worsen it for the employees and companies alike. During the pandemic, the HRMs had the power to improve the workplace environment, especially for non-essential workers. Under the “flexible firm” theory, there are several levels of employee categories, each reflecting a different type of importance for the firm (Butterick & Charlwood, 2021). The employees at the lower level jobs are the ones that are typically affected the most during disruptions such as the pandemic, and therefore, it is the role of HR to address this issue, create a sense of security, and motivate the employees.

Motivating the employees considering the uncertainty and the restrictions regarding office work has become a challenge for HRs. Przytuła et al. (2020) argue that the pandemic has inevitably changed the approaches that managers use. For example, more attention had to be dedicated to motivation and encouragement. It is probable that many of the changes that the HR theory and practice acquired as a result of COVID-19 will become permanent for firms. Moreover, both HRMs, leaders, and employees had to adapt “new competencies from managers and employees, so re-skilling and re-training are the most expected approaches” became a norm (Przytuła et al., 2020, p. 70). Hence, some studies suggest that HRMs created adaptive models under which employees are motivated to learn new skills and acquire new competencies. These HR strategies have a positive impact on the motivation and encouragement of the employees. Adikaram et al. (2021) created an HR bundling strategy under which the HR managers use different approaches to address the health, financial, and human crises that resulted from COVID-19.

The research further discusses the role of leadership on employee outcomes by studying its impact on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Organizational citizenship behavior can be defined as the extra activities that an employer performs to contribute to the development of the business (Teutenberg, 2021). These tasks an individual undertakes may not be known to the organization and may not be rewarded. In some cases, these actions may be carried out voluntarily by the person. With the current pandemic, most people have a lot of free time, which they can use to perform other tasks. A good leader encourages employees to perform tasks that promote the business’ brand. To achieve this type of relationship with employees, a manager must encourage and promote a conducive business environment. The workplace must be a surrounding that encourages an individual to work harder even without supervision. With most people working from home, this would OCB would be an important factor in increasing employee outcomes. Primarily, OCB attributes to maintained and reinforced social and psychological work, which enhances the individual’s job performance.

Several factors affect employee outcomes, particularly elements regarding leadership. One of these factors is referred to as effective commitment, which defines an individual’s involvement, attachment to the company, and how to identify with the business (Yuan et al., 2021). A higher effective commitment among employees leads to higher employee retention. Moreover, employee effectiveness is easily notable compared to other employee traits and further provides an accurate evaluation concerning the engagement of a worker (Siswanti & Muafi, 2020). Thus, affective commitment is an important factor in improving the attachment of an employee to an organization, thereby improving their outcomes. During adverse economic times, leaders should know how to inspire affective commitment from their followers. The reason for this is that it helps them retain workers as well as improve their morale. Consequently, this improves their outcome within the work environment.

Leadership plays a significant role in improving company commitment and engagement among employees. To demonstrate, transformational managers can influence their junior employees’ affective commitment. They can do so by improving their commitment to the company’s objective and making their intrinsic motivation stronger (Teutenberg, 2021). In other words, transformational leadership must motivate employees to increase their outcomes in the workplace. Additionally, by including other leadership styles, transformational leaders must encourage their followers to consider the needs of the organization first instead of their interests. Consequently, a favorable business environment could be created, which conforms to the values of followers and that of the business. Studies show that transformational leadership when used alongside other leadership styles, contributed to a positive affective attachment toward an organization (Yuan et al., 2021). In countries such as Korea, Nigeria, and France, leaders who possessed the quality of being effective toward junior employees experienced positive outcomes. Similarly, in areas where transactional leadership was used, there were positive outcomes among workers due to the utilization of affective commitment by the leadership.

Hypothesis (H3): Innovative job activities positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the leadership styles that is a part of the contemporary leadership theory specifically emphasizes innovation and the approach to leadership where a manager works towards creating an innovative environment for the employees. This is the transformational leadership approach, under which the leader-follower relationship is the core determinant of the effectiveness of work. Notably, the pandemic has forced the HRMs and the leaders to integrate innovation into the daily work of the firms, for example, use technology to communicate and maintain social distance or track the well-being of the employees. Hence, the pandemic has forced managers to become transformational leaders within their organizations who create innovative job activities to affect the motivation and performance of their employees positively.

