Country differences in the relationship between leadership and employee engagement: A meta-analysis

P. Li, Jian-Min Sun*, T.W. Taris, Lu Xing, M.C.W. Peeters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Leadership is frequently related to important organizational outcomes such as follower engagement. However, to date we have little insight into the degree to which this relation is contingent upon (a) types of leadership style and (b) national culture. These two issues are addressed in a meta-analysis of 209 independent (257 effect sizes), mainly cross-sectional studies (79%), involving 82,386 participants from 45 countries. The findings show that
whereas abusive supervision was negatively associated with work engagement, several leadership styles (e.g., servant, empowering, ethical, and charismatic leadership) have positive correlations with subordinate engagement; some dimensions of national culture (e.g., gender egalitarianism, human orientation, performance
orientation, future orientation, and power distance) moderate the leadership–employee engagement relationship. However, the correlations between servant, ethical, and transactional leadership and subordinate engagement are less likely to vary across national cultural characteristics. Notwithstanding the proliferation of leadership–employee engagement literature with more than 200 published articles, a strong reliance on crosssectional designs have impeded it to gain any solid conclusions about causality due to endogeneity biases. We conclude by providing a detailed future research agenda and discussing how our results can stimulate future leadership research and inform practices with regards to leader development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101458
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Cultural tightness-looseness
  • Leadership
  • Meta-analysis
  • National culture
  • Work engagement


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