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How Does Leader Humility Influence Team Performance? Exploring the Mechanisms of Contagion and Collective Promotion Focus

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Using data from 607 subjects organized into 161 teams (84 laboratory teams, 77 organizational field teams), we examined how leader humility influences team interaction patterns, emergent states, and team performance. We develop and test a theoretical model, positing that, when leaders behave humbly, followers emulate their humble behaviors, creating a shared interpersonal team process (collective humility). This, in turn, creates a team emergent state focused on progressively striving toward achieving the team's highest potential (collective promotion focus), which ultimately enhances team performance. We test our model across three studies wherein we manipulate leader humility to test the social contagion hypothesis (Study 1), examine the impact of humility on team processes and performance in a longitudinal team simulation (Study 2), and test the full model in a multistage field study in a health services context (Study 3). Our findings collectively support our theoretical model, demonstrating that leader behavior can spread via social contagion to followers, producing an emergent state that ultimately affects team performance. We contribute to the leadership literature by suggesting the need for leaders to lead by example and showing how a specific set of leader behaviors influence team performance, providing a template for future leadership research on a wide variety of leader behaviors.
Content may be subject to copyright.
How does leader humili
ty influence team performance?
Exploring the mechanisms of contagion and collective
promotion focus
Journal:
Academy of Management Journal
Manuscript ID:
AMJ-2013-0660.R3
Manuscript Type:
Revision
Keywords:
Group/team characteristics (General) < Group/team characterisitics <
Organizational Behavior < Topic Areas, Group/team processes (General) <
Group/team processes < Organizational Behavior < Topic Areas,
Leadership < Organizational Behavior < Topic Areas
Abstract:
Using data from 607 subjects organized in 161 teams (84 laboratory teams
and 77 organizational field teams), we examined how leader humility
influences team interaction patterns, emergent states, and team
performance. We developed and tested a theoretical model arguing that
when leaders behave humbly, followers emulate their humble behaviors,
creating a shared interpersonal team process (collective humility). This
collective humility in turn creates a team emergent state focused on
progressively striving toward achieving the team’s highest potential
(collective promotion focus), which ultimately enhances team performance.
We tested our model across three studies wherein we manipulated leader
humility to test the social contagion hypothesis (Study 1), examined the
impact of humility on team processes and performance in a longitudinal
team simulation (Study 2), and tested the full model in a multistage field
study in a health services context (Study 3). The findings from these lab
and field studies collectively supported our theoretical model,
demonstrating that leader behavior can spread via social contagion to
followers, producing an emergent state that ultimately affects team
performance. Our findings contribute to the leadership literature by
suggesting the need for leaders to lead by example, and showing precisely
how a specific set of leader behaviors influence team performance, which
may provide a useful template for future leadership research on a wide
variety of leader behaviors.
Academy of Management Journal
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How Does Leader Humility Influence Team Performance?
Exploring the Mechanisms of Contagion
and Collective Promotion Focus
Bradley P. Owens
Brigham Young University
bpo@byu.edu
David R. Hekman
University of Colorado
david.hekman@colorado.edu
Forthcoming in the
Academy of Management Journal
Acknowledgments: The authors thank Raymond Sparrowe and three anonymous reviewers for their
insightful feedback on this project. We also thank Chia Yen Chui for assistance in gathering data, Elsa Chan
for writing the experimental scripts to manipulate leader humility, and Terry Mitchell, David Waldman, Jane
Dutton, and Kim Cameron for their input on early drafts of this manuscript. This article was supported in part
by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation [Grant 29630] entitled “The Development, Validation, and
Dissemination of Measures of Intellectual Humility and Humility.”
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How Does Leader Humility Influence Team Performance? Exploring the Mechanisms of
Contagion and Collective Promotion Focus
ABSTRACT
Using data from 607 subjects organized in 161 teams (84 laboratory teams and 77
organizational field teams), we examined how leader humility influences team interaction patterns,
emergent states, and team performance. We developed and tested a theoretical model arguing that
when leaders behave humbly, followers emulate their humble behaviors, creating a shared
interpersonal team process (collective humility). This collective humility in turn creates a team
emergent state focused on progressively striving toward achieving the team’s highest potential
(collective promotion focus), which ultimately enhances team performance. We tested our model
across three studies wherein we manipulated leader humility to test the social contagion hypothesis
(Study 1), examined the impact of humility on team processes and performance in a longitudinal
team simulation (Study 2), and tested the full model in a multistage field study in a health services
context (Study 3). The findings from these lab and field studies collectively supported our
theoretical model, demonstrating that leader behavior can spread via social contagion to followers,
producing an emergent state that ultimately affects team performance. Our findings contribute to the
leadership literature by suggesting the need for leaders to lead by example, and showing precisely
how a specific set of leader behaviors influence team performance, which may provide a useful
template for future leadership research on a wide variety of leader behaviors.
Keywords: humility, leader behavior, team performance, team process, promotion focus.
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INTRODUCTION
“Nothing is so contagious as example; and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its
like.”
–Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Humility has been defined as an interpersonal characteristic that emerges in social contexts
that connotes (a) a willingness to view oneself accurately, (b) an appreciation of others’ strengths
and contributions, and (c) teachability, or openness to new ideas and feedback (Owens, Johnson, &
Mitchell, 2013). Partly in response to extensive research showing that leaders tend to see themselves
in an overly positive light (Board & Fritzon, 2005; Chatterjee & Hambrick, 2011; Park, Westphal, &
Stern, 2011), inductive and empirical research on leader humility has emerged suggesting that leader
humility fosters supportive organizational contexts, including top management team integration and
empowering climate (Ou, Tsui, Kinicki, Waldman, Xiao, & Song, 2014); legitimizes follower
growth and development (Owens & Hekman, 2012); encourages follower loyalty and commitment
(Basford, Offermann, & Behrend, 2013); reinforces employee learning orientation, job satisfaction,
work engagement, and retention (Owens et al., 2013); and tempers the ill effects of leader narcissism
leading to positive follower outcomes (Owens, Wallace, & Waldman, forthcoming). Though these
initial findings are encouraging regarding the value of leader humility in organizational contexts,
understanding whether and exactly how leader humility influences an entire team’s performance
remains largely unexplored.
While leadership has been argued to be the most important contextual factor that influences
team performance (Williams, Parker, & Turner, 2010), past reviews have asserted that much more
research is needed to foster understanding of the mechanisms linking leader behaviors to team
performance (Burke, Stagl, Klein, Goodwin, Salas, & Halpin, 2006). While some traditional
leadership approaches have been “criticized for failing to fully appreciate and model the dynamism
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and complexities of team leadership” (Burke et al., 2006: 302), our specific research question
centers on understanding the impact of the nontraditional leadership approach of leader humility on
team processes leading to team performance. We propose that the modeling of humble behaviors by
team leaders may be one uniquely impactful way (among other leadership approaches) to foster
effective team functioning because humble leader behaviors are equally imitable by team members
and are relevant to the core team processes of constructive interrelating, task allocation
effectiveness, information exchange, constant updating and monitoring, and self-correction (Burke
et al., 2006; Johnson, Hollenbeck, DeRue, Barnes, & Jundt, 2010; Zaccaro, Rittman, & March,
2002). We theorize that through social contagion, the modeling of leader humility will foster the
team interpersonal process of collective humility, which will in turn shape a team orientation that
reflects the essence of the leader’s modeled values in actions. As humility is centered in the idea of
growth (Owens & Hekman, 2012), we propose that the influence of leader humility and collective
team humility will shape a team orientation of focusing on continual improvement, advancement,
and accomplishment (i.e., a collective promotion focus; Beersma, Homan, Van Kleef, & De Dreu,
2013; Higgins, 1997).
By examining how leader humility influences team performance, we extend leadership
research by detailing the process of how this relatively new character-based leadership construct
operates (Quick & Wright, 2011). We propose that leader humility influences team performance
through the two-stage process of collective humility (i.e., a group tendency toward admitting
weaknesses, appreciating group members’ strengths, and being teachable) and then collective
promotion focus (i.e., a collective team focus on progressively striving toward achieving the team’s
highest potential). We describe how humble behaviors, enacted by leaders and then emulated by
team members, enhance the vital team processes mentioned above. We conducted three studies to
test our model. The first study establishes the direction of our model’s causal arrow, the second
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establishes that our model predicts objective performance, and the third shows that our model
operates in an organizational field context.
TOWARD A THEORY OF HOW LEADER HUMILITY
INFLUENCES TEAM PERFORMANCE
Leader Humility
Reflecting the definition given above, leader humility is manifest by a set of power
equalizing behaviors that co-occur and foster each other and that are unified by the theme of growth.
Leaders’ knowledge of their own limits and recognition of others’ strengths fosters awareness of
where they need to grow and of the people around them from whom they can learn to grow.
Acknowledging weaknesses leaves leaders open to learning from and appreciating those who are
skilled in areas where the leader may be lacking. As an organizing theoretical basis, scholars have
effectively used Baumeister’s (1998) self-experience framework to justify the dimensions of
humility as comprehensively capturing the core ways that individuals understand and experience
themselves (see Ou et al., 2014). This framework entails understanding the self in relation to the
world (reflexive consciousness), in relation to others (interpersonal being), and by what one does
(executive function). Reflecting each component of the self-experience framework, our view of
humility captures how one views themselves in relation to the world (more objectively), how they
view others (more appreciatively), and how they receive new information or perspectives (more
openly).
Humility has also been connected to the concept of self-transcendence, or acknowledging
something greater than the self and connecting with things outside the self (Dennett, 1995; Tangney,
2000; Templeton, 1997). Accordingly, the proposed dimensions of humility: drawing attention to
others’ strengths, being open to others’ ideas and perspectives, and being willing to acknowledge
personal limits; are all manifestations of transcending the self (see Gordon, 2010; Morris,
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Brotheridge, & Urbanski, 2005; Seligman, 2002).
1
Leader 360-degree evaluation correlational
analyses (Owens & Hekman, 2012: 801–802) and confirmatory factor analyses empirically support
the co-occurrence of these three humility dimensions (Owens et al., 2013).
Like Costa and McCrae’s (1992) conceptualization of extraversion and agreeableness as
individual traits that are manifest on the “interpersonal plane,” we view humility as an individual
characteristic that “emerges in social interactions, is behavior based, and is recognizable to others”
(Owens et al., 2013: 1518). Though humility has been examined on the intrapersonal, cognitive level
(Roberts & Wood, 2003), our observable, social view of humility is appropriate since our purpose is
to understand humility as it pertains to leadership influence processes and team member interaction
patterns. A core premise of our theoretical model is that leaders’ modeling of humility is an
influential team input that will lead to positive team interpersonal processes, task processes, and
emergent states.
