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Systematic Review

A Systematic Review of Literature about Leadership and Organization

Gagan Deep Sharma, Richa Aryan, Sanjeet Singh and Tavleen Kaur
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Background and Objective: Leadership research has come a long way from trait theory, through human relations school of thought, to contingency and/or situational model. It is critically important to consolidate the leadership research so as to set-up the agenda for future. This paper aimed to summarize the research published in the integrated field of leadership and organizational research. Materials and Methods: This paper systematically reviewed the research papers about leadership and organization published between 2010 and 2017. The approach of the paper was in line with single-journal systematic review methodology, which reviewed publication of a single important journal. Out of 208 papers published in this period, 119 papers related to leadership studies were reviewed. Results: The paper brought out seven important research gaps for the future researchers to fill, which indicated that the research arena was wide open for the future research in the area of leadership and related areas that could be explored by novel research particularly with a focus on developing markets as none of the reviewed papers focus on developing markets. Conclusion: The paper concluded that Future research could also focused on meta-analysis and explored the significance of case study/literature review or comparative analysis in addressing leadership problems in organizations.

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Gagan Deep Sharma, Richa Aryan, Sanjeet Singh and Tavleen Kaur, 2019. A Systematic Review of Literature about Leadership and Organization. Research Journal of Business Management, 13: 1-14.

DOI: 10.3923/rjbm.2019.1.14

Received: April 19, 2018; Accepted: June 26, 2018; Published: February 26, 2019


From trait theory, through human relations school of thought, to contingency and/or situational model, leadership research has come a long way1. However, as observed by Wren2, still very little is known about leadership and much remain unexplained. Around a century back, Stogdill1 remarked, “There are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept”. More recently, while commenting on the huge number of articles written about leadership, Winston and Patterson3 state that there seem to be a lot of blind men describing a moving elephant. Winston and Patterson3 further remark that even 90+ dimensions of leadership are not sufficient enough to understand leadership. Such has been the history of leadership research that no clarity or consensus about its definition, styles, effective methods, etc., could emerge in the literature even after centuries of research.

During the last two decades or so, focused research about leadership issues has started gaining ground4. The field is now starting to take a rather holistic view of leadership as a result of which more positive forms of leadership are getting incorporated into the literature. This can mainly be attributed to the introduction and popularity of focused yet holistic journals in the field of leadership.

The journal covered under this article has emerged as one of the most regarded journal in the field of leadership research. While most of the prominent journals focus on either of organizational or leadership issues, this journal takes a coherent view and attempts to understand the effective application of leadership and other issues in an organizational context. Its vision of advancing the theory, research and practice of all aspects of leadership and organizations, makes the journal attract a wide range of contributors and readers from academia and corporate world. In order to inform the researchers and readers about the directions in the integrated field of leadership and organizational research, this paper systematically reviews the research papers published in the journal between 2010 and 2017 and makes an attempt to set-up the research agenda for future.

This paper uses the methodology of systematic review. Presenting a critique of reviews conducted in the field of Management research, Hart5 maintains that those are usually narrative and biased as per the implicit biases of the researcher. This view is also supported by Davies6, Sharma and Bodla7, Sharma and Sanchita8. Davies6further argues that systematic reviews help overcome these limitations by bringing out the consistencies and variability’s of studies reviewed. In their landmark work on the methodology of systematic reviews, Tranfield et al.9 stress upon producing a reliable knowledge stock by developing context-sensitive research. This paper follows the methodological rigor suggested by Tranfield et al.9.


Intended to recognize the key themes in reviewed literature, the authors conducted a systematic analysis of 208 papers published during 2010 to 201710-14. For current study, the broad areas were leadership motivation, leadership excellence and leadership communication. These subjects were further divided into following topics:

Leadership style in general
Moderating factors
Quitting intentions
Leadership perception
Role in learning

Effect on job performance and work satisfaction: Taking into consideration the themes of the reviewed literature, this paper briefly presented these topics in the following sub-sections. It was important to emphasize that the objective of this section was not to discuss the main topics in leadership and organization but rather to present the themes explored by papers published during the selected time-frame.

