CHEN Chen;QIN Xin;TAN Ling;LU Hailing;ZHOU Hansen;SONG Bodi
School of Business, Sun Yat-sen University;School of Business, Sun Yat-sen University;School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology;School of Economics and Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology;School of Business, Sun Yat-sen University;School of Business, Sun Yat-sen University
To better cope with external environments’ rapid development and organizational structures’ continuous changes, an increasing number of researchers and practitioners have suggested that leaders should empower their subordinates in order to maximize the impact of employees in organizations. The existing studies have well documented the positive effects of empowering leadership, such as improving subordinates’ intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, job satisfaction, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and improving team performance. However, they may overestimate the positive impacts of empowering leadership and overlook its costs. Particularly, they have largely neglected the role of (in)congruence of characteristics of supervisors and subordinates. In this research, we examined the (in)congruence effect of supervisor empowering leadership and subordinate self-leadership on subordinate role conflict, emotional exhaustion, and job performance. Employing polynomial regressions and response surface analyses, we conducted a multi-source field study with 217 supervisor-subordinate data to test our theoretical model. The results revealed that high congruence between supervisor empowering leadership and subordinate self-leadership was associated with lower levels of subordinate role conflict. The results also revealed that when supervisor empowering leadership and subordinate self-leadership were congruent, compared with those in the low-low congruent case, subordinates perceived lower role conflict in the high-high congruent case. Furthermore, there was a positively indirect effect of (in)congruence in supervisor empowering leadership and subordinate self-leadership on subordinates’ job performance through subordinate role conflict and emotional exhaustion. This research makes several important theoretical contributions to empowering leadership, self-leadership and the role theory. First, it contributes to the empowering leadership literature by emphasizing the need to simultaneously consider characteristics of supervisors and subordinates. The existing empowering leadership research generally shows that empowering leadership has positive effects on subordinates and teams. Thus, drawing upon the role theory, this research provides a more balanced and dialectical understanding of the effects of empowering leadership literature by identifying its potential dark side. Second, it further contributes to the empowering leadership and self-leadership literatures by revealing how they jointly influence subordinates’ job performance. Specifically, it uncovers the roles of subordinate role conflict and emotional exhaustion in explaining the process by which (in)congruence in supervisor empowering leadership and subordinate self-leadership impacts subordinates’ job performance. By examining this serial mediation model, our research provides a deeper understanding of how such detrimental effects of empowering leadership unfold. Third, this research further extends the role theory and provides new empirical evidence for the antecedents of subordinate role conflict. Prior work has revealed that constructive leadership behaviors are beneficial to subordinates’ role cognition, while destructive leadership behaviors are detrimental to subordinates’ role cognition. However, our research finds that under some conditions, constructive leadership behaviors (e.g., empowering leadership) may also be detrimental to subordinates’ role cognition and trigger their negative reactions. Thus, it extends the role theory by identifying an important but neglected antecedent of subordinate role conflict. Overall, our research offers a more balanced and dialectical perspective in understanding the effects of empowering leadership.
empowering leadership;subordinate self-leadership;congruence;role conflict;emotional exhaustion;job performance
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