Many leadership writings assume that leaders shape group culture and values, and these
drive behaviors, which then determine group performance (Deal & Kennedy, 2000; see also Berson,
Da’as, & Waldman, 2014; Sun, Xu, & Shang, 2014). For example, transformational leaders, through
their powerful analogies, inspiring visions and uplifting stated values (Schein, 1990), produce a
“transformational culture,” which then in turn influences team performance behavior (i.e., Bass &
Avolio, 1993: 119; Parry & Proctor-Thomson, 2003). It may be that leaders are thought to first
1
While philosophical- and theological-based writings hold self-transcendence as the core underlying basis of humility
(Dennett, 1995; Tangney, 2002; Templeton, 1997), inductive examination of leaders and followers suggests that the core
underlying, unifying logic of humility in organizational contexts is centered on the concept of growth (Owens &
Hekman, 2012). Growth shares some similarity to transcendence in that growth implies conceiving of a higher state or
condition greater than one’s current self. However, growth extends beyond transcendence in that it also implies reaching
and stretching toward that higher state or ideal. An underlying sense of transcendence alone may still reflect the
weakness-based connotations of humility (i.e., that humility is merely a “monkish virtue” that serves no real or practical
purpose; see Hume, 1994: 219). In line with this, Grenberg (2005: 181) states that in the context of acknowledging God
or a higher ideal (i.e., connoting transcendence), “The humble person takes her awareness of limit as an impetus to
action instead of as a warrant for despairing inaction” (i.e., connoting growth). Thus, while classical ideas about humility
entail a transcendent perspective, we propose that it is one’s growth-oriented response to that transcendent perspective
that determines virtuous versus non-virtuous humility. It seems fitting that humility is centered in the concept of growth,
since its lexical roots (humus, meaning “earth,” and humi, meaning “from the ground”) reflect the origin from which
most things grow—the ground.
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shape group culture because many existing leadership theories describe leader behaviors that are not
directly imitable by team members and do not represent the modeling of effective team functioning
(e.g., charismatic behavior, setting up reward systems). However, when behaviors are more imitable,
such as those comprised in the dimensions of humility, we theorize a more complex dynamic:
humble leaders first unify follower behavior, which then produces a team culture or shared goal that
reflects that behavior (in our specific case, a collective promotion focus that reflects collective
humility), and ultimately influences team performance. We suggest that collective promotion focus
is a latter mediator that comes about through group member interactions (Mathieu, Maynard, Rapp,
& Gilson, 2008: 414).
2
Our model summary in Table 1 contains each team-construct type,
aggregation logic, definition, and function.
------------------------------------------------
Insert Table 1 about here
------------------------------------------------
Leader humility social contagion. Leaders are theorized to be vital in providing the
“enabling structure” (Burke et al., 2006: 289) for team functioning and performance largely by
modeling positive ways of interrelating: “leader behavior ‘models the way’ organizational/group
goals should be pursued” (Yaffe & Kark, 2011: 809), and leaders “model teamwork, or how team
members should work together” (Zaccaro et al., 2001: 468). Thus, leaders can have a vital influence
in shaping how team members interact through the leaders’ own social modeling (see Dragoni,
2005; Naumann & Ehrhart, 2005).
This social modeling idea fits with evidence that followers emulate leaders’ emotions
(Johnson, 2009; Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005) and behaviors (Fast & Tiedens, 2010; Visser, van
Knippenberg, van Kleef, & Wisse, 2013). For example, one study showed that followers emulate
2
“Emergent states are products of team experiences” (Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2001: 358), and “shared mental
models refer to common understanding established through experience among team members” (Zaccaro et al., 2002:
459).
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leaders’ citizenship behavior (Yaffe & Kark, 2011). Especially when faced with ambiguous
situations, such as judging appropriate workplace behavior, workers look to their leaders for
modeling context-appropriate behaviors (Festinger, 1954; Hardin & Higgins, 1996; Salancik &
Pfeffer, 1978). Followers may be especially likely to emulate their leaders because leaders have
positional power (Cialdini & Trost, 1998). As teams watch their leaders give away some of their
power by admitting limitations and mistakes, allowing themselves to be taught rather than doing all
the teaching, and drawing attention to others’ contributions and strengths, they reinforce a
cooperative, others-oriented interactive logic; they send a message about the value of collective
striving over personal status seeking. In contrast, some more traditional leadership approaches may
reinforce status-seeking or attention-getting behavior as team members try to mimic a leader’s
attempts to be impressive, decisive, charismatic, or inspirational.
We propose that when leaders model humble behavior, followers will emulate the behavior,
which creates the shared group behavior of collective humility. Thus, collective humility describes
team interaction patterns that reflect the dimensions of humility—that is, team members
acknowledge and appreciate each other’s strengths, listen to each other’s feedback and new ideas
with openness, and acknowledge mistakes and handle them constructively. Most recent attention
given to humility in organizational contexts focuses on humility as an individual-level trait in
leadership (Morris et al., 2005; Nielsen, Marrone, & Slay, 2010; Ou et al., 2014; Owens et al.
forthcoming; Reave, 2005), team-membership (Owens et al., 2013), and in relation to task
performance (Johnson, Rowatt, & Petrini, 2011). However, some writers have suggested that
humility can also be a group-level phenomenon, both as a property of teams (Owens & McCornack,
2010) and an attribute of entire organizations (Vera & Rodriguez-Lopez, 2004). We propose that
humility on the team level is an interpersonal team process that captures the three underlying
dimensions of humility as behavioral interaction patterns, similar to the behavior-based conception
of collective personality (Hofmann & Jones, 2005). We view individual and collective humility as
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functionally isomorphic (Morgeson & Hofmann, 1999), meaning both constructs produce
“regularized, consistent patterns of behavior that can be observed and described by others”
(Hofmann & Jones, 2005: 510). Given the equivalence of observable behavior, we operationalize a
referent-shift consensus composition model (Chan, 1998) that captures collective humility as a
group-level phenomenon.
However, collective humility differs from individual humility because it captures the idea
that expressions of humility may be socially bounded or mainly expressed toward members of one’s
own work group where such behaviors have become normal and valued. Thus, collective humility
more fully captures the dynamic, complementary, and co-occurring nature of the humility
dimensions playing out in a social context and captures the dynamics through which teams develop
collective qualities (Lewin, 1951). For example, acknowledging personal limitations may be easier,
or at least less socially risky, in a context where one’s strengths are recognized; transparency about
limitations and acknowledging others’ strengths makes being open to learning from others more
natural. The norm of reciprocity also suggests that a person receiving positive feedback about their
strengths or who is being listened to would be more likely to respond in kind (Cialdini, Vincent,
Lewis, Catalan, Wheeler, & Darby, 1975). In contrast, in a team where a member’s true strengths
are not acknowledged and valued, and where the member’s suggestions are not listened to, admitting
mistakes or weaknesses would be more difficult since the member may already feel underestimated
and undervalued. In sum, we theorize that leader displays of humble behavior will be emulated by
members of their team, reflecting a behavioral social contagion process.
Hypothesis 1. Team leader humility will positively predict collective humility.
Collective humility and collective promotion focus. Leader humble behavior is perceived by
followers as modeling how to grow and leads followers to feel that their own growth and
improvement processes are legitimate and necessary (Owens & Hekman, 2012). Thus, in an
organizational context, we expect that collective humility will orient teams toward focusing on
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maximizing team achievement, which is akin to emerging laboratory research on collective
promotion focus (Beersma et al., 2013; Dimotakis, Davison, & Hollenbeck, 2012). A collective
promotion focus is a shared team focus on progressively striving toward achieving the team’s
highest potential and leads group members to approach opportunities (Rietzschel, 2011) and
motivates group members to be “more focused on what they want to achieve than on what could go
wrong” (Beersma et al., 2013: 196). Indeed, “promotion-focused individuals are motivated mainly
by internal motives like growth, development, and self-actualization” (Kark & Van Dijk, 2007: 506;
see also Van Dijk & Kluger, 2004), as well as “advancement, growth, and accomplishment”
(Higgins, 1997: 1282). Certainly, individual-level promotion focus can be induced—either in the
laboratory or by a host of contextual factors (Cesario, Grant, & Higgins, 2004; Forster, Grant, Idson,
& Higgins, 2001; Forster, Higgins, & Bianco, 2003). Likewise, we propose that collective
promotion focus is a malleable team property that emerges or is shaped by team inputs, such as
leadership and team behavioral patterns. We theorize that the influence of leader humility on
collective promotion focus will work through the teamwork process of collective humility by
providing the opportunity, motivation, and ability for groups to focus on achieving their highest
potential.
First, the behavior of admitting mistakes and limitations provides the opportunity for a
collective promotion focus to emerge. Because a team’s collective effort comprises the aggregation
of individual inputs, acknowledging limitations and weaknesses allows teams to identify potential
areas for future improvement and minimizes the sting of failure by enabling team members to see
mistakes and failures as a result of a worthwhile struggle toward growth. This effort fits with the
idea of a collective promotion focus reflecting team members’ having a risk-seeking bias, based on
the beliefs that failures are necessary for continued success (Faddegon, Scheepers, & Ellemers,
2008: 880) and that missing an opportunity is far worse than making a mistake (Higgins, 1997).
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Second, the collective humble behavior of acknowledging team members’ strengths and
contributions motivates group members to focus on maximal group performance. Clarity of
capability leads to surer striving. Praising others for their strengths and contributions fosters an
awareness of exemplars on the team, social models for learning and leadership. Team members
receiving credit for their contributions gain immediate psychic rewards for improving and
performing. From a social exchange perspective (Homans, 1961), these motivational boosts assure
group members that applying extra effort to enable greater team achievement will be noticed and
appreciated. Thus, a collective promotion focus characterized by setting and striving toward lofty
performance aspirations is motivated by the belief that group members who contribute to the team
will be praised, appreciated, and acknowledged.
Likewise, as teams become aware of each member’s strengths and weaknesses through
collective humility, they are able to make more informed and effective task allocations across
members. In collectively humble teams, the underlying task selection logic would likely be one of
maximizing team achievements (i.e., a collective promotion focus) as opposed to other potential
logics (e.g., assigning the most desirable tasks to group members with the highest status; Klein,
Ziegert, Knight, & Xiao, 2006). Ultimately, understanding the unique skills and abilities of team
members could optimize team performance, because when team members understand how they fit
with the team (Kozlowski, Gully, Nason, & Smith, 1999; Mohammed, Klimoski, & Rentsch, 2000),
the team performs better (Lorinkova, Pearsall, & Sims, 2013).