Leadership style in general: Successful leader was one who can influence the followers to achieve the organizational objective. Different leadership styles affect the organizational and employee performance differently15. Leadership style did;//mz affect the culture of the concern, thus its efficiency. Leadership is a process of influencing the followers socially so that they can participate intentionally to achieve the organizational objective16. Leadership style can affect organizational commitment and work satisfaction explicitly and work satisfaction can further positively affect organizational commitment and work performance. The perception of employees about the transactional and transformational leadership style has a high degree of correlation with the motivation factors of the leader in the organization. The style of leadership has an impact on satisfaction level and trust in the leader. Organizational citizenship behavior directly influences the relation between style of leadership and commitment towards the organization17.

Leadership style can be divided into two broad types, namely transformational and transactional. A transformational leader is one who is influential, innovative and encourages others. This type of style creates an open and trustworthy culture, which motivates them to achieve the goal18. Transactional leader focuses on supervision, organization and performance. Both reward and punishment have used as a tool to encourage the followers to fulfill the required task. In the current scenario an organization needs a leader who can understand the demand of a complex environment. The relation between the leader and an employee and the leadership style enhances the satisfaction level of the follower.

Moderating factors in leadership: Moderating variables in leadership had drawn attention in the recent research. A number of theories had explored the moderating effects of variety of factors like subordinate, work and psychology on the relation between leadership and effectiveness. Knickerbocker19 projected a theory of leadership that emphasized on the needs of the employees’.Knickerbocker19 maintained that a coordinated relationship between the team members was required to achieve the target of a team, which could be achieved by presence of a leader. His opined that leadership effectiveness was dependent on the need of the employees. In contrary to this theory, De Vries et al.20 explored the moderating role of need for the leader and found that higher urge for leader showed weaker relation between work stress of employees and task oriented leader. De Vries et al.20 further maintain that high task oriented leader makes the employee feel more pressurized and thus leads to stress. The need for leadership was related to the characteristics of a leader. The study raised two important questions-(a) when the employees need support of a leader, do they show and (b) would the leader change the style of motivation and inspiration depending on the need of the employees.

Quitting intentions and leadership: To remain competitive in the dynamic business environment, holding on to the productive human resources and reducing the employee turnover, is the key. High turnover rate among employees can adversely impact the company in terms of high training cost, high selection cost, decreased productivity and low staff morale. Loyalty towards organization and leader, leads to positive intentions in employees to stay with the organization for long time21. Transformational leadership were found to be negatively related to employees’ voluntary organizational turnover intention, on the other side availability of job opportunity did not affect the transformational leadership and turnover intention22. Long et al.23 remark that transformational and transactional leadership styles had negative impact on quitting intention. Puni et al.24 found a positive association between autocratic leadership style, quitting intentions and counterproductive work behavior and a negative relationship between democratic leadership style, quitting intentions and counterproductive work behavior. Puni et al.24 further noted that the leaders using laissez faire style yield negative relation with quitting intentions but positive with counterproductive work behavior. Further, the study observed that in autocratic style of leadership, a leader emphasized more on productivity than on people due to which employees’ quitting intentions increased dramatically.

Leadership perception: The climate and organizational environment highly depends on the perception of leaders, managers and employees. Perception was a difficult part of human behavior, the perception of different individual need not to be same. In the context of organization it became difficult to accomplish objectives when leaders and followers had very different perception25.

In today’s organizational perspective employees expects leader to be people oriented as they consider team work, relationship building as a basic pillar for organizational management. Madden26 in his study found that there was a stereotype that women were insecure, over controlling and enable to engage in team play. Helgesen27 argued that women were relationship oriented, non-hierarchical and take interest in sharing power and information.