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A style of leadership is seen as a pattern of controlling the behaviors of people. Various styles of leadership have been researched, and among the styles, transactional and transformational leadership were the most studied. Specifically, transformational leadership involves a situation where the manager causes a change in social systems and individuals (Siswanti & Muafi, 2020). The style creates positive and valuable change in the followers with the end objective of teaching followers how to be future leaders. Transformational leadership style comprises such aspects as being charismatic, having inspirational motivation, personal recognition, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation. These are some of the elements that help an organization thrive during pandemics.

Managers who have charisma possess a particular set of traits that helps them influence individuals’ feelings and behaviors. Research states that to gain trust and respect from followers, a leader must be charismatic (Vaziri et al., 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic required people to take extreme measures to ensure that the disease does not spread. Some of these measures include social distancing, working from home, and ensuring that people washed and sanitized their hands and work environment. To ensure these rules are followed, a leader must utilize his or her charisma to ensure that employees protect themselves. Since a charismatic leader has gained the trust and respect of his or her employees, it would be easy to influence them to follow these guidelines. As a result, the business would ensure that it creates a safe environment for its workers. Consequently, this would improve the outcomes of workers due to the increased positive attitude.

Part of being a transformational leader involves possessing the ability to provide inspirational motivation. Inspiration motivation refers to the ability of the leader to articulate a captivating insight for their workers, inspire them and instill confidence in their employees (Othman et al., 2012). In situations such as a pandemic, employees need assurance from their leaders. They require their leaders to provide them with a well-articulated vision. The importance of this is that it makes followers believe in the business objective. With most businesses failing and more people losing their jobs, other workers in different firms are full of uncertainties (Sultana, 2019). They begin to question their job security, and this further affects their engagement in the work environment. A leader who has inspirational motivation can inspire his or her followers by providing hope for the future. As a result, this improves the attitude and engagement of workers, thereby increasing their work output.

Transformational leaders further require the element of intellectual stimulation to manage an organization. Haque (2021) defines intellectual stimulation as the extent to which managers improve their employees’ skills and ability to analyze problems and think. The COVID-19 pandemic is one situation, which requires problem-solving skills. Since most organizations did not foresee the calamities, most businesses have to stop their operations. According to research, most businesses that have failed due to the pandemic attribute the failure to poor problem-solving skills. In most cases, the top management did not develop appropriate solutions to ensure that the organization continued to operate during these times. On the other hand, organizations that had intellectual leaders managed to survive and are still operational. Through quick thinking, some organizations identified opportunities on the internet that allowed them to provide services remotely. Thus, intellectual stimulation is an important skill in leadership because it helps businesses thrive.

Transformational leadership also focuses on the role of the leader as a mentor. In this case, a good manager should consider the ability of the workers and attempts to coach them in preparation for the future. Research demonstrates that individuals who have had training from a successful leader often performed better than those who did not get training (Masril, 2020). The essence of mentoring and coaching followers is that it ensures that good traits are passed on to the next generation. Some leaders have experienced adversities such as epidemics and pandemics. Thus, these leaders have prior knowledge of how to control adverse business environments. Passing this knowledge to junior managers and lower-ranking employees is important. These individuals would ensure that if incidences of calamities arise, they will thrive. They can only acquire this knowledge through mentoring and coaching.

Personal recognition is the other important factor of a transformational leader. Personal recognition is the ability of a manager to recognize the work of an employee and show appreciation (Masril, 2020). In an organizational situation, different employees perform at various levels. To ensure that they increase their performance, an employer must ensure that there are programs that recognize exceptional employees. By rewarding these employees, they are motivated to work harder, thus improving their work outcomes. Additionally, a reward system creates a competitive work environment. In this case, employees will be competing within the organization to ensure that they claim the reward. As a result, this improves the overall outcome of the organization.