Third, beyond producing the opportunity and motivation for a collective promotion focus to
emerge, collective humility fosters the ability for a collective promotion focus to permeate a group
through the interaction pattern of “teachability,” or openness to new ideas and feedback. Compared
with less open teams, teams that are open to feedback and new information are more likely to sense
collectively that seeking new attainments, future possibilities, and improvements is normal and
legitimate. Speaking openly, listening, and seeking new ideas are behaviors clearly associated with
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team learning and improvement (e.g., see Edmondson, 1999; Hirst, van Knippenberg, & Zhou,
2009). By seeking out and being receptive to new information, teams recognize new strategies for
enhanced effectiveness. In contrast, being closed to new ideas would signal a focus on maintaining
the status quo. This notion of a collective promotion focus orienting teams to strive toward
maximizing collective achievement is akin to a type of team-level self-regulation, which is thought
to be critical for team performance because it enables team members to self-manage their actions in
ways that benefit the group (Cohen, Ledford, & Spreitzer, 1996).
In sum, we theorize that collective humble behavior naturally produces the opportunity,
motivation, and ability for a collective promotion focus to emerge. This emergent state forms a
shared motivational logic that acts as a reference point toward which teams regulate themselves
(Schein, 1990) to achieve their highest potential.
Hypothesis 2. Collective humility will positively predict team collective promotion focus.
How leader humility influences team performance. Humility on the individual level has
been empirically shown to foster higher performance in both work and academic contexts (Johnson
et al., 2011; Owens et al., 2013). Humility is thought to enhance individual performance because
admitting weaknesses highlights growth opportunities, appreciating others’ strengths highlights
growth exemplars, and being teachable enables personal growth to occur (Owens et al., 2013). On
the team level, we propose that collective humility behavior enhances team performance through the
mechanism of collective promotion focus.
Collective promotion focus involves team members focusing on “collective” goals rather
than “personal” goals, and maximal “promotion” goals rather than minimal “prevention” goals
(Rietzschel, 2011). Goal-setting theory explains that individuals and teams are more likely to attain
what they intently and specifically focus on because they develop strategies for realizing their target
(Locke & Latham, 2002). While individual goals tend to benefit the individual (i.e., self-promotion),
collective goals sometimes require individuals to subjugate their personal interests in order to
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benefit the team (i.e., team promotion). Teams typically perform better when team members put the
team’s interests ahead of their own (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). Similarly, teams that are focused on
maximal team goals such as achieving team “gains” (i.e., promotion-focused teams) likely
outperform teams that are focused on minimal goals, such as “non-losses” (i.e., prevention-focused
teams), because such promotion-focused teams tend to have greater positive affect and task
satisfaction (Dimotakis et al., 2012: 426). When deciding whether to engage in a behavior,
promotion-focused team members determine whether the behavior helps the team and whether it
enables the team to attain maximal performance.
In summary, we theorize that teams with humble leaders will be characterized by collective
humble behaviors generating a strong team-promotion focus. In line with Marks and colleagues’
(2001) distinctions between team processes and team emergent states, we propose that humble
leaders’ behaviors contagiously lead to collective humility (a teamwork process marked by
behavioral similarity), which then leads to a strong collective promotion focus (a motivational
emergent state). This emergent state operates like a self-regulatory reference point toward which the
team regulates their behavior. Due to this collective promotion focus, we propose that teams will
continue to self-correct, self-reinforce, and self-monitor their actions toward realizing their
achievement-maximizing goal and attaining tangible gains in team performance. Thus:
Hypothesis 3. Collective humility and collective promotion focus will mediate the
relationship between leader humility and team performance such that leader humility will
foster collective humility, which will in turn foster collective promotion focus, which will in
turn enhance team performance.
To test our hypotheses, we ran three studies. We first sought to determine whether
manipulated leader humility led to higher levels of collective humility and, ultimately, to a team
collective promotion focus. Second, we conducted a team simulation study to examine whether our
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proposed team processes predicted team performance and to rule out alternative mechanisms.
Finally, we tested our entire model in a field study.
STUDY 1 (HAMMERCORP): LEADER HUMILITY, COLLECTIVE HUMILITY, AND
TEAM COLLECTIVE PROMOTION FOCUS
Participants
The experiment was conducted with 89 undergraduate business students taking a senior-level
organizational behavior course in a public northeastern US university. Participants were 57% Asian,
38% Caucasian, and 2% African American, with an average age of 22 years, with 39% being
female. Students received course credit for their participation.
Experiment Design and Procedure
The participants were randomly divided into 31 work teams and assigned to one of two
experimental conditions (16 teams in the humble leader condition and 15 teams in the nonhumble
leader condition). In order to create the manipulated condition for leader humility, we recruited four
research confederates to play the roles of the team leader and one of the team members. The
confederates were all Caucasian female students, with the average age of 22. Confederates had no
knowledge of study hypotheses. Before the experiment was initiated, we conducted several training
sessions over a two-week period to help these confederates act one of three different roles: the
humble leader, the nonhumble leader, and the talkative follower. The scripts for the
humble/nonhumble leaders included statements to the confederate follower that
validated/invalidated follower ideas (e.g., “Good suggestion” versus “No, let’s do it my way”),
praised/put down the follower (e.g., “You were awesome on that project” versus “Don’t be such a
slacker”), and vocalized limits/bragged about strengths (e.g., “I’m not sure I’m an HR expert” versus
“I’m so glad I’m the leader. This role really fits me.” A summarized script is given in the appendix;
a full script is available from the first author upon request). A manipulation check from two pretests
(e.g., humility ratings by four observers) showed that each of the four confederates were effective in
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acting the part of the humble or nonhumble leader role (mean humility ratings in these pretests were
4.52 for the humble condition and 3.00 for the non-humble condition; additional manipulation
checks are reported below).
Each experimental condition included two research confederates and two to three
participants. When they arrived at the laboratory room, the participants and the confederates were
told that they had been assigned to play the role of leader or follower; the roles of team leader and
one of the followers were always assigned to the confederates. Participants were then asked to
participate in a strategic HR program rank-ordering task for a fictional chain of hardware stores (i.e.,
HammerCorp). We carefully selected a task with which participants would have a chance to interact
in a way that humility could emerge (we encouraged interaction), where participants have varied
backgrounds (we sampled a wide cross-section of HR, finance, accounting, marketing, and IT
majors), and where the task had no clear right answer. We did this to foster an environment where
leader humility would be relevant and observable. It is important to note that team members were
together for over an hour, which is a meaningful amount of time to make social judgments (Kenny,
2004). At the beginning of the tasks and at several points throughout, the confederate leader and
follower engaged in scripted exchanges according to the script given for the respective experimental
condition.
After accomplishing the tasks, the participants and the confederates were asked to fill out a
survey that assessed team leader humility (as a manipulation check), collective humility, and team
collective promotion focus. Confederates’ survey responses were not included in the data analysis.
After completing the experiment, the experimenter debriefed the participants and informed them
about the purpose of the study. The confederates’ identities were revealed and participants were
asked not to discuss the experiment with other potential subjects.
Measures
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Leader humility. We measured leader humility using a 9-item other-report humility scale
that reflects the three proposed dimensions of humility and has shown strong predictive validity for
humility in a leadership role (Owens et al., 2013). Sample items include “This leader admits it when
he/she does not know how to do something,” “This leader shows a willingness to learn from others,”
and “This leader often compliments others on their strengths.” This scale reflects a direct-consensus
model (Chan, 1998), since the construct is captured via consensus of member perceptions of the
leader. The full set of items used in this study is included in the appendix. The alpha reliability for
this scale was .95.
Collective humility. Collective humility was measured using an adaptation of the 9-item
peer-report scale (Owens et al., 2013) aimed at assessing individual humility. In a preliminary study,
Owens and McCornack (2010) reported that team-level humility is psychometrically distinct from
the constructs of psychological safety (Edmondson, 1999), team cohesion (Podsakoff & MacKenzie,
1994), team demands-abilities fit (Abdel-Halim, 1981), and team potency (Campion, Medsker, &
Higgs, 1993). Items were adapted to reflect a team referent: “Members of this team admit it when
they don’t know how to do something,” “Members of this team show appreciation for the unique
contributions of other team members,” and “Members of this team are willing to learn from one
another.” The full set of items from this study appears in the appendix. As a referent-shift consensus
model (Chan, 1998), collective humility was operationalized to reflect shared perceptions; thus,
collective humility scores were averaged within each team. The alpha reliability for this measure
was .92.
Team collective promotion focus. We assessed collective promotion focus using Van Kleef,
van Trijp, and Luning’s (2005) shortened version of the Lockwood, Jordan, and Kunda (2002)
measure of individual-level promotion focus; again, we adapted it to the team level. This adaptation
was necessary because team collective promotion focus has been exclusively manipulated in
laboratory-based groups and has never been measured (Beersma et al., 2013; Dimotakis et al., 2012;
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Levine, Higgins, & Choi, 2000; Rietzschel, 2011). Items asked participants to indicate their team’s
collective focus on “attaining our ambitions,” “attainting the success we hope to achieve in the
future,” and “achieving our hopes and aspirations.” Like collective humility, team collective
promotion focus was operationalized as a referent-shift consensus model, and thus, scores were
averaged within each team. The full set of items is given in the appendix. The alpha reliability for
this scale was .82.
Though this measure captures our view of the core indicators of collective promotion focus,
we wanted to ensure that the new scale reflected our intended construct from the perspective of
respondents. To test the face validity of our scale items, we conducted a sorting task. Following
previous guidelines for studies involving item sorting (Anderson & Gerbing, 1991), we recruited 13
researchers to sort the 4 items along with foil items from two other team emergent state scales (a 7-
item team psychological safety scale from Edmondson, 1999, and a 5-item team-learning orientation
scale from Bunderson & Sutcliffe, 2003). After providing a definition for each construct,
participants were asked to assign each item to one of the construct categories according to their
respective construct definitions. The collective promotion focus items were correctly categorized in
50 of 52 instances (96%) of item categorizations. We viewed this result as strong evidence of the
face validity of the collective promotion focus items.
Controls. Our initial analysis approach, path analysis, and our smaller sample size limited
our ability to control for potential covariates of our study variables. However, our complementary,
bootstrapped, regression-based path analysis enabled us to control for average team size, which has
been shown to influence team process and function (Cummings, Huber, & Arendt, 1974; Hackman
& Vidmar, 1970; Menon & Phillips, 2011), and average team gender because female team members
may be more responsive to humble behaviors, which are more communal and more congruent to
female social preferences (Eagly, 2009). In this analysis, we also controlled for average team age
because humility has been theorized to be valued more by older individuals (Tangney, 2000).
