Seeing is not believing: leader humility, hypocrisy, and their impact on followers' behaviors

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Challenging the prevailing consensus that leader humility is uniformly beneficial we investigate circumstances where leader humility behaviors are positively perceived and yet negatively received due to attributions of impression management. Arising from potential inconsistencies in perceptions and attributions, we argue that followers may evaluate leader humility behavioral displays as either genuine or hypocritical. We conducted two studies, in different contexts, to test followers' reactions to leader humility displays. In Study 1 (Confucian Asian cluster), we used a survey methodology to test our theoretical model. Due to the validity problems with our instrumental variables, we were unable to draw conclusions from the results of study 1. In Study 2 (Anglo cluster), we used a scenario-based experimental design. While the hypothesized mediating effect via perceptions of leader hypocrisy was not supported by the results, we found support for the hypothesis that the interaction of leader humility and impression management positively influenced hypocrisy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101440
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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