There are several benefits of being a transformational leader, especially during the pandemic period. As initially defined by James MacGregor, this is a type of management style where followers and leaders work together to attain higher motivation levels and team morale (Muttaqin et al., 2020). Rather than dictating changes to team members, these leaders inspire individuals to alter their motivations, expectations, or perceptions. According to Muttaqin et al. (2020), this strategy increases admiration, trust, and respect levels. During the pandemic, this type of leadership has helped improve employee outcomes by lowering turnover costs. Research states that businesses that are thriving are those that have managed to retain a significant number of their employees (Wilson, 2020). The advantage of this is that these businesses have been able to retain their customers. The reason this was possible is because of the charisma the leaders possess.

As mentioned earlier, a transformational leader seeks to satisfy the organization’s needs as well as his or her needs. By doing so, every employee becomes aware of what their role is within the organization (Teutenberg, 2021). Some of these needs include taking care of other employees. The other role is protecting themselves and others from contracting the coronavirus. As a result, the organization would benefit by retaining its employees, thereby enabling it to operate at maximum capacity. Consequently, this increases the output of the workers and the general organization. Employers who are strict enough to allow employees to make their own decisions provide them with a sense of being part of the organization.

The other advantage that transformational leadership provides an organization is that it engages individuals. According to research, employee engagement is essential when it comes to improving their outcomes (Teutenberg, 2021). Due to COVID-19, employee engagement has been negatively affected (Masril, 2020). The reason for this is that most people are required to work from home due to social distancing measures. Research states that because workers are performing their tasks at home, there has been a reduction in their incentives and employee promotion (Teutenberg, 2021). Furthermore, studies demonstrate that most employers are unhappy with their employees (Masril, 2020). The reason for this is that with employees working from home, there have been issues of communication. As a result, a lot of confusion occurs during projects, which increases the time taken by the project. Consequently, the organization wastes a lot of time on one project, and, as a consequence, the firm loses business. All these affect incentives such as promotion and salary increments. Thus, this leads to a low rate of employee engagement at the workplace, thereby reducing their outcomes.

All business sectors and employees have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world. The result of this is a reduction in the world’s labor force. Nations have been attempting to develop new strategies to strengthen their health care system and business environment. Nevertheless, the most affected individuals are non-essential workers who continue to face more stringent measures from the government (Wirawan et al., 2020). For most parts of the world, there have been restrictions regarding close contact or participation in different activities (Vaziri et al., 2020). There have been financial challenges arising from the universal shutdown of such activities as professional sports and the hospitality sector. Currently, more people are taking seek leaves to treat illnesses related to the flu. The effect of this is that there are few workers left to perform a huge amount of tasks. Employees, therefore, become overworked, thereby reducing their effectiveness and productivity. A transformational leader takes into account all these factors and develops strategies that would increase employee engagement, thereby increasing their outcomes.

The other advantage of being a transformational leader is that one can manage and create change. For brands and organizations to evolve and thrive during pandemics, they must be willing to expand, improve and change over time (Abdullah & Anwar, 2021). Research also states that transformational leadership is the best when it comes to incorporating new business initiatives (Wilson, 2020). The form of leadership is appropriate when it comes to bringing other workers together and introducing them to a new vision that would develop the organization. The COVID-19 pandemic came with a lot of uncertainties. Additionally, it completely transformed the work environment requiring business leaders to make drastic changes. To do so, these leaders needed to be more flexible in managing the changes. When a manager, in this case, can change, He or she encourages others to change. Those organizations that efficiently implement this type of leadership eventually thrive during adversities.

In times of a pandemic, an organization needs a person who can be an excellent communicator. The reason for this is that it helps the organization with its daily processes and keeps employees updated concerning important factors such as the coronavirus. Research states that transformational leaders are eloquent and articulate when it comes to communication (Abdullah & Anwar, 2021). Additionally, studies demonstrate that a lack of communication is one of the factors that cause challenges in an organization (Bailey & Breslin, 2021). When members of the team are not fully informed concerning projects, expectations, or duties, their output or outcomes are affected. Therefore, transformational leaders must be excellent communicators to ensure that information reaches every team member without any distortion. These leaders must continuously offer feedback concerning such issues as the pandemic to keep them up to date. Additionally, they must provide other organizational information to help employees perform their tasks.