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Analyses
To ensure construct distinctiveness, we conducted a series of confirmatory factor anlayses
(CFAs) using Amos 19 (Arbuckle, 2010). Since our sample size was too low for CFA testing (n =
89), to conduct CFA tests, we supplemented this sample by administering our survey to an
additional 153 students from the same university who were working in three-month project teams
but were not involved in the lab study, for a total CFA sample size of 240. We only used the
supplemental sample when conducting the CFA test, not when conducting inter-rater agreement or
any other analyses. We averaged the ratings of the 89 lab study participants after computing within-
group inter-rater agreement using the null distribution (r
wg
; James, Demaree, & Wolf, 1984) and
intraclass correlations (ICC; Bliese, 2000) to justify aggregation. We conducted a one-way ANOVA
mean comparison test to determine whether measured leader humility, collective humility, and
collective promotion focus were significantly different across the two conditions.
In testing our hypotheses, we use SEM path analyses (using Amos 19) to derive overall
model fit and path coefficients for each hypothesized study relationship. Given the team-level nature
of our model, we use manifest variables in our estimations. We report the Akaike’s information
criterion (AIC) to show fitness for the hypothesized mediation model relative to a direct effects rival
model (a smaller AIC value signifies a better model fit). Information criteria indices such as AIC are
used to compare nonhierarchical models for fitness and can be computed with models that have very
low degrees of freedom (Hooper, Coughlan, & Mullen, 2008). As a more rigorous test of our
mediation hypotheses, we use bootstrapped regression-based path analyses (i.e., PROCESS
software; Hayes, 2013; see also Preacher & Hayes, 2008) in which we included our control variables
as covariates. This approach entails randomly sampling 5,000 bootstrapped cases from the original
data to derive a bias corrected and accelerated 95% confidence interval that reflects the mediation
effect. This method helps to offset the weaknesses of the causal steps approach (for a review, see
Hayes, 2009; or MacKinnon, Lockwood, Hoffman, West, & Sheets, 2002).
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Results
The results of the CFA suggested that leader humility, collective humility, and team
collective promotion focus were distinct constructs as the three-factor solution (χ
2
: 295.96; df = 205;
RMSEA = .06; CFI = .97; TLI = .96) fit the data better than all other rival models as the change in
the χ
2
value was significant at the p < .001 level when comparing all other models. Average r
wg
scores for our study variables ranged from .72 to .84. The ICC(1) scores for our team construct
variables ranged from .24 to .47, and the ICC(2) scores ranged from .41 to .72. Though our ICC
scores were low, they are similar to the ICC values of other studies with similarly low average team
sizes (see Hofmann & Jones, 2005: 513). Lower average group sizes are said to result in a less
reliable mean (leading to lower ICC(2) values), likely attenuating relationships at the group level
(Bliese, 1998). This possible attenuation means that our results should be seen as conservative.
Collinearity diagnostic tests of measured study variables revealed that all variance inflation factor
values ranged from 1.00 to 1.86, well below standard cut-offs.
Table 2 contains the results of our bivariate correlation analysis, which revealed that the
manipulated leader condition (1 = humble leader condition; 0 = nonhumble leader condition)
was positively correlated with measured leader humility, collective humility, and collective
promotion focus. As a manipulation check, results of a one-way ANOVA test revealed that the
means in measured leader humility were significantly higher in the humble leader condition (M
= 4.14) than the nonhumble leader condition (M = 2.91, p < .001), suggesting our manipulation
was successful. The mean levels of collective humility and collective promotion focus were
also significantly higher in the humble leader condition than in the nonhumble leader condition
(p < .001). From our SEM path analysis, manipulated leader humility was related to collective
humility (b = .51, p < .001), and collective humility was related to collective promotion focus
(b = .69, p < .001). The AIC of the leader humility manipulated mediation model (AIC = 10.07)
was smaller than the rival model with direct paths modeled from leader and collective humility
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to promotion focus (AIC = 12.00). The same finding was observed for the leader humility
measured mediational model (AIC = 10.00) compared with the rival direct effects model (AIC
= 30.33), suggesting superior fit for the hypothesized model. Based on the results of our indirect
effects analyses (based on 5,000 bootstrapped samples), we observed that manipulated leader
humility predicted collective promotion focus through the mediator of collective humility (b =
.40; R
2
= .26, 95% CI: .14, .85). The 95% confidence interval for this path excluded zero, and
thus hypotheses 1 and 2 are supported. Any other ordered configuration of the path yielded an
indirect effect confidence interval that included zero (e.g., collective promotion focus predicting
collective humility), which lent additional support for our specific model.
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Insert Table 2 about here
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Discussion
The purpose of this study was to test the proposed relationship between leader humility,
collective humility, and team collective promotion focus, and to lend support for the causal flow of
our model by manipulating leader humility. As hypothesized, leader humility positively predicted
team collective promotion focus through collective humility. One limitation of this model was that
the teams were together during only a short period of time, yielding limited opportunity for team
processes and emergent states to truly unfold. Thus, to build off these findings, we used longitudinal
teams engaged in a simulation to examine the effect of collective humility and collective promotion
focus on team performance employing a controlled team simulation. We also included potential rival
mediators (e.g., team cohesion, team psychological safety) and a greater number of controls (e.g.,
prior team performance, number of competitors, team size, percent female, and average age) to
enhance confidence in our proposed theoretical path. Our aim with Study 2 was to gain further
support of our model by testing how our proposed team processes predicted objective team
performance independent of other team-level mediators.
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STUDY 2 (CARCORP): TEAM COLLECTIVE PROMOTION FOCUS MEDIATES THE
INFLUENCE OF TEAM COLLECTIVE HUMILITY ON TEAM PERFORMANCE
Participants and Procedures
Participants were 192 undergraduate business students enrolled in three upper-level business
strategy classes in a university in the midwestern United States. The students were randomly
assigned to 53 teams averaging 3.62 individuals; 61% were male, 39% were female; average age
was 23.21 years. Teams participated in a multistage computer simulation (CarCorp) created by
industry experts to reflect real auto-manufacturing market trends. The simulation, nearly identical to
business simulations used in previously published management articles (e.g., Bunderson, Van der
Vegt, & Sparrowe, 2013; Lorinkova et al., 2013), required multiple strategic decisions over the
course of 10 weeks (for an overview, see Interpretive Simulations, 2014). Teams competed for
market share and stock value. Each week the stock values were posted based on the effectiveness of
decisions made the previous week. At week 6, students independently rated their team on the team
variables (collective humility, promotion focus, cohesion, and psychological safety). Participants
received course credit for completing the online assessments (100% response rate).
Measures
All study survey measures were scaled to a 5-point agreement scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5
= strongly agree).
Collective humility. Collective humility was measured using the same 9-item scale that was
used in Study 1. The alpha reliability for this measure was .92.
Team collective promotion focus. Team collective promotion focus was measured using the
same 4-item scale used in Study 1. The alpha reliability for this scale was .92.
Team performance. Team performance was captured by the ending stock price reflecting the
value of each team’s company at the end of the simulation. The simulation was designed to capture
effective strategic decision-making responsiveness to changing situational demands throughout the
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simulation. Every team started at the same stock price ($50 per share), and the ending stock price
ranged from $1.79 to $172.25 per share.
Controls. Like Study 1, we measured and controlled for average team size, average team
gender, and average team age in our bootstrapped path analyses for indirect effects. In order to
demonstrate the generative effects of our proposed model on team performance, we also controlled
for the team stock price after the third round of the simulation. In addition, to account for the level
of industry competitiveness, we controlled for the number of other teams that each team was
competing against in the simulation. We also controlled for the rival mediators of team
psychological safety and cohesion by using Edmondson’s (1999) 7-item psychological safety
measure (e.g., “It is safe to take a risk on this team” and “Members of this team are able to bring up
problems and tough issues”; α = .75) and Podsakoff and MacKenzie’s (1994) 6-item team cohesion
scale (e.g., “There is a great deal of trust among members of my project team” and “The members of
my project team are cooperative with one another”; α = .92).
Analyses
We conducted a series of CFAs on all measured study varibles to ensure that they were
operationally distinct. Given that individual team members assessed team-level variables, we
averaged the ratings after computing within-group inter-rater agreement (r
wg
; James et al., 1984) and
ICCs (Bliese, 2000) to justify aggregation. As in Study 1, we conducted an initial SEM path
analysis (AMOS 19; Arbuckle, 2010) and reported the AIC to show fitness for the hypothesized
mediation model relative to a direct effects rival model, and then reported the results of our
bootstrapped regression-based path analyses (i.e., PROCESS software; Hayes, 2013; see also
Preacher & Hayes, 2008) as a more rigorous test of our mediation hypotheses because these analyses
included all of our control variables. Multicolinearity statistics were also calculated for all survey-
derived variables. All variance inflation factor values (VIF) were below the standard cutoffs that
signal potential multicolinearity problems (i.e., all VIF values were below 2.0).
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Results
The results of the CFA suggested that the hypothesized 5-factor model was the best fit, when
compared to the rival models (χ
2
: 696.91, df = 392; RMSEA = .06; TLI = .93; CFI = .93). The
change in the χ
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value was significant at the p < .001 level when comparing all rival models to the
proposed model. Average r
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for our team variables ranged from .09 to .45, and the ICC(2) scores ranged from .46 to .71. As
mentioned, our low average team size may explain the lower ICC(2) values (see Hofmann & Jones,
2005) and render our results more conservative. Given this and the fact that our r
wg
scores were
above standard cutoffs, we proceeded to aggregate member ratings of team level variables.
Table 3 displays the means, standard deviations, and descriptive statistics of our study
variables, and Table 4 contains the results of our indirect effects analyses (based on 5,000
bootstrapped samples). From our SEM path analysis results, the path coefficients suggest that
collective humility was positively related to collective promotion focus (b = .55, p < .001), and
collective promotion focus was related to team performance (b = .45, p < .001). The AIC of the
hypothesized mediation model was smaller than the rival model with direct paths from collective
humility and collective promotion focus to team performance (17.58 vs. 34.89), suggesting superior
fit for the hypothesized model. As model 1 shows (in Table 4), collective humility positively
predicted team performance through the mediator of collective promotion focus (b = .42, 95% CI:
.07, 1.08) and when controlling for psychological safety and team cohesion. The overall model
explained 46% of the variance in team performance (R
2
= .46), supporting hypothesis 2. To test
alternative paths using other mediators, we examined 6 other potential mediated models.
Specifically, we tested whether team cohesion and team psychological safety culture mediated
between collective humility and team performance instead of collective promotion focus. We also
tested models that included cohesion and psychological safety as additional mediators along with
collective promotion focus. In all alternate models, the 95% confidence intervals straddled zero,
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indicating these paths were not statistically significant (see Table 4). Thus, our hypothesized team
process mediation model was supported while rival models were not.
