A contingency model of empowering leadership on employee proactive behavior : team power distance climate and individual power distance belief as the moderators

In this dissertation, I propose a contingency model of empowering leadership on team member proactive behavior. By integrating the literature on empowering leadership with theories of power distance, my dissertation advances understanding of the boundary conditions of empowering leadership. To date over 70% of firms across the globe have encouraged or used empowerment. This fact underscores the need for a contingency theory of empowering leadership that delineates how and when it fosters team member proactive behavior - defined as actions in “taking control of, and bringing about change within, the internal organizational environment”. I propose that power distance acts as a contingency to the effects of empowering leadership on two levels - at the level of the team and at the level of the individual team member. Integrating the shared reality theory with the multilevel model of motivation, I first propose that empowering leadership exerts a stronger positive impact on individual team members' proactive behavior when the team has a low rather than high power distance climate. Employing the role identity theory, I also propose that empowering leadership relates more strongly to team members' proactive behavior for those endorsing power distance beliefs to a lesser extent. Based on this theory, I further propose a three-way interaction such that the effect of empowering leadership on team member proactive behaviors depends on both the team's power distance climate as well as the team member's individual power distance belief. Finally, I propose that team members' motivational states - namely their role-breadth self-efficacy and organization-based self-esteem - act as underlying mechanisms that transmit the joint influence of empowering leadership, team power distance climate, and individual power distance belief on a team member's proactive behavior. I tested my dissertation model with a multi-method design and in two studies - a lab experiment based on 100 Hong Kong undergraduates and a multilevel field study with 397 Chinese full-time employees and 78 of their direct supervisors. Findings from these studies provided consistent support for the majority of my hypotheses. I conclude by summarizing the findings, discussing the major implications and limitations of my dissertation, and indicating several directions for future research. Keywords: Empowering Leadership, Power Distance, Proactive Behavior, Motivation, Multi-Level.
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