Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)

School

Business Administration

Advisor

Diane Dusick

Abstract

Disengaged employees and leaders lacking the skills to engage their employees account for an estimated $300 billion annual loss through lowered productivity. This study focused on a leader's understanding of employee engagement as a means of increasing productivity. Utilizing the theory of leadership styles and expectancy theory for the conceptual framework, this descriptive study explored strategies small business leaders have used to develop effective leadership styles to improve workplace engagement. Interviews with a purposive sample of 20 highest-ranking executives at small businesses with between 50 and 250 employees in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States were analyzed using the modified van Kaam method to identify themes. The analysis of leaders' actions regarding strategies for overcoming barriers to employee engagement indicated a strategic need for meetings, open and candid communication, and more dedicated time to employees to avoid disengagement. The exploration of these strategies provides insight that organizational leaders could use to implement effective practices. The results of this study could contribute to social change by facilitating proactive recognition by organizational leaders of strategies for overcoming barriers preventing the adoption of a more effective leadership style. These contributions could assist leaders in reducing bureaucratization and shifting attitudes from impersonal judgment and extreme separation to engaging employees. These shifts could result in improving the employees' outlook on their future at their respective organizations, which may, in turn, positively impact their relationships with their families and communities.