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Discussion
The purpose of this study was to test the proposed relationship between collective humility
and team performance, with team collective promotion focus as a mediator. As hypothesized, in this
controlled lab simulation, collective humility positively predicted team collective promotion focus
and team performance. Furthermore, team collective promotion focus mediated the relationship
between collective humility and team performance. We included team cohesion and team
psychological safety as controls in our model to examine whether our model predicted performance
unique from these other variables. We were unable to identify any path where these rival variables
mediated the relationship between collective humility and team performance. Thus, our proposed
model explains team performance unique from these established constructs. As collective humility
positively predicted objective performance in this competitive auto industry simulation, this may
provide support for the proposed idea that humility can be a source of competitive advantage (Vera
& Rodriguez-Lopez, 2004).
Studies 1 and 2 suggest isolated support for key parts of our theoretical model: manipulated
leader humility predicts collective humility and team collective promotion focus (Study 1);
collective humility predicts team performance, and this relationship is mediated by team collective
promotion focus (Study 2). To build upon these studies, we sought to replicate and extend these
findings by testing the entire model with a field sample. We also included a measure of
transformational leadership to distinguish the impact of leader humility from this established
leadership construct. As Schaubroeck, Lam, and Peng (2011: 869) summarize, “To date
transformational leadership is arguably the most reliable and potent mainstream leadership behavior
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variable for predicting team performance.” One theorized difference between these leadership
approaches is the imitability of behaviors. With the exception of consideration, the dimensions of
idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation are arguably not as
imitable by team members compared with the behaviors comprising humility. These
transformational leadership dimensions “collectively inspire followers to achieve more than was
thought possible [by] encourag[ing] followers to question assumptions and think about new ways of
doing tasks” (Williams et al., 2010: 306). Though leader encouragement is important, the influence
of humility comes more through modeling rather than encouragement or exhortation, which in turn
leads to social emulation of the leader’s behaviors. Thus, while Schaubroeck et al. (2011) found that
transformational leadership influenced team performance through cognitive-based trust and team
potency, we wanted to see whether it would also predict team performance through collective
humility and collective promotion focus, or if this pathway for enhancing team performance was
unique to leader humility. In this study, we were also able to measure and test one theorized result of
collective humility that is proposed to foster effective team functioning: task allocation effectiveness
among team members.
STUDY 3 (HEALTHCORP): TESTING THE FULL MODEL IN THE FIELD
Participants and Procedures
Participants were 326 health services employees organized into 77 work teams (average team
size = 4.23, 66% female, average age 38 years, 77% Caucasian). This health services company,
hereafter called HealthCorp, has offices and clientele throughout the United States and in Puerto
Rico and Great Britain. As part of an annual organizational assessment of culture, we added
measures of leader humility, transformational leadership, collective humility, team collective
promotion focus, and leader-rated team performance. Ideally, we would have temporally separated
all subjective measures, but HealthCorp allowed us to administer only two separate surveys.
Therefore, Time 1 included an assessment of employee-rated leader humility and transformational
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leadership (response rate 67%). Time 2, approximately one month later, assessed employee-rated
collective humility and team collective promotion focus (response rate 54%). At Time 2, leaders
rated their team’s performance (response rate 74%).
Measures
All study measures were scaled to a 5-point agreement scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 =
strongly agree).
Leader humility. Leader humility was measured using the same 9-item scale used in Studies
1 and 2. The alpha reliability for this scale was .97.
Collective humility. Collective humility was measured using the same 9-item scale used in
Studies 1 and 2. The alpha reliability for this measure was .96.
Team collective promotion focus. Team collective promotion focus was measured using the
same 4-item scale used in Studies 1 and 2. The alpha reliability for this scale was .93.
Team performance. Team performance was measured using an adapted 4-item scale
(Walumbwa, Avolio, & Zhu, 2008). Sample items include “In your estimation, how effectively does
this team get their work done?” and “How would you judge the overall quality of the work
performed by this team?” The full set of items appears in the appendix, and the alpha reliability
score for this scale was .96.
Controls. As in the previous studies, we measured and controlled average team size, average
gender, and average age in our bootstrapped path analyses. We also controlled for employee ratings
of leader transformational leadership to observe the impact of leader humility beyond this
commonly studied construct. We measured transformational leadership using the 16-item
assessment that captured the 4 dimensions of transformational leadership from the MLQ-5X (Bass
& Avolio, 1990). The alpha reliability for this scale was .96.
Analyses
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We conducted a CFA to determine the distinctiveness of all study variables and calculated
r
wg
and ICC values to justify aggregating individual assessments to the team level. Like Studies 1
and 2, we conducted an initial SEM path analysis (AMOS 19; Arbuckle, 2010) and report the AIC to
show fitness for the hypothesized mediation model relative to a direct effects rival model. We then
report the results of our bootstrapped regression-based path analyses (i.e., PROCESS software;
Hayes, 2013; see also Preacher & Hayes, 2008) as a more rigorous test of our mediation hypotheses.
Results
The results of CFA analyses suggested that 5-factor model (χ
2
: 1454.75, df = 838; RMSEA =
.06, CFI = .93, TLI = .93) fit the data better than all other rival models (e.g., those combining our
leadership constructs, our team constructs, or both) as these rival models had CFI and TLI values
that were below .90, RMSEA values above .06, and significant ∆χ
2
values at the p < .001 level. For
our aggregation tests, the average r
wg
scores for our team-level variables ranged from .79 to .96. The
ICC(1) scores for each team-level construct ranged from .07 to .19. The ICC(2) scores for each
team-level construct ranged from .25 to .50. For each team-level variable, between group-level
effects were significant at the p < .05 level, suggesting a team-level effect. Thus, we felt justified in
aggregating the scores to the team level. As mentioned, our low average team size may explain the
lower ICC(2) values (see Hofmann & Jones, 2005). Multicollinearity diagnostic tests revealed that
all variance inflation factor values were below the standard cutoffs that signal potential
multicolinearity problems (i.e., all VIF values were below 3.0).
As Table 5 shows, bivariate correlation analyses provided initial support for our proposed
relationships.
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Insert Tables 5 and 6 about here
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From our path analysis, the path coefficients suggest that leader humility was related to
collective humility (b = .30, p < .05), collective humility was related to collective promotion focus
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(b = .67, p < .001), and collective promotion focus was related to team performance (b = .47, p <
.001). The AIC of the hypothesized mediation model was smaller than the rival model with direct
paths modeled from leader humility, collective humility, and collective promotion focus to team
performance (17.37 vs. 55.15), suggesting superior fit for the hypothesized mediation model. Table
6 contains the results of our indirect effects analyses (based on 5,000 bootstrapped samples). In this
table, model 1 shows that when all control variables and transformational leadership were included,
leader humility had an indirect effect on team performance through collective humility and team
collective promotion focus (b = .04; 95% CI .01, .13). The overall model explained 26% of the
variance in team performance (R
2
= .26). We also examined whether leader humility influences team
performance through only one of our proposed mediators (i.e., either collective humility or
collective promotion focus) and found no support for these single-mediator models. (See models 2
and 3.) To more fully establish the unique effect of leader humility, we reran all bootstrapped
analyses with transformational leadership as the main predictor (replacing leader humility in the
model; see models 4 through 6), and the confidence intervals for all potential mediational paths
straddled zero (whether or not we controlled for leader humility). Finally, we examined whether
transformational leadership might mediate between leader humility and team performance in
addition to our proposed mediators of collective humility and collective promotion focus (model 7),
and again the confidence interval straddled zero.
Furthermore, to strengthen the causal direction of our model, we also reran the model in the
reverse direction (team performance team collective promotion focus collective humility
leader humility), and the results were not significant. Thus, the results of the AIC and bootstrapping
analyses support hypotheses 1 through 3 and the causal direction of our proposed mediation model.
Overall, these results suggest that leader humility influences team performance through a two-stage
process of collective humility and then collective promotion focus. Moreover, this path from
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leadership to team performance is distinct from the process linking transformational leadership to
team performance.
Post hoc test. In our rationale for hypothesis 2, we theorized that collective humility would
foster better awareness of team member unique strengths leading to task allocation effectiveness,
which would in turn foster a focus on optimizing team achievement, or collective promotion focus.
In our Study 3 data, we also had a measure of “team demands-abilities fit” (Abdel-Halim’s [1981] 5-
item individual-level measure aggregated it to the team level;
3
sample items include “I feel that my
team tasks and I are well matched,” and “My team tasks give me a chance to do the things I feel I do
best”). As a post hoc test, we added this potential mediator to our bootstrapped indirect effect
analyses. We found that team demands-abilities fit mediated between collective humility and
promotion focus culture when including all controls. In other words, the 95% confidence interval for
the bootstrapped indirect effect analysis did not straddle zero (i.e., [.004, .08]) for the following
model: leader humility collective humility team demands-abilities fit promotion focus
culture team performance. Thus, teams expressing high levels of humble behavior tended to have
a better fit between team member skills and task demands, which led to a team promotion focus
culture and to higher team performance.
Discussion
The purpose of Study 3 was to test our full conceptual model with an organizational field
sample. The triangulation of our three studies lends strong support to leader humility being an
important antecedent to team performance and influencing team performance through the two-stage
process of collective humility and collective promotion focus. We also differentiated the impact of
leader humility from transformational leadership by controlling for this construct and rerunning the
model with transformational leadership as the independent variable. We view the fact that
3
Average r
wg
= .86, ICC(1) = .10; ICC (2) = .24; α = .85.
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transformational leadership did not predict collective humility or collective promotion focus as
evidence for the differential impact of the specific, imitable behaviors comprised in leader humility.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
The most important contribution our research makes is to help illuminate how one
nontraditional leadership approach, leader humility, influences team performance. Though leader
humility is one of many leadership approaches that have recently been found to foster positive
effects on teams (e.g., Gelfand, Leslie, Keller, & de Dreu, 2012; Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser,
2014; Schaubroeck et al., 2011; Yaffe & Kark, 2011), this effort sought to illuminate how leader
humility is uniquely situated to foster some of the core team effectiveness processes that teams
theorists have identified. Specifically, we found that humble leader behaviors influenced group
performance by fostering the constructive interpersonal processes inherent in collective humility and
by catalyzing a specific collective regulatory focus. Post hoc analyses in Study 3 also confirmed that
the theorized mechanism of task allocation effectiveness also mediated the effect of leader humility
and team performance. Certainly, the model we proposed and tested could apply to many types of
leader behaviors: leaders model a behavior, followers emulate it, a strategic orientation is created,
and this strategic focus influences performance. Our process model for how leaders influence group
performance may help provide insight about how leaders so greatly affect firm performance (e.g.,
CEOs account for 38.5% of the variance in firm performance; Hambrick & Quigley, 2014), leading
us to inquire whether imitable CEO behaviors shape performance enhancing interaction patterns
and, turn in, strategic foci, throughout the organization.
