Our research tidbits this week considers what authentic leadership really means, can it be adequately measured in terms of research, and does it actually make a difference?

Does authentic leadership matter?
This research contributes to an improved understanding of authentic leadership at the work–life interface. The authors build on conservation of resources theory to develop a leader–follower crossover model of the impact of authentic leadership on followers’ job satisfaction through leaders’ and followers’ work–life balance.

The model integrates authentic leadership and crossover literatures to suggest that followers perceive authentic leaders to better balance their professional and private lives, which in turn enables followers to achieve a positive work–life balance, and ultimately makes them more satisfied in their jobs. Data from working adults collected in a correlational field study (N = 121) and an experimental study (N = 154) generally supported indirect effects linking authentic leadership to job satisfaction through work–life balance perceptions. However, both studies highlighted the relevance of followers’ own work–life balance as a mediator more so than the sequence of leaders’ and followers’ work–life balance.

The authors discuss theoretical implications of these findings from a conservation of resources perspective, and emphasise how authentic leadership represents an organisational resource at the work–life interface. The authors also suggest practical implications of developing authentic leadership in organisations to promote employees’ well-being as well as avenues for future research.

Braun, Susanne and Peus, Claudia. 2018. Crossover of Work–Life Balance Perceptions: Does Authentic Leadership Matter?

Journal of Business Ethics, 149(4), 875-893.

Is too much positivity a trap in leadership studies?
We study authentic leadership as a prominent but problematic example of positive leadership that the authors use as a more general “warning” against the current fashion of excessive positivity in leadership studies.

Without trying to cover “everything”, the authors critically examine the principal tenets of mainstream authentic leadership theory and reveal a number of fundamental flaws: shaky philosophical and theoretical foundations, tautological reasoning, weak empirical studies, nonsensical measurement tools, unsupported knowledge claims, and a generally simplistic and out of date view of corporate life.

Even though this study focuses on authentic leadership, much of the authors’ criticism is also applicable to other popular positive leadership theories, such as transformational, servant, ethical, and spiritual leadership.

Alvesson, Mats and Einola, Katja. 2019. Warning for excessive positivity: Authentic leadership and other traps in leadership studies.

The Leadership Quarterly, 30(4), 383-395.

Be(com)ing real: Mindfulness and authentic leadership
Although authentic leadership has been shown to inform a host of positive outcomes at work, the literature has dedicated little attention to identifying its personal antecedents and effective means to enhance it. Building on strong theoretical links and initial evidence, the authors propose mindfulness as a predictor of authentic leadership.

In 2 multi-source field studies (cross-sectional and experimental), the authors investigated (a) the role of leaders’ trait mindfulness and (b) the effectiveness of a low-dose mindfulness intervention for perceptions of authentic leadership. The results of both studies confirmed a positive relation between leaders’ trait mindfulness and authentic leadership as rated by both followers and leaders. Moreover, the results of study 2 showed that the intervention increased authentic leadership via gains in leaders’ mindfulness, as perceived by both followers and leaders.

In addition, the authors found that the intervention positively extended to followers’ work attitudes via authentic leadership. The paper concludes with a discussion of the study’s implications for leadership theory and leader development.

Read this Open Access article online for free.

Nuebold, Annika, Van Quaquebeke, Niels and Hülsheger, Ute R. 2020. Be(com)ing Real: a Multi-source and an Intervention Study on Mindfulness and Authentic Leadership.

Journal of Business and Psychology, 35(4), 469-488.

Authentic leadership towards sustainability in higher education – an integrated green model
Sustainability in higher education has drawn the attention of various scholars. However, to date, very few studies have examined the human side of green employee behaviour towards sustainability.

Thus, to address this gap, this study aims to analyse the effect of green authentic leadership towards sustainability in higher education, with the intervening impact of green internal branding and green training. The study examined the data collected from faculty and their immediate heads from private higher education institutions. Tests for reliability, validity and internal consistency of measures followed by exploratory factor analysis were conducted for each measure. The hypotheses were tested through hierarchical regression analysis while confirmatory factor analysis was done to test the fit of the model.

The results supported the fit of the proposed model and showed positive and significant effect of green authentic leadership on the sustainability in higher education. Further, green internal branding had a mediating effect between green authentic leadership and sustainability and green training showed a significant moderating role between green authentic leadership and sustainability relationship.

Srivastava, Anugamini Priya; Mani, Venkatesh; Yadav, Mohit and Joshi, Yatish. 2020. Authentic leadership towards sustainability in higher education – an integrated green model.

International Journal of Manpower, 41(7), 901-923.

Authentic leadership and meaningfulness at work
This study aims to examine whether, how, and when authentic leadership shapes followers’ perceptions of meaningfulness at work. Using authentic leadership theory, the authors posit that authentic leadership leads to more favourable perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which, in turn, results in enhanced experiences of meaningfulness at work.

In addition to studying authentic leadership as a driver of CSR perceptions, and hence meaningfulness, the authors also examine if followers’ attributions of self-centered motives to organisational engagement in CSR moderates the above relationship. In all, 368 employees from Indian IT industry participated in the survey. Data were analysed using Process (Hayes 2013) in SPSS. Results supported the hypothesised moderated mediation model by revealing that attribution of self-centered motives undermines the positive impact of authentic leadership on CSR perceptions, and, subsequently, meaningfulness.

By presenting CSR as a source of meaningfulness at work, this study establishes CSR as an important tool for fostering employee well-being. The internal corporate communication should emphasise how CSR activities of the organisation represent core organisational values and organisation’s genuine concern for the society.

Chaudhary, Richa. 2020. Authentic leadership and meaningfulness at work: Role of employees’ CSR perceptions and evaluations.

Management Decision, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Putting the leader back into authentic leadership
Increasingly poor and unethical decision-making on the part of leaders across the globe, such as the recent Australian cricket ball tampering scandal, pose a significant challenge for society and for organisations.

Authentic leadership development is one strategy that has been positioned as an antidote to unethical leadership behaviours. However, despite growing interest in authentic leadership, the construct still embodies several criticisms including conceptual clarity; leader-centricity; bias towards the person, not the leader; philosophical ambiguity; and demographic challenges. Each of these criticisms will be explored in depth to inform a re-conceptualisation of the authentic leader construct, comprising indicators of awareness, sincerity, balanced processing, positive moral perspective and informal influence. Importantly, this revised conceptualisation considers how researchers can conceptually distinguish between authentic leaders, followers and individuals.

To conclude, the authors propose a research agenda for authentic leaders, encouraging the pursuit of further construct clarity, including the development of rigorous authentic leader behaviour measures, expanding the psychometric profile of the authentic leader construct, increasing the focus on authentic followers and enhancing leader development programmes.

Read this Open Access article online for free.

Crawford, Joseph A., Dawkins, Sarah, Martin, Angela and Lewis, Gemma. 2020. Putting the leader back into authentic leadership: Reconceptualising and rethinking leaders.

Australian Journal of Management, 45(1), 114-133.