Perception which was negative can lead to wrong decision and it could be dangerous for the leaders well as organization. Understanding the perception was a process in which the leader needs to analyze the situation and information in a rational manner. Listening and communication skills of leader lead to deal with the situation more empathetically and efficiently.

Role in learning: The competency of a leader in terms of technical proficiency is positively related with the employees’ creativity and learning behavior. In addition to these learning acts as a mediator between innovativeness of employees and competencies of the leader28. The transformational leaders enhance creativity in employees. Therefore, companies prefer such candidates as leaders who possess these skills or at least have the potential to become one.

Brown and Posner29 found that leadership development programs and approaches should accomplish at personal and emotional level which furthers enhance insights about self and helps in creating learning and leadership mind sets. Transformational learning theories could be used to help and develop transformational leader.

Effect of leadership on job performance and work satisfaction: Saleem30observed that transformational leadership style increased job satisfaction among employees while transactional leadership leaves a negative impact on job satisfaction of employees. Goleman31 suggests, “a leader should hold each leadership style in his bag like a golfer and he should be well averse to know that what style he should use in which situation because at every round of golf, you cannot use the same ball”. It is important to know that contingency theories play an important role in enhancing the job satisfaction.

Rad and Yarmohammadian32 concluded that employees showed less satisfaction with salaries, benefits, promotion and communication and they will more satisfied with type of job and good supervisor. They proved significant correlation between the leadership behaviors and employees and job satisfaction. Good relationship with staff increases the satisfaction level of employees; however, situational leadership can negatively impact job satisfaction of employees.


This paper systematically reviews 208 papers published on leadership and related areas from 2010 through 2017. As shown in Fig. 1, out of 208 papers selected for study, 33 were out of context so they have been rejected, 56 papers have been rejected on the ground of not being related to the topic. Finally 119 papers used for further systematic review which were related to leadership studies.

By summarizing the issues addressed by the journal during the reference period, the paper provided valuable insights to the current researchers about the research gap and future research areas of leadership9. This research was divided into five major tasks:

Explore the research papers that have been published during 2010 and 2017
Concise outline of the accepted articles for our research
Categorize the articles on the basis of features and coding those
Investigating the main points of the articles as also their limitations
Suggesting the areas and key points leading to future research

Research mechanism and implementation: To get the miniature view of the articles studied for this systematic review, the authors had tabulated the leading points by coding each distinct feature.

Fig. 1:Selection of papers for review

Table 1: Coding and categorization for systematic review

Table 1 outlines the coding and categorization used for the purpose of this systematic review. The papers were classified into four main subjects which came under the core area of leadership, namely-leadership motivation, leadership excellence, leadership communication and others. These have been coded as A, B, C and D respectively.

Some of the articles have also covered more than one subject or domain so, multiple codes have also been assigned to the article on different key areas. Table 1 depicted that first classification of codes had been based on the context. The culture of every country was different, so was their management view of getting the things done and their leadership style. A motivation or leadership technique that had been proved successful in one country may not be replicated in another country. In this classification of context, the countries were categorized into four series, i.e., developed country, developing and emerging country, under developed country and if the research was not specifically done in/or for a particular country then it was categorized as not applicable. The codes A to D had been used to classify the context to the research.

The next classification in Table 1 had been done on the basis of the geographical region. For the purpose of coding, seven geographical regions have been used, namely-USA, UK, France, Germany, China, India and Islamic countries represented by code A to G respectively. Code H had been assigned to the papers not belonging to any of these countries. In case, research was not country specific then I code was used.

The third classification was done on the basis of the objective of the study. Code A was assigned to the empirical studies, in which direct or indirect observation had been used to gain the knowledge. For case study method, code B was assigned. If the article makes theoretical and methodological contributions to the topic, it came under Code C. Code D was used for conceptual study, while code E has been assigned to the studies not falling in the above categories.