Most thriving companies during this pandemic period have been able to rapidly alter low-morale circumstances. The pandemic has seen most organizations struggling to operate due to low demand for products (Othman et al., 2012). The effect of this is that most employees have been struggling with the issue of low morale. The work environment has not been a conducive one because workers are not motivated. A transformational leader identifies such weaknesses and rapidly changes the situation. In this case, the manager can act as an example by demonstrating high energy, enthusiasm, and passion (Wolor et al., 2020). Whenever the work environment experiences a state of indifference, the manager is the best person to solve this issue. As a result, there would be an increase in employee engagement at the workplace and improved outcomes. Thus, leadership plays an important role in leading others during and after adversities.

Utilizing a transformational type of leadership further enables managers to quickly formulate new organizational visions. These managers conduct an excellent task of including a new vision in adverse situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Research states that transformational leaders are capable of recognizing problems or gaps, which enables them to make recommendations or alterations to contain their current situation (Teutenberg, 2021). For instance, leaders can identify opportunities created by the vast amount of spare time individuals have due to current COVID-19 regulations. Initially, most people occupied their time with activities such as attending parties and festivals. The new regulations state restrict such functions from taking place because it would spread the illness. The spare time may not be applicable for sectors providing essential services, but there are other businesses where the time can be maximized. One of the recommendations a leader can consider, in this case, is utilizing the extra time to formulate a company’s vision. Because one of the qualities of a transformational leader is being charismatic, he or she will be able to sell the vision’s morality to his or her followers.

In situations involving epidemics and pandemics, including a transformational leadership style is essential because it creates enthusiasm. Studies demonstrate that followers perceive their managers as successful individuals in their pursuit of a new goal or vision (Yuan et al., 2021). In this case, followers would emulate their leader’s enthusiasm to achieve the same success. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, those leaders who have experienced such incidences before were more prepared compared to those who have not. Thus, these leaders had more enthusiasm for dealing with the pandemic. They would devise better ways to ensure that they retain their employees as well as increase their outcomes. As a result, companies with better leadership structures gained a competitive advantage over those with poor leadership. Thus, leadership is an important structure when it comes to employee outcomes.

For a business to secure its future and gain a competitive advantage over others, they need to incorporate a situational leadership model. Two acceptable concepts were endorsed under situational leadership; one was developed by Dr. Daniel Goleman and the other by Blanchard and partner Paul Hersey (Bailey & Breslin, 2021). Hersey and Blanchard proposed that all leaders have to use different styles of management. They proposed that there are four styles involved depending on different situations. One of the strategies was telling employees what they were supposed to do while carefully supervising them. Research states that in disaster or pandemic situations, this is the best style of leadership that should be utilized (Yuan et al., 2021). The other technique is selling, and it involves telling followers what to do and remaining open to feedback. In situations where there are high-performing employees, a manager can incorporate participation. In this case, the leader can be present in the process of making decisions but let the final decision be made by his or her team members.

The other theory that supports the inclusion of different methods of leadership is the Goleman ideology. The theory outlines about six styles of leadership that can improve management and improve employee outcomes (Wirawan et al., 2020). The ideology proposes that coaching is an essential tool when it comes to helping employees enhance their personal development, performance, and skills. Research states that coaching is more effective when used among people who are open to change (Bailey & Breslin, 2021). Goleman further stresses the importance of pacesetting in an organizational situation. In this case, a leader is supposed to set high expectations and lead by example for team members to emulate (Wirawan et al., 2020). The strategy is essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, because it encourages employees to follow the coronavirus rules and regulations. The theory further proposes that a leader should be democratic. A democratic leader encourages employees’ input in the decision-making process. Goleman proposes authoritativeness when running an organization. Finally, the theory includes the use of coercion as a decision-making tool.

