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How does leader humility influence team performance? Exploring the mechanisms of contagion and collective promotion focus. (2016)

“Leader behavior can spread via social contagion to followers… leaders need to lead by example.”

Bradley P Owens, Brigham Young University; & David R. Hekman, University of Colorado
Academy of Management Journal, 59(3), 1088-1111.

The researchers explored whether humility in a leader influences team interaction patterns, emergent states, and ultimately, team performance.

They posited that leaders who behave humbly encourage the same behaviour in their followers. This ‘collective humility’ creates a team focused on achieving its highest potential (‘collective promotion focus’), which ultimately enhances team performance.

Using 607 subjects organized into 161 teams the researchers:

  • Manipulated leader humility to test the social contagion hypothesis
  • Examined the impact of humility on team processes and performance
  • Tested their full model in a multistage field study in a health services context.

The findings supported their theoretical model. They demonstrated that leader behavior can spread via social contagion to followers, producing an emergent state that ultimately affects team performance.

They found a need for leaders to lead by example and showed how a specific set of leader behaviors influence team performance.

Access the full paper here: How does leader humility influence team performance?

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