Is Leader Humility a Friend or Foe, or Both? An Attachment Theory Lens on Leader Humility and Its Contradictory Outcomes
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As studies continue to accumulate on leader humility, it has become clear that humility (one of the moral virtues) 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 (promoting the flexibility toward changes), and defensive voice (showing the persistence toward changes) depending on the followers’ sense of security as reflected by feeling trusted (sensing the leaders’ confidence in them) and self-efficacy for voice (sense of self-confidence). The results of this empirical study confirm that leader humility influences followers’ voice in a contradictory way through their sense of security.
KeywordsAttachment theory Ethics Humility Moral self-sufficiency Voice
This study is not funded.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
In this study, we collected data from employees (human) in an IT organization. Before collecting data, we have got an ethical approval from the Australian National University’s (ANU) human ethics committee. Therefore, all procedures performed in study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the ANU’s human ethics committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the research.
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