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When Controlling Leaders Meet Employees with Psychological Capital: Impact On Creative Performance

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Journal of Business Research
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Authoritarian leadership and employee creativity: The moderating role of
psychological capital and the mediating role of fear and defensive silence
Liang Guo
, Stijn Decoster
, Mayowa T. Babalola
, Leander De Schutter
, Omale A. Garba
Katrin Riisla
Shandong University at Weihai, China
Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
Peter Faber Business School, Australian Catholic University, Australia
WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany
Boston University, USA
University of Leuven, Belgium
Authoritarian leadership
Defensive silence
Employee creativity
Psychological capital
Drawing from the transactional theory of stress, we examined the relationships between authoritarian leader-
ship, fear, defensive silence, and ultimately employee creativity. We also explored the moderating eect of
employee psychological capital on these mediated relationships. We tested our hypothesized model in two
studies of employee-supervisor dyads working in Africa (Nigeria; Study 1) and Asia (China; Study 2). The results
of Study 1 revealed that the negative relationship between authoritarian leadership and creativity was mediated
by employee defensive silence. Extending these ndings in a three-wave study in Study 2, our results revealed a
more complex relationship. Specically, our results showed that both fear and defensive silence serially medi-
ated the link between authoritarian leadership and employee creativity. In addition, we found that this mediated
relationship was moderated by employee psychological capital such that the relationship was stronger when
psychological capital was low (versus high). Implications for both theory and practice are discussed.
In today's rapidly changing and increasingly competitive work en-
vironment, employees are more than ever expected to produce novel
and useful ideas about new products, services and procedures (i.e.,
exhibit creative behaviors; Zhou & Hoever, 2014). Creativity is im-
portant not only because it increases customer satisfaction and loyalty,
but it also plays a crucial role in organizational success and survival
(Gumusluoglu & Ilsev, 2009). As a result, organizations often seek to
adopt policies that fuel employee creativity (Gong, Huang, & Farh,
2009). To do so, researchers have underscored and focused on the role
of positive forms of leadership (Bai, Lin, & Li, 2016;Shin & Zhou, 2003;
Tierney, Farmer, & Graen, 1999). Although these studies have gener-
ated valuable insights, little attention has been paid to potentially
darker or destructive sides of leadership and their relationship with
employee creativity. An example of such leadership approach is au-
thoritarian leadership (AL) (Aycan, 2006). Authoritarian leaders assert
absolute authority and control over employees and expect unques-
tionable obedience (Cheng, Chou, Wu, Huang, & Farh, 2004). Given
that the creative process often requires employees to use their own
discretion to share and come up with useful ideas (Amabile, 1988;Gong
et al., 2009), a growing body of work has suggested that AL can inhibit
creativity (e.g., Wang, Chiang, Tsai, Lin, & Cheng, 2013;Zhang, Tsui, &
Wang, 2011). Despite these important ndings, there is still lack of a
coherent theoretical framework that explicates the psychological pro-
cesses and moderating factors of such relationship in more depth.
More specically, aside from Zhang et al. (2011) who examined the
mechanisms (i.e., reduced knowledge sharing in workgroups and col-
lective ecacy) through which the AL creativity link occurs at the
group-level, our insight into why and when AL weaves its inuence on
individual employee creativity remains very limited. Such expanded
insight is crucial because creativity is not merely an aggregated eort,
but rather an opportunity for individuals to contribute uniquely
(Amabile, 1996). Furthermore, several studies have revealed weak, and
even in some cases positive associations between AL and employees'
overall performance (e.g., Huang, Xu, Chiu, Lam, & Farh, 2015;Wang &
Received 31 January 2017; Received in revised form 21 July 2018; Accepted 23 July 2018
An Earlier version of the paper was presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Anaheim, California.
Corresponding author at: Peter Faber Business School, Australian Catholic University, Australia.
The rst three authors contributed equally to this paper.
E-mail address: (M.T. Babalola).
Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
0148-2963/ © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Guan, 2018). Since creativity is a critical component of employees'
performance (Raja & Johns, 2010), these mixed ndings suggest that
the AL creativity link is far more complex than generally assumed by
past research. They also emphasize the need for more detailed under-
standing of the mechanisms underlying this link as well as the moder-
ating factors that may weaken or strengthen these processes. Such
improved knowledge could then help organizations to alleviate the ill-
eects of AL on creativity at work.
