Topics: Leadership, Stress
Publication: The Leadership Quarterly (JUN 2012)
Article: The relationship between authentic leadership and follower job performance: The mediating role of follower positivity in extreme contexts.
Authors: Suzanne J. Peterson, Fred O. Walumbwa, Bruce J. Avolio, & Sean T. Hannah
Reviewed By: Aaron Manier
In stressful working environments, it’s good to know that your boss is a real, caring, genuine person who’s got your back in the toughest of situations. Not only does it seem like a good idea generally, but research is beginning to support the notion that authentic leaders, or leaders who are self-aware, moral, open, and objective, not only increase perceived support among followers, but drive higher performance in extreme and stressful working conditions.
Several key features of the authentic leader-follower relationship impact the strength of the relationship between authentic leadership and performance in extreme working conditions, specifically in police and military contexts. An authentic relationship between a leader and an employee creates a situation where employees can genuinely experience all of their emotions. The encouragement of authentic leaders for employees to feel their true emotions contradicts traditional thinking that emotions in extreme or stressful environments should be detached—a repressive, “tough it out” mentality. However, authenticity can lead to stronger positive emotions and improved performance.
Authentic leaders also create a working situation that activates employee’s psychological capital to drive improved performance. Psychological capital is like a pool of psychological resources that an employee can draw on to succeed, including confidence, strength of will, optimism, and resilience. By supporting employees and allowing them to develop this pool of psychological capital, authentic leaders empower employees to have the personal strength to confront stressful and potentially negative situations.
Given the impact that authentic leadership can have on performance and the work environment, organizations that operate in stressful or extreme conditions should consider switching their “tough it out” stance to one of support, genuineness, and a willingness to experience the challenges of a difficult work situation.
Peterson, S. J., Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., & Hannah, S. T. (2012). The relationship between authentic leadership and follower job performance: The mediating role of follower positivity in extreme contexts. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(3), 502-516.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management