Why does transformational leadership matter for employee turnover? A multi-foci social exchange perspective

Herman H.M. Tse*, Xu Huang, Wing Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on social exchange theory, the present study investigates the underlying mechanisms through which transformational leadership influences employee turnover. Leader-member exchange (LMX) and affective commitment (AC) are proposed as supervisor-based and organization-based social exchange mechanisms respectively, exemplifying how social exchange processes occur between an employee and his/her supervisor, and between the employee and his/her organization as a whole to underpin the effect of transformational leadership on turnover outcomes. Results of structural equation modeling on a sample of 490 full-time employees working in a large telecommunication company in the PRC provided support for the notion that transformational leadership is related to both social exchange mechanisms - LMX and AC - turnover intention and turnover behavior. Furthermore, the results revealed that AC rather than LMX mediated the link between transformational leadership and turnover intention. Turnover intention also only mediated the relationship between AC and turnover behavior over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-776
Number of pages14
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

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

User-Defined Keywords

  • Affective commitment (AC)
  • Leader–member exchange (LMX)
  • Transformational leadership
  • Turnover behavior
  • Turnover intention


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