Is Leader Humility a Friend or Foe, or Both? An Attachment Theory Lens on Leader Humility and Its Contradictory Outcomes

Journal of Business Ethics 160 (3):729-743 (2019)
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As studies continue to accumulate on leader humility, it has become clear that humility in a leader is largely beneficial to his or her followers. While the majority of the empirical research on this topic has demonstrated the positive effects of leader humility, this study challenges that consensus by arguing that a leader’s humble behavior can have contradictory outcomes in followers’ voice behavior. Drawing on attachment theory, we develop a model which takes into account the ways in which leader humility influences the seemingly contradictory voice behavior of followers, i.e., inducing challenging voice, and defensive voice depending on the followers’ sense of security as reflected by feeling trusted and self-efficacy for voice. The results of this empirical study confirm that leader humility influences followers’ voice in a contradictory way through their sense of security.



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