As mentioned earlier, for an organization to thrive during harsh economic conditions, especially those caused by a pandemic, it is necessary to incorporate different styles. Research states that by incorporating such leadership as authoritarian, autocratic, delegative, and participative styles, managers gain different leadership skills. To begin with, transformational leaders can incorporate authoritarian leadership styles to manage an organization. Studies define authoritarian leadership methods as those that enable manage to define outcomes and impose expectations (Yuan et al., 2021). Some situations require a leader to decide on an important matter without consulting a different party. In most cases, this leadership style requires a more knowledgeable person. The reason for this is that the person would be responsible for the outcomes of their decision. While a transformational leader is a person who is charismatic and, in most cases, cares about the needs of employees, some situations require decisiveness. Additionally, some circumstances need the manager to decide on important matters rapidly. Being an authoritarian leader ensures that there is no time wasted and further highlights the chain of command.

Combining the transformational management method with authoritarianism has its advantages. Transformational leaders are individuals who recognize the distinction between supervisors and subordinates but do not act superior in the leadership role. Nevertheless, there are limitations when it comes to defining the roles of employees. Including an authoritarian leadership style helps define these roles. Employees may overstep boundaries or may feel superior to other subordinate staff; however, when a leader stamps their authority over these employees, they are reminded of their roles (Wirawan et al., 2020). The essence of this is that it creates balance in the work environment. Employees begin to develop more trust and respect for their leader because he or she is striving to create a conducive work environment. Combining these two types of leadership styles is more advantageous even in harsh business environments. Specifically, due to numerous regulations that form a guide to containing the coronavirus, an authoritarian style of leadership is essential.

One of the regulations requires both managers and employees to wear masks. To ensure that everyone follows these rules, it is essential to be authoritative. In this case, employees would realize that the leader cares about their safety. The result would be an improvement in employees’ attitudes, which in turn increases their outcomes at work (Bailey & Breslin, 2021). Internal organizational regulations must be developed to contain the pandemic. Leaders must ensure that the work environment is properly sanitized before allowing any employee to work within the organization’s office. If they do not have the necessary equipment to sustain this process, then they should consider allowing employees to work from home. According to research, when an employee feels that their safety is at risk, they often underperform (Reicher & Stott, 2020). Moreover, such businesses usually have high employee turnover. The reason is that these individuals exchange jobs in search of where their needs are well taken care of.

Uncertainties in the business further require a transformational leader to include skills of delegation. According to studies, this type of leadership is known as laissez-faire leadership (Othman et al., 2012). The management method centers on assigning duties to team members. To ensure that a manager incorporates this leadership style, they must be intuitive. They must know their employees’ strengths and weaknesses to ensure that they correctly assign duties. A transformational leader possesses the ability to interact with employees at an individual level. This ability helps establish a bond between a leader and his followers. In a situation where team members prefer performing individual tasks, taking responsibility, and being competent, incorporating a laissez-faire leadership style can be a successful strategy. As a consequence, employee outcomes would improve, and experienced workers can take advantage of their competence. Performance outcomes and employee productivity would improve because there would be high creativity and innovation.

The business environment is continuously changing, and there is a need to ensure that an organization is prepared. Leadership is an essential factor that every business should take into consideration. The new business environment dictates a situational leader model, which allows managers to incorporate different models of managing a business. Research states that for businesses to thrive, leaders must have the ability to adapt (Othman et al., 2012). They must be flexible and be able to effortlessly change from one leadership model to the next depending on the circumstances. The current pandemic has proven that traditional managerial styles are outdated. Today’s leaders cannot depend only on asserting their authority but must include different styles to suit different situations.

Methodology

For the analysis of the collected data, descriptive statistics were used. Descriptive statistics is a method that allows the researcher to describe the quantitative information they have collected, for example, by discussing the demographic characteristics of the sample of the correlation between the measured variables. Reliability coefficients are used to determine the consistency of the findings and therefore establish whether the collected data, in fact, shows a relationship between variables and can be used to confirm or refute the hypothesis. In addition, Cronbach’s alpha descriptive statistic, often used for psychosocial research, was used. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient shows the internal consistency between characteristics describing the same object of study. On the other hand, this test is a reliability metric of the degree of consistency between partial measures that describe a standard set of elements of the construct being measured. Notably, a high value of Cronbach’s alpha coefficient alone is not a sufficiently reliable reliability metric because the size of the coefficient is determined, among other things, by the number of elements used (Taber, 2018). For this reason, it was necessary to use additional estimation tools, specifically correlation and regression analyses.

