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

K. Bharanitharan, Zhen Xiong Chen, Somayeh Bahmannia, Kevin B. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-743
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Volume160
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

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