Questioning universal applicability of transformational leadership: Examining employees with autism spectrum disorder

Alissa D. Parr, Samuel Todd Hunter, Gina Scott Ligon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Challenging an implicit assumption of universal applicability, we propose that a subset of transformational leader behaviors may hamper organizational outcomes for a unique yet growing segment of the workforce: employees on the autism spectrum. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that emotion-laden communication and social exchanges characterizing the inspirational motivation dimension of the theory are associated with increased feelings of anxiety which, in turn, negatively relate to work outcomes. In contrast, we proposed that other dimensions of transformational leadership, such as individualized consideration, would be associated with reduced levels of anxiety and, ultimately, improved workplace outcomes. Results generally supported the hypothesized indirect relationships for ratings of organizational commitment, but not self-reported job performance which was most strongly predicted by individualized consideration, directly. Implications for managing employees with autism spectrum disorder are discussed as well as the overall applicability of transformational leadership to this growing segment of the workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-622
Number of pages15
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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