How Transformational and Empowering Leader Behaviors Enhance Workplace Safety: A Review and Research Agenda

Michael K. Muchiri, Adela J. McMurray, Mathews Nkhoma, Hiep C. Pham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background and statement of the problem: Recognizing that organizations are under pressure to increase workplace safety, this paper develops an integrative leadership model that informs new theory identifying how leader behaviours enhance workplace safety behaviour. The paper highlights direct and indirect relationships among transformational leadership, employees' trust in leaders, empowering leadership and employees' safety behaviours. Research methodology and data: The paper follows a rigorous, systematic review of published studies (1985–2017) representing the literature addressing transformational leadership and safety behaviours, and the moderation roles of empowering leadership and trust in leaders in the transformational leadership and–safety behaviours relationship. The paper relied extensively on computerized keyword searches in the main business source databases of EBSCOhost, Emerald, ProQuest, ScienceDirect and SpringerLink. Research findings: The systematic review leads to a credible conceptual framework that elucidates the relationship between transformational leadership, empowering leadership, employees' trust in leadership and workplace safety behaviours. Consequently, the framework advances theories on effective leader behaviour, employees' trust in leaders and safety behaviours. Further, the framework assists with unpacking various underlying mechanisms through which leadership directly and indirectly influences employee safety behaviours within the manufacturing sector. In that regard, the paper argues that trust in leaders, and empowering leader behaviours, both moderate the relationship between leadership and employees' safety behaviours. Policy implications: The conceptual framework provides the impetus for a behaviour-oriented approach to workplace safety research, with the potential to generate actionable knowledge to manage accidents and injuries in the workplace. The framework can be utilized by organizations when executing organizational design interventions so as to engender and shape organizational climate and culture of trust. The framework advocates empowering leadership behaviours which could support employees to raise organization-related safety issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Developing Areas
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • workplace safety behaviour
  • leadership model
  • leader behaviours
  • Transformational leadership
  • empowering leadership
  • trust in leaders
  • safety compliance behaviour
  • safety participation behaviour


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