In order to determine the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables, correlation analysis is used as a standard. The correlation coefficient allows two sets of data to be compared in light of their potential relationship (Vigotsky et al., 2018). Consequently, performing this test allows us to predict a change in one variable while manipulating the other. As it is known, the correlation coefficient can be positive or negative, and its value ranges from -1 to 1. Moreover, a low negative correlation does not mean that there is no relationship between the variables but, on the contrary, shows its inverse proportional strength: an increase in one variable leads to a natural decrease in the other. Finally, regression analysis has been used as another tool for assessing the relationship between variables. Regression helps determine the direction of the relationship between two or more variables (Hayes, 2021). Another purpose of using regression analysis is to predict trends in the dynamics of variables when some of them change.

The objective of the paper was to research the impact of leadership during the COVID-19 period. To conduct this study, the researcher used a well-structured questionnaire containing different aspects of leadership. The questionnaire was sectioned into five different sections that provided different types of data concerning a particular aspect of the leader. The first section provided their demographic data, while the second part provided information concerning the leadership characteristics of the person. The third section of the questionnaire offered information on the innovativeness of the individual, while the fourth section offered data concerning their HRM practices. Finally, the fifth section was crucial in providing their job performance. The main participants in this study were individuals in top management, including chief executive officers and chief financial officers.

The sample size included administering questionnaires to 50 people from different demographic regions. The sample consisted of 26 females and 24 males, with their ages ranging from 29 to 47 years. Most of these individuals have worked in the UAE for a period of at least six years. These individuals were asked questions to determine their leadership behavior, innovative job activities, HRM practices, and job preference. The individuals were to choose a number between one (1) and five (5). In this case, “1 = strongly disagree; 2 = disagree; 3 = neither agree nor disagree; 4 = agree; 5 = strongly agree.” To calculate leadership behavior among these individuals, the study used the summation formula in excel.

Sample details

Descriptive statistics for the participants were carried out after sample formation, the conclusions of which are shown in Table 1. The total number of participants was 50, and they were divided into demographic cohorts by gender, marital status, age, nationality, and education received.

Table 1: Sample Details

Sample (n=50)
Gender Male 24
Female 26
Marital Status Single 23
Married 27
Divorced 0
Widow 0
Age ≤35(in Years) 21
36-40 (in Years) 12
≥41 (in Years) 17
Nationality Emiratis 0
Non-Emiratis 50
Educational Qualification High School 0
Bachelor Degree 37
Master Degree 5
Doctoral Degree 8

Measuring instruments

Respondent rated items on leadership behaviors, HRM practices, innovative job activities, and job performance on a 5-point Likert scale. The instruments for leadership behaviors, HRM practices, innovative job activities, and job performance were developed from the extant literature. Table 2 shows the correlation between the variables that are a part of the research hypothesis. In this table, the variables were tested using Cronbach’s alpha, which, as was discussed earlier, allows us to determine the internal consistency of the data, the standard deviation (SD), and the mean. SD is a measure that allows for determining how far from the mean the values are dispersed, and a high SD score means that the values are spread over a wide range from the mean. Finally, the mean is the measure that shows the most common value in a set of data. Table 2 results show that the findings are reliable and consistent since Cronbach’s alpha coefficient is higher than 0.84 for all variables.

Table 2: Mean, SD, Cronbach Alpha, and relationships among leadership behavior, innovative job activities, HRM practices, and job performance

Mean SD Cronbach Alpha 1 2 3 4
1 Leadership Behavior 3.27 0.777 0.843 1
2 Innovative Job Activities 3.32 0.612 0.860 0.393** 1
3 HRM Practices 3.46 0.575 0.889 0.485** 0.544** 1
4 Job Performance 3.39 0.652 0.851 0.586** 0.309* 0.509** 1

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Wherein, SD = Standard Deviation.