Accordingly, our primary goal in this paper is to develop and test a
more comprehensive model linking AL to individual employee crea-
tivity. To do so, we draw from Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) transac-
tional theory of stress as an overarching theoretical framework to
suggest two primary mechanisms: fear (the primarily felt emotion) and
defensive silence (the coping mechanism adopted to reduce the poten-
tially threatening relationship and feelings of fear) through which AL
may relate to employee creativity. Briey, Lazarus and Folkman's
theory suggests that individuals who encounter stressors in the form of
demanding or pressuring interpersonal interactions may experience
fear and may adopt relevant coping mechanisms (e.g., reduce their
work eorts). Because creativity is an important work eort that re-
quires individuals to go above and beyond their normal job require-
ments (George, 2008), we suggest in this manuscript that being con-
fronted with an authoritarian leader may be demanding, pressuring,
and form a signicant stressor for employees such that they experience
fear and become defensively silent, which then inhibits their creativity.
Further, we examine the moderating eect of employee psycholo-
gical capital (PsyCap) on the relationship between AL and fear. PsyCap
is a higher-order construct combining ecacy, hope, optimism, and
resilience (Luthans, Avolio, Avey, & Norman, 2007). We focus on
PsyCap as a moderator in our model, because it is an individual's po-
sitive appraisal of circumstances and probability for success based on
motivated eort and perseverance(Luthans et al., 2007, p. 550) and it
serves as an important psychological resource useful for dealing with
stressors (see Luthans & Youssef, 2017). The transactional theory of
stress suggests that individuals react dierently to stressful situations
and that certain personal resources are particularly useful in this re-
gard. Consistent with the transactional theory of stress (Lazarus, 1991;
Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and research on personal coping resources
(Hobfoll, 2001), we suggest that employees high in PsyCap can cope
better with the stressful nature of AL, thus attenuating its eect on
employee fear. In contrast, when an employee has low PsyCap, we
propose that the eects of AL on employee fear will be more pro-
nounced (compared to high PsyCap individuals).
By examining these relationships (see Fig. 1), our study makes at
least four important contributions to the literature. First, to date, the
literature on AL has primarily focused on social exchange and identity
theories in explaining AL's eects on employee work outcomes (e.g.,
Chen, Eberly, Chiang, Farh, & Cheng, 2014;Schaubroeck, Shen, &
Chong, 2017). While interesting insights have emerged from these
theories, this limited theoretical perspective may restrict the complete
understanding of how AL inuences employees. Indeed, the use of a
single theory is insucient to fully capture how a specic leadership
style aects employee motives, behaviors, and performance (e.g.,
Walumbwa et al., 2011). Against this backdrop, we aim to build upon
the emerging evidence linking AL with reduced levels of creativity (e.g.,
Wang et al., 2013;Zhang et al., 2011) by proposing a model wherein
authoritarian leaders may inuence employee creativity through
multiple pathways based on the transactional theory of stress (Lazarus
& Folkman, 1984).
Second, our study contributes to AL literature, as it is one of the rst
to explicitly examine how authoritarian leaders inuence employees'
emotions and their resulting outcomes in the form of fear and defensive
silence. By doing so, we add to leadership research focusing on how
leader behaviors aect follower emotions and in turn follower out-
comes. More specically, we answer the call for more research on the
role of negative emotions within leadership literature (Bono, Foldes,
Vinson, & Muros, 2007;Gooty, Connelly, Grith, & Gupta, 2010). In-
deed, leadership literature is heavily skewed towards the benecial
eects of positive emotions, leaving negative emotions vastly under-
studied (Gooty et al., 2010). Although previous research has suggested
that authoritarian leaders may induce fear (Cheng et al., 2004;Farh,
Cheng, Chou, & Chu, 2006), to our knowledge, the role of fear has not
been directly/comprehensively investigated in the link between AL and
creativity. By directly testing fear and defensive silence as the under-
lying mechanisms through which AL inuences employees' creativity,
our study provides a more comprehensive understanding of AL. Indeed,
examining mediating mechanisms is a critical theory-building compo-
nent that expands scholars and practitioners' knowledge of why certain
processes occur in organizations (Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007).
Third, this research further contributes to the growing literature on
silence by examining the antecedents of a defensive form of silence and
how it can inuence critical work outcomes, such as creativity.
Specically, our research answers calls to identify potential antecedents
and consequences of defensive silence (Brinseld, 2013;Morrison,
2014). As Morrison (2014) noted, addressing such calls requires a
perspective that recognizes the role of emotions and nonconscious
processes, as the failure to engage in voice does not always reect a
cognitive or deliberate decision process(p. 175). Our study addresses
these calls by identifying the roles of AL and the resulting emotion of
fear in the emergence of defensive silence and its eect on employee
Finally, we add to the leadership and PsyCap literatures by ex-
amining how PsyCap inuences follower responses to AL. More gen-
erally, there has been very limited understanding of how PsyCap may
help employees navigate dierent leadership behaviors (see for ex-
ample, Li, Wang, Yang, & Liu, 2016;Wang, Sui, Luthans, Wang, & Wu,
2014 for exceptions). As a result, scholars have called for more research
investigating PsyCap as a moderator of leadership behaviors (Dawkins,
Martin, Scott, & Sanderson, 2013;Newman, Ucbasaran, Zhu, & Hirst,
2014). We address this call and contribute to this emerging line of re-
search by shedding light on PsyCap as an important personal resource
that makes some employees more resistant to the negative eect of AL.