Main subject of the research articles reviewed forms the basis for the fourth classification. The papers were coded as A, B, C and D. It depicts the focus point of the study on which the research article is based. The key subjects taken for the systematic review were leadership motivation, leadership excellence and leadership communication and others.

Fifth classification had been done on the basis of the main topic of the research. This classification further narrows down the research area that had been chosen in fourth category. Codes ranging from A to I have been assigned. It includes topics resembling leadership style in general, moderating factors, quitting intentions, leadership perception and role in learning, effect on job performance, work satisfaction, virtual leadership and others.

The sixth classification makes an attempt to categorize the leadership style evaluated in the papers coded as letter A to H. This categorization holds significance since style provides direction, helps implement the plans and motivates people. Besides giving codes to seven styles of leadership, one code is assigned to a category where no particular style is studied.

Industry studied, forms the base for the seventh classification. Leadership style, the way of working, culture and organizational structure is not common across industry. So, this part has been divided into four categories, namely-manufacturing, service, trading and others. Codes have been assigned from A to D, respectively.

Eighth classification depicts the time period of the research. Time period of research was taken as very crucial distinction in research design categorization. This category had been divided into five codes ranging from A to E. A was assigned to the articles with time-frame of less than one year, B depicts 1-5 years, C is assigned to papers with time frame of 6-10, years followed by D for more than 10 years. E was assigned to the articles where the time period was not applicable.

Ninth classification involves identifying the research methods used for research. Codes A to G have been assigned to this category. It was important to classify whether research is qualitative or quantitative. Other categories in this classification include conceptual method, case study and others if a research paper does not fall in the given category.

The tenth classification reveals the sample size of the research article. By sample size, the authors recognize a group of subjects that is selected from the population. For this category, the codes range from A to D. A category covers articles with sample size of less than 50, B category includes sample size of 51-100, C category is for more than 100 and D category covers the papers not falling in any of the above categories.

The eleventh classification relates to the size of the industry and is coded from A to C. Large scale industry is coded by A, small and medium industry by B, while others are coded as C. Size of the industry is important to categorize as different sizes of industry show different types of results since the number of employees, decentralization level, span of control is not same in each size.

Lastly, the twelfth category highlights different aspects of the results from the articles under review. This category had been divided into five codes ranging from A to E. In this coding, attempt has been made to seek the results of articles based on the information gathered. It included whether the results were consistent with previous literature or does it offer a new perspective.


This section revealed the data classification and categorization of 119 papers on the basis of codes assigned to those in the previous section. The results were produced in Table 2 followed by their analysis and interpretation. On the basis of results, research gaps had been highlighted for further research.

Context: The first classification identified the context of the papers under review. For the purpose of coding, the context was divided into four parts A, B, C and D. Code A was assigned to developed countries, code B for developing and emerging countries, for under developed countries code C was given and code D if it was not applicable to any of these. The results were shown in the form of pie chart in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2: Context of the reviewed literature
(a) Developed countries, (b) Developing and emerging countries, (c) Under-developed countries and (d) Not applicable

Table 2:Coding and categorization of the reviewed literature

Fig. 3:Geographical area of the reviewed literature
Category A: USA, B: UK, C: France, D: Germany, E: China, F: India, G: Islamic countries, H: Others and I: Not applicable

Fig. 4:Objectives of the reviewed literature
Category A: Empirical study, B: Case study, C: Literature review, D: Conceptual and E: Others

As depicted by Fig. 2, majority of the studies14,17,22,26 were not country specific. None of the reviewed studies focused on underdeveloped countries, 13.45% of the studies18,21 deal with developed countries, 5.88% studies had been done in the context of developing and emerging countries, while 5.04% of the research articles belong to the context of both developed and developing and emerging countries. This revealed that studies on leadership and organizational issues pertaining to the underdeveloped country were lacking. This indicated a major research gap that needs to be investigated in future research.