Results

Table 1 represents the demographic characteristics of the sample, where the majority of the participants are females, married, with an average age of below 35 years old. Additionally, all of the individuals who answered the questions were non-Emirati nationals, and 37 out of 50 had a bachelor’s degree in their field of work. Therefore, the majority of the participants are women with a bachelor’s degree and non-Emirati nationality. For Table 2, there was a moderate correlation between Job Performance and Leadership Behavior (r = 0.586), and a slightly lower correlation coefficient between HRM Practices and Innovative Job Activities (r = 0.544), HRM Practices and Job Performance (r = 0.509). The sign of the coefficients showed a positive relationship between the variables, although the strength of the relationship itself was not high enough.

Tables 3, 4, and 5 represent the correlation and regression analysis, which was used to test the three hypotheses of this study. Each of the tables represents the statistical data collected on the basis of each of the three hypotheses. Firstly, Table 3 presents data for the H1. Leadership behaviors positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The regression between the leaders’ behaviors and job performance is 0.586, and R squared, which is the percentage of variation between these variables, is 0.344. Based on this data, the researcher can determine that H1 is valid and there is a relationship between leadership approach and performance. The low R-squared values are typical for studies that aim to predict and evaluate human behavior, which is why other coefficients should be taken into consideration as well. Next, β represents the probability measure that allows the researcher to either reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis, and the lower value of the β is better. In this case, the β value is 0.586, which supports the initial hypothesis of the researcher.

For the second hypothesis, which is HRM practices positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the correlation coefficient and the percentage of variance are also high, showing that the variables affect one another. In Table 4, the correlation is 0.509, and the R squared is 0.259. The β value for the second hypothesis is 0.509, which is lower when compared to the first hypothesis and suggests that the probability of these data is acceptable.

For the final hypothesis, innovative job activities positively influence employee job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collected data also supports the researcher’s initial anticipation. Hence, the R equals 0.309, and R squared is 0.095, as shown in Table 5, which shows a lower correlation between the studied variables but still supports the initial hypothesis. The β value is 0.309, which also supports the validity of the findings for hypothesis 3. In general, the regression, correlation, and Cronbach coefficient analysis performed to measure the validity of the findings support all three hypotheses.

The experiment found out that rigid leaders performed poorly than flexible ones. From the sample data, the results of the leadership behavior of one individual were 13. In this case, rigid leaders are those who used only one specific type of leadership, while flexible ones were those who utilized different models of leadership. According to the results, individuals with poor leadership behaviors also had poor performance and poor in their innovative job activities. Moreover, organizations belonging to these individuals were struggling during these adverse business circumstances. Their employees were not motivated and had little attachment to the business. As a result, their work output was significantly low, thus leading to poor overall business operation.

On the other hand, excellent leadership behavior was linked to better organizational performance. These managers had better HRM practices, job performances, and innovative job activities. These factors are essential to business success during adversities in the business environment. From table one above, some of the leaders had excellent performance, and their leadership behavior was either between 18 and 19 from the results of the structural performance. Leaders in this section of the study incorporated situational leadership. They were able to utilize transactional and transformational leadership styles to suit different situations. The experiment established that there was a strong connection between employee outcomes and leadership behaviors. Transformational leaders were successful because they managed to gain the trust and respect of their employees. They further utilized different models of leadership to ensure that they attended to their employees’ needs.

