Transformational Leadership Behaviors of Frontline Sales Professionals: An Investigation of the Impact of Resilience and Key Demographics

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TITLE: Transformational Leadership Behaviors of Frontline Sales Professionals: An Investigation of the Impact of Resilience and Key Demographics
RESEARCHER: Mary H. Sylvester
School of Business and Technology
Capella University
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: November 2009

The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of resilience and key demographics on the transformational leadership behaviors demonstrated by sales professionals operating on the frontlines of their respective organizations.

The sample consisted of a previously recruited, computer-randomized group of approximately 2250 full- or part-time sales professionals who are employed and live in the United States and represent a panel of research participants obtained from MarketTools, a market research firm. A total of 197 of the 295 respondents who responded were frontline sales professionals; completing the Leadership Practices Inventory, the Personal Resilience Questionnaire (Connor, 1993) and providing demographic information. The typical respondent was male (55%), Caucasian (85%), with about 13 years of industry experience and 7 years with their current employer, about one-third possessed a college degree and another third a high school diploma, about one-third were employed in retail sales, and 78 percent reported a base salary of $49,999 or less. Internal reliabilities of the LPI in this study were: .77 Model, .87 Inspire, .83 Challenge, .76 Enable, .86 Encourage, and .96 Transformational Leadership (all five scales combined).

The leadership practice of Enable was reported as the most frequently practiced, followed by Model and Encourage, and then Challenge and Inspire. This rank order is similar with the Kouzes Posner normative database findings.

Responses from males and females on any of the five leadership practices were not statistically different from one another. Likewise, transformational leadership was not significantly related to any of the other demographic variables (age, education, years of work experience, or income). The researcher concludes: “Consequently, this research study on frontline sales professionals concurs with the already published literature on the impact assessed by regression analysis of key demographics on the transformational leadership behaviors of various research respondents/participants. Therefore, the standard demographic characteristics of the frontline sales professionals in this study do not explain the frequency with which transformational leaders invoke the five transformational leadership behaviors” (pp. 143-144).

All seven dimensions of Resilience were significantly correlated with Transformational Leadership. Regression analysis revealed significant relationships between three dimensions of resilience (Focused, Organized and Proactive) and transformational leadership, accounting for nearly 23 percent of the variance.

This study, writes the researcher: “demonstrated that there was a significant correlation between resilience and the transformational leadership behaviors of frontline sales professionals. Additionally, the sociodemographic variables were measured to decide whether or not transformational leadership effectiveness and resilience varied by these individual elements. No significant differences were found among the degree of transformational leadership behaviors demonstrated …among the demographic variables measured (gender, age, level of education, job tenure, and salary level)” (p. 194). Furthermore, “at organizations comprised of transformational leaders, this type of leadership is able to sense change or discern the need to change, get energized about the change, be resilient to changing from the status quo, and implement change quicker than the competition hence leading to a competitive advantage for the organization” (p. 200).