Geographical area: For this category, seven geographical regions have been used namely USA, UK, France, Germany, China, India and Islamic countries represented by codes A to G respectively. Code H is assigned to the papers that do not belong to any of these countries. In case research was not country specific, code I is used. Figure 3 shows the analyses of codes based on the geographical area. Figure 3 showed that majority19,22,25 of research articles (75%) were not specific to any geographical area, 6% of the studies belong to USA and 8% deal with other countries, 5% research articles focus on China, while 1% do not belong to any of these countries.

Objective: The third classification refers to identifying the objectives of the analyzed papers. Code A is assigned to the empirical studies, code B is assigned for case study method, code C is assigned to the articles based on theoretical and methodological contribution, code D is used for conceptual studies focusing on concept or theory explaining the phenomenon, code E has been assigned to studies belonging to any other category. The results as shown in Fig. 4 revealed that 69% of the reviewed papers14,16,17,22,24,26 employ the empirical method, while 18% were conceptual studies, 6% use case study method and literature review.

Main subjects: The next classification was based on the main subject of the research articles reviewed for systematic review as A, B, C and D. It depicts the focus point of the study. The key subjects taken for the coding are leadership motivation, leadership excellence, leadership communication and others. As shown by Fig. 5, the main focus of maximum research in the articles studied18,22,26 was on leadership excellence (29%). 4% of the articles are relate to leadership motivation and 4% to leadership communication.

Fig. 5:Main subjects of the reviewed literature
Category A: Leadership motivation, B: Leadership excellence, study, C: Leadership communication and D: Others

Fig. 6:Main subjects of the reviewed literature
Category A: Leadership style in general, B: Moderating factors, C: Quitting intentions, D: Leadership perception, E: Role in learning, F: Effect on job performance, G: Work satisfaction, H: Virtual leadership and I: Others

The remaining articles focus on other than the given subjects. The combinations studied are leadership motivation and excellence (5%), Leadership excellence and others (8%). The analysis of main subject shows that there are certain avenues open for the researchers in study of leadership motivation and leadership communication, though the previous researchers have focused on leadership excellence.

Topics: This classification was based on identification of the main topic of research. The codes assigned for this category range from A to, I. This classification further narrows down the research area t chosen in the previous category. It includes topics resembling leadership style in general, moderating factors, quitting intentions, leadership perception and role in learning, effect on job performance, work satisfaction, virtual leadership and others.

As shown in Fig. 6, many code combinations had got developed while analyzing the papers for this category. The topics emerged during the research were the combination of two or more subjects. About 6% of the papers focused on moderating factors and effect on job performance, 8% study other factors along with moderating factors, 5% cover effect on job performance, work satisfaction with grouping of other topics. All the other combinations of codes contribute to only 1%. Only few articles focus on a single topic.

Fig. 7: Leadership style evaluated by the reviewed literature
Category A: Autocratic, B: Democratic, C: Strategic, D: Transformational, E: Laissez faire, F: Mixed style, G: Transactional and H: Not applicable

Fig. 8:Type of organization
Category A: Manufacturing, Category B:Service, Category C: Trading, Category D: Others

Fig. 9:Time period studied by the reviewed literature
Category A: Less than one year, Category B: 1-5 years, Category C: 6-10 years, Category D: 10 years and more and Category E: Not applicable

Leadership style evaluated: This classification is an attempt to categorize the leadership style evaluated in the papers studied, coded from A to H (Fig. 7).

Fig. 10:Method of research in the reviewed literature
Category A: Quantitative, B: Qualitative, C: Conceptual, D: Quantitative and qualitative and E: Case study and F: Others

Besides giving codes to seven styles of leadership, one code is assigned to a category where no particular style is being evaluated. Majority of the studies (71%) do not concentrate on any particular leadership style, 15% of the articles evaluate transformational leadership style, 3% of the papers study mixed style and remaining researchers study combination of two or more styles.

