This study is aimed at investigating perceived task interdependence and team size as contingencies for team leaders’ transformational leadership influence on team identification. Data were obtained from a two-phase survey among 234 employees from ten multinational pharmaceutical subsidiaries in South Korea. Each dimension of transformational leadership by team leaders relates positively to team identification. However, the impact of leadership dimensions on team identification is attenuated by distinct moderator(s): charisma by higher perceived task interdependence, individualized consideration by larger team size, and intellectual stimulation by higher perceived task interdependence or larger team size. This study’s findings help us develop a more nuanced understanding of how transformational leadership operates. This study illustrates that team leaders’ transformational influence on team identification fluctuates, depending on the team structure. Such knowledge may help inform team leader development and team-structuring strategies used by practitioners and may contribute to improving organizational team effectiveness. This is one of the first studies showing evidence that the influence of the dimensions of transformational leadership is contingent upon distinct moderators, thereby contributing to advancing the theory of transformational leadership. Further, this study, by investigating team structure as a contingency of the transformational leadership-team identification relationship, complements previous research that focused on follower characteristics. Additionally, our explicit attention to the team as both the context of leaders’ action and the target of employee identification helps us gain a more concrete understanding of team leadership and team development issues, which are particularly salient in the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry.
While the trend toward the use of teams and team-based organizations continues, a surprisingly high percentage of teams do not live up to their promise and fail to accomplish their goals (Parisi-Carew, 2011; Tabrizi, 2015). As a fruitful way to increase the likelihood of teams’ success, managers are advised to cultivate team members’ collective identification with their team (hereafter team identification), a sense of Bwe^ and a perceived oneness between themselves and their team (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Ellemers, De Gilder, & Haslam, 2004). Team identification makes members more likely to embrace their team’s interests as their own (Brewer & Gardner, 1996); consequently, they are more willing to put forth extra effort on behalf of their team (Christ, van Dick, Wagner, & Stellmacher, 2003, Riketta & van Dick, 2005; van Knippenberg & van Schie, 2000). In addition, team identification has been found to facilitate effective conflict management in teams (Hinds & Mortensen, 2005; Somech, Desivilya, & Lidogoster, 2009) and to improve the team processes of teams with highly diverse membership (Mitchell, Parker, & Giles, 2011; van der Vegt & Bunderson, 2005). Because of such positive implications of team identification, scholars have been interested in finding the factors that lead employees to identify with their team (Ashforth, Harrison, & Corley, 2008).
The question of whether transformational leadership influence on collective identification can always be sustained has rarely been raised. With an explicit focus on the team as both the location of leaders and the target of employee identification, our study demonstrated that team leaders’ charismatic influence is not sustained in the presence of structural substitutes, such as task interdependence, whereas their influence through intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration is negated by neutralizers of leadership, such as large team size. Understanding such contingencies for specific leader behavioral dimensions can contribute to increasing the effectiveness of team leaders.