Table 3: Impact of leadership behavior on job performance during COVID-19 pandemic

Model R R Square β F Significance Hypothesis Testing
Impact of leadership behavior on job performance (H1) 0.586 0.344 0.586 25.159 0.000 H1 accepted

Table 4: Impact of HRM practices on job performance during COVID-19 pandemic

Model R R Square β F Significance Hypothesis Testing
Impact of HRM practices on job performance (H2) 0.509 0.259 0.509 16.781 0.000 H2 accepted

Table 5: Impact of innovative job activities on job performance during COVID-19 pandemic

Model R R Square β F Significance Hypothesis Testing
Impact of innovative job activities on job performance (H3) 0.309 0.095 0.309 5.060 0.029 H3 accepted

Discussion and Conclusions

Over the course of this study, all three hypotheses were confirmed, suggesting that leadership style, HRM practices, and innovative job activities all have an impact on the motivation and performance of the employees during the pandemic. Arguably, these findings suggest that leaders and HRs can influence employees’ performance even during challenging times when uncertainty is high. In general, these findings may help companies build new post-pandemic strategies of work, or these can be used to address any future disruptions that may severely affect the traditional work environment. Additionally, this study further confirms the importance of leadership and how the style and method of leading that a manager selects can seriously impact the outcome of work for the employees.

Evidently, the need to adapt to the new work environment has caused distress among the employees. However, the present study shows that many leaders and HRs were able to adapt quickly. In line with this approach, the strategy of transformational leadership, which emphasizes the importance of leading through innovation and the adoption of innovative activities, is the most suitable leadership style. Hence, this leadership style can be recommended as the most suitable and appropriate one during a major crisis.

In conclusion, this study aimed to examine the impact that leadership, HRMs, and innovative work activities have on the motivation and performance of the employees during the pandemic. In this study, 50 leaders who are non-Emirati nationals have taken part and answered a Likert-type questionnaire. Descriptive statistics, regression, and correlation analysis were used to examine the collected information based on the three hypotheses the researcher developed. As a result of this analysis, all three hypotheses were confirmed, which suggests that leadership, HR practices, and innovation at work all have an impact on the way the employees perform and their motivation level during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Implications of the Study

The overall hypothesis of the study that organizational changes in the work of expatriates in the UAE during the pandemic are evident has been fully confirmed through three predictors. Therefore, a vital implication of the entire study is the identification of three variables whose implementation has the chance to improve workers’ professional agendas significantly. First, leadership style has been shown to be critical in improving expatriate motivation and performance. For influential leaders, this means that by improving management practices and placing greater importance on employee well-being and support, the leader directly invests in the commercial development of the enterprise. The second variable is the implementation of professional HRM practices by the appropriate department of the company. It has been shown that the more developed and adaptive the HR employees are, the greater the likelihood that expatriates will work effectively in the UAE. As a consequence, the company should encourage the development of traits in HR employees such as responsiveness, quick response to change, unconditional support for employees, and a motivational program. Finally, the third predictor of commercial success was a commitment to a culture of innovation. Employees who see their company striving to grow and improve show greater engagement in the work process. As a result, this can be used for companies looking to improve their corporate culture and encourage employees to be more productive because, in addition to increased engagement, managers also get to innovate their company.

Limitations & Direction for Future Research

Although the study produced promising results, there are several limitations that may hinder their further scaling. First, the experiment was conducted only on foreign workers in the UAE, which means that the findings cannot be reliably approximated to the working class in other countries. Second, the sample size was not large enough, only 50 people. This could have affected the subjectivization of the results and overestimation. A statistical tool to determine the required sample size is recommended for future studies. The third limitation was the nature of the sample: the study was conducted only for expatriates, with no consideration of local influences or opinions. Finally, the literature review conducted was based on the linguistic criterion of primary filtering — articles had to be written in English. Since the COVID-19 problem is relatively new, it is possible that potentially useful and intriguing materials that have not yet been translated into English will not be ignored.

There is a need for more business research related to disadvantages that can affect the environment. The main directions for further development of this study can be roughly divided into two categories: scaling up and narrowing the scope. In terms of creating more specific work, it is recommended to narrow the boundaries of the UAE to specific regions and areas and separately consider the applicability of the resulting trends to various professional activities other than office work. In terms of scaling, it is recommended to expand the scope of the study to include new countries both in and outside of the Gulf. It is of potential interest to measure results not only for the foreign workforce but also for locals. In this regard, it is evident that a necessary solution is to increase the sample, which can be done intuitively or through statistical calculations.

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