Empowering leadership – leading employees to lead themselves Exploration of central characteristics, implications, and self – other agreement of the empowering leadership construct
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This dissertation contributes to the leadership and empowerment literature by exploration of the empowering leadership construct, which emerged as a distinct leadership approach in the late 1980s as a response to changes in work life and society in general. A review of relevant literature indicates that two related main approaches to empowering leadership have laid the foundation for what we today associate with the construct; that is, the concept of superleadership and various approaches of leadership that emphasize different forms and degrees of power sharing (here called the classical approach). A main characteristic that describes empowering leadership is supporting employees’ autonomy, which represents the most prominent characteristic that distinguishes it from other leadership theories and thus makes it more in line with the basic idea of empowerment at work. This particular autonomy attribute with respect to empowering leadership is especially important in contemporary work settings characterized by, among other things, more flexible, flattened, and decentralized organizational designs and delegation of responsibility and decision-making authority to selfleading knowledge workers. Despite its place as a contemporary leadership approach, it is only in the last decade that empowering leadership has received earnest attention in the academic management literature. In fact, two-thirds of identified academic articles including the keywords empowering leadership and/or superleadership were published in the period 2006 to January 2014. Still, there are shortcomings in the literature with respect to various aspects of empowering leadership that need to be investigated. Accordingly, this dissertation aimed to (a) theoretically underpin and define empowering leadership as guideline for conceptualization and operationalization of the construct, (b) to build, refine, and validate a new instrument for measuring the construct, (c) to identify and test central mediators of empowering leadership, and (d) to explore how self–other agreement of empowering leadership affects important outcome variables. To examine these issues, six studies included in three papers were conducted. With promotion and development of employee autonomy as foundation, theoretical and conceptual discussions in the first paper suggested that empowering leadership consists of eight behavioral manifestations arranged within three influence processes. The first process was labeled “power sharing” and includes the behaviors “delegating” and “coordinating and information sharing.” The second process was labeled “motivational support” and includes the behaviors “encourage initiative,” “encourage goal focus,” “efficacy support,” and “inspiring,” whereas the third process was labeled “development support” and includes the behaviors “modeling” and “guidance.” Based on this conceptual model, a theoretically meaningful 18- item, two-dimensional scale (i.e., the Empowering Leadership Scale; ELS) was developed and validated for measuring the construct. The ELS showed distinctiveness in relation to scales measuring leader – member exchange (LMX) and transformational leadership as well as ability to predict incremental variance in psychological empowerment beyond these two scales. Furthermore, in the first paper self-leadership and psychological empowerment were identified and initially tested as essential mediators of empowering leadership. Based on insights from the first paper, findings in the second paper further supported the idea of self-leadership and psychological empowerment as mediating mechanisms in linking empowering leadership to subordinate outcomes. The findings also suggested that selfleadership mediates the relationship between empowering leadership and psychological empowerment. Findings from the third paper indicated that a simultaneous appraisal of self and subordinate ratings of empowering leadership might be useful in the prediction of outcome variables in a culture such as the Norwegian one. Especially, incongruence in empowering leadership ratings provided by self (i.e., leaders) and subordinates was suggested to be of particular importance; that is, leaders’ over-estimation and under-estimation relative to the ratings of subordinates. Moreover, the applicability of the Empowering Leadership Scale as a multisource instrument was supported in that the scale showed stable psychometric properties across both self and subordinate ratings of empowering leadership. Considered across all three papers, empowering leadership (i.e., the ELS) demonstrated positive associations with leader effectiveness/job performance and subordinates’ selfleadership, psychological empowerment, job satisfaction, work effort, and creativity, as well as negative association with subordinates’ turnover intention.