Our findings also inform the leadership literature by showing that leaders who express
humility may help their teams to transcend the comparative-competitive social lens that often leads
to overestimating oneself and underestimating others, which is arguably a poor foundation for
effective teamwork (see Anderson, Srivastava, Beer, Spataro, & Chatman, 2006; Lauber, Baetge, &
Acomb, 1986). Our theoretical rationale and empirical findings also contribute to the leadership
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literature by underscoring the importance of leading by example, and may help explain why
followers view leader hypocrisy so harshly (Dufresne & Clair, 2013; Quinn, 2004). Indeed,
Dasborough, Ashkanasy, Tee, and Tse (2009) found that leader insincerity produced negative
follower emotions, such as cynicism toward the leader. Hypocrisy, or incongruence between leader
behaviors and espoused values (Quinn, 2004), is thought to be a major weakness resulting from the
more visionary styles of leadership (Cha & Edmondson, 2006). In fact, this finding of hypocrisy
flowing from charismatic leadership may have partly motivated the growth of values-based
leadership, or leadership that is aligned with the “authentic, true self” (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans,
May, & Walumbwa, 2005: 344; Sparrowe, 2005). Our theoretical rationale and empirical findings
suggest that followers are closely attuned to leaders’ behaviors, and the specific behaviors that
leaders model can profoundly influence team interaction processes and performance.
Like Schaubroeck and colleagues (2011), we explored two types of leadership in our last
study and found that while transformational leadership was positively associated with team
performance (see Table 6), its effect did not manifest through the same path as leader humility.
Though Schaubroeck and colleagues (2011) revealed that transformational leadership influences
team performance by fostering cognition-based trust and team potency, leader humility’s influence
was through contagion of the behaviors themselves, shaping specific teamwork and regulatory-focus
aspects of team functioning. Perhaps one reason why transformational leadership did not predict
performance as strongly in this circumstance is that this performance circumstance did not warrant a
new compelling vision or was not one of “extreme challenge, stress, and uncertainty,” which are
situations when transformational leadership is theorized to be most important (Bass, 1985: 815). In
contrast, qualitative evidence suggests that leader humility is less effective in times marked by
extreme threat or time pressure (Owens & Hekman, 2012). Thus, leader humility may be more
beneficial to team effectiveness relative to transformational leadership during everyday challenges
(times of low-to-moderate amounts of challenge, stress, pressure, or threat). It would be meaningful
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for future research to explore the relative benefits of both forms of leadership across different types
of situations—specifically, whether leader humility would be less effective when more directive,
power-centralized styles of leadership are required.
Our results also contribute to the burgeoning literature examining humility, and contribute to
the debate about its worthiness as a virtue (Grenberg, 2005; Exline & Geyer, 2004; Owens, Rowatt,
& Wilkins, 2011). This effort represents additional evidence for the strengths-based view of
humility, that it is a virtue foundational to progress and development and has tangible value in
organizational contexts. Far from being a sign of weak-willed, stooped-shouldered meekness (see
Tangney, 2000), humility keeps individuals in a state of continual adaptation. Our findings suggest
that humility appears to embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to
make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential. These studies are
also the first empirical effort to confirm the contagious nature of humility as leader-modeled
humility fostered collective humility in teams. The implications are clear: individuals must act
virtuously if they want virtue to spread. Organizational members can develop virtues by practicing
them, and virtue abilities, like physical abilities, are subject to development or deterioration (Vera &
Rodriguez-Lopez, 2004; see also Dunning, 1995). Future research should examine whether our
model holds for other virtues, such as courage (Koerner, 2014; Schilpzand, Hekman, & Mitchell,
forthcoming) or compassion (Rynes, Bartunek, Dutton, & Margolis, 2012), and whether these
virtuous behaviors enhance or undermine group performance.
Lastly, our model also contributes to the vast regulatory focus literature (Beersma et al.,
2013; Dimotakis et al., 2012; Higgins, 1997; Rietzschel, 2011). Specifically, our findings advance
regulatory focus research by (1) identifying an important team outcome that results from collective
promotion focus, and (2) identifying specific leader and team behaviors that foster a collective
promotion focus. Our field-based examination of collective promotion focus is novel, as, to our
knowledge, this construct has been exclusively manipulated among laboratory-based groups rather
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than measured among naturally occurring groups found in field settings (Beersma et al., 2013;
Dimotakis et al., 2012; Levine et al., 2000; Rietzschel, 2011). Our findings also explain how this
strategic orientation might emerge from team behaviors, such as collective humility, which is a
novel antecedent of a collective promotion focus. These results build on findings that a collective
promotion focus can spring from group mottos (Faddegon et al., 2008) as well as team reward
structures (Levine et al., 2000). As this research focused only on promotion regulatory focus, it
would be meaningful for future research to explore the association of leader and team humility and
prevention regulatory focus. It may be that leader humility is negatively related to team performance
in situations that may call for a prevention regulatory focus, such as high reliability contexts
(Roberts, 1990). Future research should also explore specific team behaviors spurred by a team
promotion focus. Although post hoc analysis of our Study 2 data suggested that resource investment
behavior (millions of dollars invested into increasing factory capacity, new product launches, and
research and development) mediated the influence of promotion focus climate on team performance
(i.e. stock price), we recommend that future research more directly theorize and test specific team
behaviors fostered by collective promotion focus that enhance performance.
Strengths, Limitations, and Future Research
This series of studies has several strengths, including three samples used in experimental,
simulation, and longitudinal field designs. We also used objective and subjective team performance
measures, which further enhanced confidence in our theoretical predictions (Campbell, Stanley, &
Gage, 1963). Thus, we took advantage of the strengths of the rigor and internal validity of laboratory
contexts as well as the power and generality of field contexts.
Although our studies in aggregate strongly support our model, the studies had individual
limitations that should be noted. In our studies, collective humility and team collective promotion
focus were measured from the same sources at the same time. Thus, the relationship between the
variables may be inflated because of common method variance (CMV). However, as reported in the
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results section, the two constructs loaded onto separate factors, and regression analyses showed that
multicollinearity was not a concern in any of our studies. In addition, CMV could not explain the
relationship between our predictors and team performance, because team performance in Studies 2
and 3 were assessed by a different source. To further allay concern over CMV, we recommend
future research replicate our findings by examining different operationalizations of collective
humility and team collective promotion focus, such as behavioral or extra-team observer
assessments. Our studies are also limited in that all were conducted with Western samples and thus
their generalizability to Eastern contexts is unclear. We recommend future research to try to
replicate our findings using samples from Eastern contexts.
Though it appears that leader and collective humility fosters team performance effectiveness
in a simulated auto industry and in a health services context, future research should also explore
various team contexts with varying levels of task specialization, hierarchical adherence, collective
humility dispersion, and time pressure. For example, leader and collective humility may have
different effects within a Navy Seals squad, Marine infantry platoon, basketball team, or heart
surgery unit. We can also see the benefits of exploring the level of disjunctivneness (vs.
conjunctiveness) of team tasks (Steiner, 1972) to understand boundary conditions for the
effectiveness of collective humility, and the impact of leader humility on teams with different types
of interdependence, such as pooled, sequential, or reciprocal. Lastly, future research should explore
other potential antecedents of collective humility besides immediate leader modeling, such as higher
level or executive leader modeling, shared team leadership structures, and demographic or
functional diversity.
CONCLUSION
Leadership is the most important contextual factor in shaping team performance (Hambrick
& Quigley, 2014). Our theoretical rationale and empirical findings help extend and enrich theory
showing that imitable leader behaviors, like those comprised in humility, are an important
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mechanism for influencing team performance. Specifically, followers emulate leader behaviors,
which generate a shared team regulatory orientation that ultimately influences team performance.
This research also provides evidence toward the idea that historic virtues do still have relevance in
predicting important, bottom-line outcomes. We hope that the theory and findings reported here spur
further theoretical and empirical attention toward better understanding of the relevance and process
of imitable leader behaviors within team contexts.
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TABLE 1
Model Summary
Construct Name Leader Humility
Collective Humility
Collective Promotion Focus
Team Performance
Team Construct Type Team Input Teamwork: Interpersonal
Process
Emergent State: Shared
Motivation
Team Output
Aggregation Logic/
Operationalization
Composition: Direct
Consensus
Composition: Referent-Shift
Consensus
Composition: Referent-Shift
Consensus
Compilation
Definition Leaders modeling to followers
the behaviors of admitting
mistakes and limitations,
spotlighting follower strengths
and deflecting praise to others,
and being teachable—open to
new ideas, advice, and
feedback
An interpersonal team process
that captures the three
underlying dimensions of
humility as behavioral
interaction patterns of
admitting mistakes and
limitations, spotlighting
follower strengths and
deflecting praise to others, and
being open to new ideas,
advice, and feedback
A collective team focus on
progressively striving toward
achieving the team’s highest
potential
Function Exemplification of behaviors
that foster effective team
interrelating, task
coordination, and self-
management
Patterns of interrelating that
foster voice, disclosure of
limits, and identification of
unique member strengths or
expertise
A shared motivational logic that
unifies regulatory focus toward
attaining the team’s highest
possible performance
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TABLE 2
Study 1: HammerCorp Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
a
M sd 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Collective promotion focus 3.56 .88 ~
2. Team size 2.83 .79 -.14 ~
3. Percent female .39 .49 .15 .03 ~
4. Average age 21.63 3.16 -.04 -.14 .03 ~
5. Undergraduate year
b
3.51 .53 .23 -.17 -.03 .34 ~
6. Leader humility (manipulated)
c
.52 .50 .33 -.00 -.10 -.11 -.05 ~
7. Leader humility (measured) 3.56 1.06 .49 .04 .23 -.25 .02 .58 ~
8. Collective humility 3.57 .90 .59 -.03 .23 -.16 .13 .40 .63
All correlations greater than .23 are significant at p < .05.
a
N = 31 teams.
b
1 = freshman, 4 = senior.
c
1 = humble leader condition, 0 =
nonhumble leader condition. The between team variances for leader humility, collective humility, and collective promotion focus are
2.03, 1.12, and 1.11, respectively.
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TABLE 3
Study 2: CarCorp Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
a
M sd 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. T2 stock price 54.00 44.68 ~
2. Team size 3.62 .60 -.34 ~
3. T1 stock price 45.56 1.94 .25 -.09 ~
4. Number of competitors 1.58 .66 -.01 .03 .39 ~
5. Percent female .61 .26 .09 .03 -.01 .04 ~
6. Average age (years) 23.21 1.42 .17 .02 -.05 -.28 -.07 ~
7. Team psychological safety 5.60 .55 .41 -.26 .08 -.11 .08 .07 ~
8. Team cohesion 5.46 .83 .24 -.20 .01 -.02 .13 -.10 .83 ~
9. Collective humility 4.03 .26 .41 -.02 .06 -.08 -.07 .13 .58 .59 ~
10. Collective promotion focus 5.59 .73 .45 -.13 .09 -.06 .07 -.08 .55 .57 .55
a
N = 53 teams. All correlations greater than .26 are significant at p < .05. T1 and T2 refer to Time 1 and Time 2 survey administrations. The between team
variances for collective humility, collective promotion focus, team cohesion, and psychological safety are .33, 1.38, 2.79, and 1.18, respectively.