Type of organization: This classification shows the categorization on the basis of industry. This part has been divided into three categories Manufacturing, Service, Trading and others. Codes have been assigned from A to D respectively. 21% articles focus on service industry, while 76% articles have not chosen any specific type of organization for their research. Figure 8 exhibits the results with regard to this classification.

Time period: The eighth classification depicts the time period of the research as exhibited in Fig. 9. This category has been divided into five parts assigning codes from A to E; A- less than 1 years, B-1-5 years, C-6-10 years, D-10 years and more, E for the articles where time period is not applicable.92% percent of the articles do not cater to any specific time period, 5% articles base their analysis on less than one year, 2% of the research articles are based on 1-5 years of category.

Method: This category of classification involved identifying the research methods used for research as plotted in Fig. 10. Codes from A to G had been assigned in which quantitative, qualitative, conceptual, quantitative and qualitative both, case study and none of these categories had been coded. About 42% of the papers use quantitative methods, 28% papers employed both quantitative and qualitative methods, 18% articles used conceptual method.

Sample size: This classification revealed the sample size of the articles analyzed as shown in Fig. 11. For this category, codes ranged from A to D. A category contains the articles with sample size of under 50, B category comprises of papers with sample size of 51-100, C included papers with sample size of more than 100, D included papers other than these. Majority of the articles (52%) use the sample size more than 100, 40% articles fall in others category where sample size was not applicable, 6% articles had used sample size below 50.

Size of the industry: This classification related to size of the industry and the codes assigned ranged from A to C as shown in Fig. 12. Large scale industry is coded by A, small and medium sized industry coded by B and others fall in category C. Most of the studies did not focus on analysis of a particular size of industry, 11% analyze the large industries, 2% focus on small and medium enterprises.


The last category (Fig. 13) highlighted different aspects of the results of the research articles studied. This category had been divided into five codes ranging from A to E. It included whether the results were consistent with previous literature or leading to a new perspective, was it a previous model with different data set and time period, comparative study and others.

Fig. 11:Sample size in the reviewed literature
Category A: 0-50, Category B: 51-100, Category C: More than 100 and Category D: Others

Fig. 12:Industry size
Category A: Large, Category B: Small and medium and Category C: Others

Fig. 13: Category A: New perspective, Category B: Consistent with previous literature, Category C: Previous model with different dataset/time period, D: Comparative study and E: Others

Majority of the articles (52%) present comparative analysis, 9% articles deal with each of category B and C that was consistent with previous literature and previous model with different data set and time period.


The main contribution of the current paper was to summarize the issues addressed by these articles and to bring out the research gaps. The current study explored 119 articles which were purely devoted to the study of leadership and organization. On the basis of the gaps explored, it can be stated that the research arena is wide open for the future research in the area of leadership and related areas that can be explored by novel research. The current research found that the future researchers can focus on underdeveloped countries and explore how leadership in organizations of underdeveloped countries can meet current and future organizational challenges. The future researchers can focus on conducting research in specific regions and explore the influence that leadership has on organizations of different regions. Future research can also focus on meta-analysis and explore the significance of case study/literature review or comparative analysis in addressing leadership problems in organizations. With respect to main subject of the study, it is found that most of the studies focus on leadership excellence whereas research on leadership motivation and communication is lagging behind. Therefore, future research can examine how leadership motivation and communication can help an organization achieve its results. It is vital to explore how an organization from a specific sector manages and motivates its employees through effective leadership. Future research can focus on other techniques that can justify the objective of leadership study.


This study holds immense significance for two core reasons. One, the paper consolidates the existing literature about leadership and organization. Two, the paper brings out the research gaps and sets a research agenda for future researchers in the field. The organic contribution of the authors is in listing out (a) the objectives that can be pursued by the future researchers, (b) the methodology that can be adopted by the future researchers, (c) the tools that can be put to use while researching in this area and (d) the industry that the future researchers may emphasize upon.

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