The extant literature on work-life balance has generally overlooked the interrelationship between leadership and work life balance. Does leadership have any impact on employees’ use of work-life balance policies and practices? To answer this question, this article considers social exchange theory as well as transformational and transactional leadership in an investigation of the impact of leadership on work-life balance.
The study employs qualitative data from 32 semi-structured interviews to achieve the study’s objectives.
The research reveals that leadership does matter in work-life balance. The study findings reveal that both the transactional and transformational leadership styles result in the establishment of strong reciprocal relationships between leaders and employees in terms of using work-life balance policies and practices. Managers only sanction the use of work-life balance policies and practices only as a reward for excellent performance or when they are completely sure the outcome will favour the organisation. The study concludes that the desire to achieve work-life balance has often led many employees to go the extra mile in carrying out their work duties, which is rewarded with an approval to use work-life balance policies and practices. These non-contractual exchanges emphasise reciprocity and are based on trust. Research limitations The extent to which the findings of this research can be generalised is constrained by the size and nature of the research sample.
Many managers are transactional leaders, and they purposefully allow their employees to use work-life balance policies and practices only as a reward for meeting targets and for excellent performance. This means that employees who fall short of the required targets and expected performance are not permitted to use work-life balance policies and practices. This finding implies that such employees experience incessant work-family conflict, which may have negative implications for their work engagement, overall wellbeing, and work performance.
This study demonstrates that leadership is relevant to work-life balance. It shows that transformational leadership is supportive of work-life balance, as it considers employees’ work performance and non-work outcomes. The results and practical implications of this study aid our understanding of the non-contractual exchanges involved in manager-employee relationships, which is crucial for ensuring employees’ achievement of work-life balance and for organisations to achieve their goals.