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TABLE 4
Study 2: CarCorp Bootstrapped Indirect Effect Model Comparison Analyses on the Mediating Role of Team Collective Promotion Focus
in the Collective Humility–Team Performance Relationship
Indirect Paths Indirect
Effect
b
Bootstrapped
Standard Error
t Bias corrected and
accelerated 95% confidence
interval
1.
Collective humility
Collective promotion focus
Team performance .42 .21 1.99*
(95% CI: .07, 1.08)
2. Collective humility Team cohesion Team performance -.35 .12 -1.12 (95% CI: -1.25, .03)
3. Collective humility Team psychological safety Team performance .10 .20 .51 (95% CI: -.10, .75)
4. Collective humility Promotion focus culture Team cohesion Team
performance
-.06 .18 .77 (95% CI: -.35, .02)
5. Collective humility Collective promotion focus Team psychological
safety Team performance
.04 .09 .44 (95% CI: -.03, .37)
6. Collective humility Team cohesion Collective promotion focus Team
performance
.05 .07 .71 (95% CI: -.03, .29)
7. Collective humility Team psychological safety Collective promotion
focus Team performance
.02 .05 .42 (95% CI: -.01, .21)
* p < .05. Bootstrapped results are based on 5,000 samples (see Preacher & Hayes, 2008). All models contain the following predictor/control variables: team size,
T1 stock price, number of competitors, percent female, average age, team psychological safety, team cohesion, collective humility, and team promotion focus
culture.
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TABLE 5
Study 3: HealthCorp Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
a
M sd 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Team performance 3.64 .55 ~
2. Percent female .66 .32 .09 ~
3. Team size 4.23 2.73 -.13 .23 ~
4. Average age 38.18 5.29 -.03 -.02 -.18 ~
5. Leader humility 3.87 .59 .21 .17 .02 -.07 ~
6. Collective humility 3.72 .55 .42 .20 -.15 .17 .33 ~
7. Collective promotion focus 5.37 .80 .44 .25 -.25 .03 .36 .68 ~
8. Transformational leadership 3.51 .70 .25 .21 .17 -.09 .53 .16 .22
a
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collective humility, collective promotion focus, and transformational leadership were 1.08, 1.39, 1.41, and 1.53, respectively.
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TABLE 6
Study 3: HealthCorp Bootstrapped Indirect Effect Model Comparison Analyses on the Influence of Leader Humility on Team
Performance through Collective Humility and Collective Promotion Focus
a
Indirect Paths Indirect Effect
b
Bootstrapped
Standard Error
t Indirect Effects (Bias
corrected and accelerated
95% confidence interval)
1. Leader humility
Collective humility
Collective
Promotion focus
Team performance
.04 .02 2.02* (95% CI: .01, .13)
2. Leader humility Collective promotion focus Team
performance
.02 .03 .73 (95% CI: -.01, .12)
3. Leader humility Collective humility Team performance .03 .03 .99 (95% CI: -.01, .13)
4. Transformational leadership Collective humility Collective
promotion focus Team performance
.00 .00 .00 (95% CI: -.04, .02)
5. Transformational leadership Collective promotion focus
Team performance
.01 .02 .47 (95% CI: -.02, .07)
6. Transformational leadership Collective humility Team
performance
-.01 .02 .46 (95% CI: -.08, .02)
7. Leader humility Transformational leadership Collective
humility Collective promotion focus Team performance
-.00 .01 -.16 (95% CI: -.03, .01)
a
*
p < .05; Bootstrapped results are based on 5,000 samples (see Preacher & Hayes, 2008). All models contain the following predictor/control variables: percent
female, team size, average age, leader humility, collective humility, promotion focus culture, and transformational leadership.
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FIGURE 1
Study 3 Structural Equation Modeling Path Analysis
a
a
Path weights represent standardized path coefficients. Fit of the hypothesized mediation model (AIC = 17.37) was superior to the rival model where direct
paths were modeled between all study variables and team performance (AIC = 55.15). * p < .05, *** p < .001.
.35
.20
.27
.47***
.30*
.67***
.47***
.20
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Appendix: Survey Measure Items
Leader Humility (adapted from Owens, Johnson, & Mitchell, 2013)
This leader actively seeks feedback, even if it is critical.
This leader admits it when he or she doesn’t know how to do something.
This leader acknowledges when others have more knowledge and skills than himself or herself.
This leader takes notice of others’ strengths.
This leader often compliments others on their strengths.
This leader shows appreciation for the unique contributions of others.
This leader shows a willingness to learn from others.
This leader shows he or she is open to the advice of others.
This leader shows he or she is open to the ideas of others.
Collective Humility (adapted from Owens, Johnson, & Mitchell, 2013)
Members of this team actively seek feedback, even if it is critical.
Members of this team admit it when they don’t know how to do something.
Members of this team acknowledge when others have more knowledge and skills they do.
Members of this team take notice of each other’s strengths.
Members of this team often complement one another on their strengths.
Members of this team show appreciation for the unique contributions of other group members.
Members of this team are willing to learn from one another.
Members of this team are open to the ideas of one another.
Members of this team are open to the advice of one another.
Team Collective Promotion Focus (adapted from Lockwood, Jordan, & Kunda, 2006)
In general, our team is focused on . . .
. . . attaining our ambitions.
. . . becoming the team we hope to become in the future.
. . . attaining the success we hope to achieve in the future.
. . . achieving our hopes and aspirations.
Team Performance (leader rating; Walumbwa, Avolio, & Zhu, 2008)
All in all, how competently does the team perform its work?
In your estimation, how effectively does the team get its work done?
How would you judge the overall quality of the work performed by the team?
How would you judge the overall perceived competence of the team?
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Appendix: Study 1 Humble/Non-humble leader dialogue
Humble leader condition:
Initiating task:
Humble leader confederate: Let’s start. What do you guys think about how to do the ranking task? I’m not
sure I’m an HR expert, but I’ve a suggestion—How about doing the ranking in an ascending order? That
is, rank the items from 1 to 20, from the most valuable practices to the least valuable ones.
Follower confederate: I’ve another idea. How about we start by putting a plus next to the best ones and a
minus next to the ones we think are bad? So we do a first cut at the items, and then after that we go
through and rank them individually?
Humble leader confederate: Yes, great idea! What do the rest of you think? Although I’m the leader, I
may not be the smartest in HR practices and I welcome your suggestions.
(wait for others to respond, listen and nod)
Follower confederate: Having a first cut at the items makes things easier.
Humble leader confederate: I really appreciate all these great ideas. Let’s do what Sarah has suggested.
Follower confederate: Yes!
Humble leader confederate: Good! Let’s start!
During team discussion time
Humble leader confederate: (Item 15) Employee commitment is important for the company. This might
be a good way to increase their commitment. What do you guys think?
Follower confederate: I think raising money for Planned Parenthood will cause conflict in the
organization. Probably that is not one of the best ideas, even though personally I might think it’s a good
idea.
Humble leader confederate: Good point. It can be both good and bad. Any thoughts?
(wait for others to respond, listen and nod)
Humble leader confederate: Good idea! Great, let’s keep going!
Non-humble leader condition:
Initiating task:
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Non-humble leader confederate: Let’s start. As I’m the leader, I hope you guys can follow my suggestion.
Can you guys start by ranking in an ascending order? That is, rank the items from 1 to 20, from the most
valuable practices to the least valuable ones.
Follower confederate: I’ve another idea. How about putting a plus next to the best ones and a minus next
to the ones we think are bad? So we do a first cut at the items, and then after that we go through and rank
them individually?
Non-humble leader confederate: No, let’s follow my suggestion. I like my way more. I am so glad I was
chosen to be the leader. The role really fits my personality.
Follower confederate: But I think my way is also good.
Non-humble leader confederate: No, just follow my way. Let’s start.
During team discussion time
Non-humble leader confederate: (Item 15) Employee commitment is important for the company. This
might be a good way to increase their commitment.
Follower confederate: I think raising money for Planned Parenthood will cause conflict in the
organization. Probably that is not one of the best ideas, even though personally I might think it’s a good
idea.
Non-humble leader confederate: I don’t think so. Let’s move on to the next item.
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Bradley P. Owens (bpo@byu.edu) is an assistant professor in the Marriott School of
Management at Brigham Young University. He holds a Ph.D. in management from the
University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. His current research focuses on positive
organizational scholarship as it relates to leadership, identity, team processes, energy at work,
and ethics.
David R. Hekman (david.hekman@colorado.edu) earned his Ph.D at the University of
Washington's Foster School of Business and is an associate professor of management and
entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business. He is focused on
improving organizational health by examining sources of professional workers’ (e.g. doctors,
lawyers, and professors) motivation, sources and outcomes of virtuous leadership, and remedies
for pervasive workplace racial and gender biases.
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... seek new insights from others through "a multifaceted lens that sees a variety of character strengths and skill sets others possess" (Owens et al., 2013(Owens et al., , p. 1520. Such an approach can prompt leaders to reflect on how they and their followers can do better, which increases their understanding of others' insights and abilities (Tjosvold et al., 2004) and their appreciation for followers who are skilled in areas where they (i.e., the leaders) do not excel (Hammedi et al., 2011;Owens & Hekman, 2016). ...
... In team settings, leaders' humility is generally observable by team members (Owens & Hekman, 2016), and leaders' modeling humble behaviors can help foster team improvement-oriented behaviors. We focus our examination on two fundamental processes through which teams can experience improvement: team learning and team voice. ...
... First, after recalling learning from their mistakes, leaders are more likely to express humble behaviors through their interactions with their teams, thus creating opportunities to transfer experiences to their team members (Crossan et al., 1995;Edmondson, 2004). Team members often look to their leaders for relevant cues regarding acceptable work methods and opinions (Owens & Hekman, 2016). When deciding whether or not to seek new information or to speak up, team members often engage in a cost-benefit analysis of weighing the expected success of voice against the risks involved (Detert & Edmondson, 2011). ...
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Making mistakes is an inevitable part of leadership, but little is known about how and when leaders benefit from reflecting on their missteps. In this paper, we propose that mistakes, when reflected upon, have the potential to increase a leader's expressed humility. We detail how having leaders recall past mistakes can help them formulate plans for learning and encourage them to express humility. We also argue that this positive relationship is strengthened when leaders have a promotion focus. We detail downstream benefits, as increased levels of leaders’ expressed humility is expected to increase their teams’ improvement‐oriented behaviors and, subsequently, team performance. Across multiple studies and using varied methods (i.e., scenario‐based experiments with 955 managerial leaders, a laboratory experiment with 210 student leaders and team members, and a daily field experiment with 85 managers), we empirically test the proposed relationships. Our studies contribute to the literature by identifying leaders’ recall of learning from mistakes as an important intervention to elicit their expressed humility. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... The importance of positive leadership behavior has been highlighted previously. Owens and Hekman (2016) suggest that leader behavior elevates social behavior in followers, which leads to positive performance and satisfaction outcomes. As per the JDR model, leadership has been a primary antecedent of job resource deriving (Buonomo et al., 2021). ...
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Current business organizations want to be more efficient and constantly evolving to find ways to retain talent. It is well established that visionary leadership plays a vital role in organizational success and contributes to a better working environment. This study aims to determine the effect of visionary leadership on employees' perceived job satisfaction. Specifically, it investigates whether the mediators meaningfulness at work and commitment to the leader impact the relationship. I take support from job demand resource theory to explain the overarching model used in this study and broaden-and-build theory to leverage the use of mediators. To test the hypotheses, evidence was collected in a multi-source, time-lagged design field study of 95 leader-follower dyads. The data was collected in a three-wave study, each survey appearing after one month. Data on employee perception of visionary leadership was collected in T1, data for both mediators were collected in T2, and employee perception of job satisfaction was collected in T3. The findings display that meaningfulness at work and commitment to the leader play positive intervening roles (in the form of a chain) in the indirect influence of visionary leadership on employee perceptions regarding job satisfaction. This research offers contributions to literature and theory by first broadening the existing knowledge on the effects of visionary leadership on employees. Second, it contributes to the literature on constructs meaningfulness at work, commitment to the leader, and job satisfaction. Third, it sheds light on the mediation mechanism dealing with study variables in line with the proposed model. Fourth, it integrates two theories, job demand resource theory and broaden-and-build theory providing further evidence. Additionally, the study provides practical implications for business leaders and HR practitioners. Overall, my study discusses the potential of visionary leadership behavior to elevate employee outcomes. The study aligns with previous research and answers several calls for further research on visionary leadership, job satisfaction, and mediation mechanism with meaningfulness at work and commitment to the leader.
... Yet, empirical evidence reveals that each of the dimensions and their supporting elements are related to elevated performance metrics. For example, studies have shown that leader humility has a positive effect on employee creative performance and team performance (e.g., Owens & Hekman, 2016;Ye et al., 2020). Thus, it appears that the positive implications of these character dimensions have not yet been translated into the notion of what truly constitutes effective leadership. ...
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Virtues and character strengths are often assumed to be universal, considered equally important to individuals across cultures, religions, racial-ethnic groups, and genders. The results of our surveys and laboratory studies, however, bring to light subtle yet consistent gender differences in the importance attributed to character in leadership: women considered character to be more important to successful leadership in business than did men, and women had higher expectations that individuals should demonstrate character in a new leadership role. Further, the gender of the research participant affected character ratings such that male respondents viewed a female leader who exhibited agentic behaviors in a professionally challenging situation less positively than a male leader who displayed the same agentic behaviors. The data also showed that male participants rated almost every dimension of character displayed by the female leader lower than did female participants. Our findings suggest that the question as to what extent gender differences may bias the assessment of virtues and character strengths is an important one, and one for which the practical implications for individuals in organizations need to be studied in more detail.
... Based on the 'Team Effectiveness' results from a previous activity, students work with their team and reflect on the positive aspects, challenges, the role of humility (Owens & Hekman, 2016) and develop two strategies to improve team effectiveness to carry into the remaining group tasks for the unit. Teams can then drill down to the level of evaluating their own team processes as they work through reflection questions. ...
... We also performed bootstrapping with 5,000 samples to ascertain the mediation effect. As recommended by researchers (Preacher and Hayes, 2008;Owens and Hekman, 2016), there is a substantial mediation effect at the level of α = 0.05 if the bias-corrected bootstrap 95% confidence interval (CI) does not contain zero. Table 1 provides descriptive statistics of the variables. ...
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Cosmopolitan cities share similarities with historical frontiers, including potential opportunities for economic success, high social mobility, weakened traditional conventions, and adventure and novel experiences. Individuals with high independence typically prefer to settle in cosmopolitan cities. However, previous research testing this cosmopolitan settlement hypothesis did not consider the influence of relational mobility and residential mobility. Moreover, the mechanisms that drive people to prefer cosmopolitan cities remain unclear. This study examines the relationships among independence, relational mobility, residential mobility, and preference for cosmopolitan cities among 296 Chinese senior undergraduates. The results indicate that: (1) independence remains a positive predictor of the preference for cosmopolitan cities above and beyond relational mobility, residential mobility (i.e., history, state, and intention), and other covariates; (2) intention of residential mobility also positively predicts preference for cosmopolitan cities when controlling for related covariates; and (3) relational mobility indirectly predicts perceived preference for cosmopolitan cities through dependence. This research underscores the importance of identifying the factors and mechanisms affecting cosmopolitan settlement.
... Um aspecto relevante para a compreensão da humildade na organização está associado ao comportamento do líder junto aos seus seguidores, (Argandona, 2017). O comportamento do líder humilde contagia a equipe (Owens & Hekman, 2016), promovendo o compartilhamento de informações e a tomada de decisões em conjunto (Ou, Waldman, & Peterson, 2018), além de um clima organizacional mais construtivo, e o trabalho em equipe (Ali, Li, Khan, Shah, & Ullah, 2020). Quanto aos seguidores, no tocante à humildade nas organizações, os que expressam genuínos comportamentos humildes são considerados mais competentes e confiáveis pelos seus líderes (Yang, Zhang, & Chen, 2019). ...
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Resumo A humildade é uma qualidade pouco estudada no ambiente organizacional. O interesse pelas pesquisas acerca da humildade passou a ganhar alguma representatividade a partir deste século. Contudo, as revisões de literatura sobre a humildade na gestão são raras, tornando-se oportuna a sistematização do conhecimento relevante deste campo. Evidenciar a estrutura intelectual do domínio, as pesquisas atuais e as oportunidades de investigação associadas à humildade nas organizações é o objetivo desta pesquisa. Para tanto, foi realizado um estudo bibliométrico no período 2000-2020, e analisados indicadores de atividade e relacionais - cocitações e acoplamento bibliográfico. Os resultados mostram três grandes linhas temáticas que compõem a estrutura intelectual do campo: (i) conceitos, antecedentes e atributos organizacionais., (ii) métodos e escalas, e (iii) questões comportamentais. As pesquisas atuais estão organizadas em quatro grandes frentes: (i) humildade expressa, (ii) humildade e q, (iii) humildade e equipes, e (iv) humildade e comportamento organizacional. Ao final é apresentada uma agenda de pesquisa futura, com destaque para a análise de como a humildade expressa e os comportamentos humildes podem ser ensinados e internalizados na cultura organizacional.
Chapter
Demut wäre nicht erstrebenswert, wenn sie nicht messbare Effekte zeitigen würde. In den letzten zehn Jahren hat die Forschung in Hunderten von Projekten messbare, zum überwiegenden Teil positive Ergebnisse von Demut festgestellt. Sie lassen sich in drei Gruppen einteilen: Auswirkungen einer demutsvollen Führungskraft auf die Mitarbeiter (z. B. in Bezug auf Leistung oder Kreativität), Resultate für das gesamte Unternehmen (z. B. in Bezug auf Strategie oder Kultur) sowie Konsequenzen für die Führungskraft selber (z. B. in Bezug auf Leistung oder Stress).
Chapter
Demut wurde lange als Mäßigung, Klugheit und Selbsterkenntnis angesehen. In den letzten Jahrhunderten bekam sie einen Beiklang von minderwertig, schwächlich und etwas naiv. Die moderne Forschung rückt den Begriff Demut wieder in ein helleres Licht mit vier Kernelementen. Demut wird als grundsätzliche Tugend, die jeder Führung zugrunde liegt, verstanden.
Article
Humility is a concept grounded in a self-view that something greater than oneself exists. A multitude of disciplines to date have sought to understand how humility impacts leaders, as well as the individuals, teams, and organizations they lead. Despite overlapping research questions, methodologies, and empirical contexts, studies examining leader humility have developed largely in isolation with little overlap between fields. This has created a fundamental divide between micro and macro researchers who suggest that humility is conceptualized as both a mutable behavioral state and a stable leader trait, respectively. We provide a systematic review of research on leader humility at multiple organizational levels of analysis to provide linkages across disciplinary and theoretical divides. We couple our systematic review with a meta-analysis of 212 unique studies, identifying 99 estimates for the relationships between leader humility and numerous individual, team, and organizational variables. Among all variables, we find humble leadership most strongly predicts followers’ satisfaction with the leader and the leaders’ participative decision making. We also find humble leadership does not affect their own job performance or the performance of organizations, but improves the performance of their followers and teams. Building on our results, we call for research across academic disciplines.
Article
In 3 studies, the authors demonstrated that individuals are motivated by role models who encourage strategies that fit their regulatory concerns: Promotion-focused individuals, who favor a strategy of pursuing desirable outcomes, are most inspired by positive role models, who highlight strategies for achieving success; prevention-focused individuals, who favor a strategy of avoiding undesirable outcomes, are most motivated by negative role models, who highlight strategies for avoiding failure. In Studies 1 and 2, the authors primed promotion and prevention goals and then examined the impact of role models on motivation. Participants' academic motivation was increased by goal-congruent role models but decreased by goal-incongruent role models. In Study 3, participants were more likely to generate real-life role models that matched their chronic goals.
Article
Recognizing gaps in our present understanding of leader apologies, this investigation examines how followers appraise leader apologies and how these perceptions impact work-related outcomes. Results indicate that followers who viewed their leader as trustworthy or caring before a leader wrongdoing were more likely to perceive their leader’s apology to be sincere, as compared to followers who previously doubted their leader’s trustworthiness and caring. Attributions of apology sincerity affected follower reactions, with followers perceiving sincere apologies reporting greater trust in leadership, satisfaction with supervision, leader–member exchange quality, affective organizational commitment, and forgiveness than those reporting insincere or no apologies. A mediation model was supported, showing that attributions of apology sincerity fostered perceptions of humility, which enhanced perceptions of transformational leadership, and consequently garnered more positive follower reactions.
Article
The article examines factors contributing to variations in executives' levels of confidence and proposes that executive confidence is influenced by contextual stimuli but that it is moderated by the executive's decision. The concept of capability cues is presented, which are described as contextual signals that decision makers might interpret as indicators of the current level of overall ability. Capability cues' effect on an executive's interpretation of the riskiness of current decisions is explored. It is shown that boldness is influenced by positive cues while negative cues will induce timidity.