More specically, this research examines the mitigating eect of em-
ployee PsyCap on the negative eects of AL. As PsyCap represents a
positive psychological state, doing so allows us to enrich our theoretical
understanding of why some individuals are more resistant to the det-
rimental eects of AL. Additionally, we oer practical insights on how
employees can cope with AL to alleviate its negative consequences on
employee creativity and in doing so, also address the call for research
on boundary conditions of AL in organizations (Pellegrini & Scandura,
1. Theoretical background and hypotheses
1.1. Transactional theory of stress
According to the transactional theory of stress (Lazarus & Folkman,
1984), the cognitive appraisal of stress is a two-part process consisting
of primary and secondary appraisal. During the primary appraisal, an
individual will rst determine the relevance of an event or situation for
his/her well-being, and whether it can be categorized as stressful. If the
situation is perceived stressful, it may be evaluated as a threat (alter-
natively, the situation can also be appraised as a potential harm or
Fig. 1. Theoretical model of the current research.
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
challenge). Threats typically result in negative feelings such as fear.
After such feelings, a secondary appraisal will be triggered, in which
individuals search for a possible course of action (Lazarus & Folkman,
1984). During this secondary appraisal, individuals evaluate their
coping resources and available options to deal with the threat (Lazarus,
Applying this to an organizational context, the transactional theory
of stress suggests that individuals cognitively appraise aspects of their
work environment that are potentially threatening and stressful.
Interpersonal stressors at work may elicit intense feelings of negative
emotions such as fear, which can trigger coping strategies, e.g. reducing
one's work eorts or communication towards the leader (e.g., Lazarus,
1991;Scherer, Shorr, & Johnstone, 2001). Due to the demanding and
pressuring nature of the interpersonal relationship between author-
itarian leaders and their followers (Chen et al., 2014;Pellegrini &
Scandura, 2008), we propose that AL is a signicant interpersonal
stressor that may reduce employees' creative eorts by increasing fear
(a result of primary appraisal) and defensive silence (a coping me-
chanism generated from secondary appraisal).
1.2. AL and employee creativity
Authoritarian leadership refers to a leader's behavior of asserting
absolute authority and control over employees and commanding un-
opposed obedience by imposing strict discipline on them (Cheng et al.,
2004). Leaders who demonstrate authoritarian behaviors are known for
being overtly controlling and initiating structure, such that employees
who do not follow procedures and rules to the letter are severely
punished (Chen et al., 2014;Cheng et al., 2004). By issuing threats and
subtly intimidating employees, such leaders seek to make their em-
ployees submissive to achieve organizational goals (Pellegrini &
Scandura, 2008). The underlying idea is that AL may be more eective
and ecient in situations where quick decisions are needed, as these
leaders set specic and unambiguous goals (Huang et al., 2015). By
setting very clear rules and issuing punishments and rewards, the leader
reduces uncertainty, as followers know exactly what to do, and what
not to do (Wang & Guan, 2018). In reality, however, only a few studies
have provided empirical evidence of possible positive outcomes of AL
(Huang et al., 2015;Wang & Guan, 2018). The vast majority of previous
research showed that AL is negatively related with desirable attitudes
and behaviors such as followers' trust, voice, citizenship behaviors and
performance (e.g., Aycan, 2006;Chan, Huang, Snape, & Lam 2013;
Chen et al., 2014;Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). AL has also been re-
lated to undesirable outcomes such as turnover intentions (Wang,
Cheng, & Wang, 2016). In sum, AL has often been considered an un-
desirable leadership style.
Leaders who are authoritative in their approach may negatively
impact the opportunities of building a well performing and creative
workforce. Further, authoritarian relations are control-based and em-
ployees witnessing such behavior only conform to avoid punishment
(Aycan, 2006). As such, AL often comes across as too rigid, demanding
and pressuring (Chen et al., 2014;Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008), con-
stituting a stressor that may reduce an employee's capability to generate
novel and creative ideas. Indeed, creativity is a work eort that not only
tends to emerge when individuals are faced with less demands, pres-
sure, and rigid structure, but also requires considerable amount of
emotional and mental resources (Amabile, 1996). Therefore, the pres-
sure to conform to an authoritarian leader is likely to be counter-
productive for employees' generation of creative ideas (Mumford, Scott,
Gaddis, & Strange, 2002). These theoretical arguments are in line with
previous research showing that the relationship between AL and em-
ployee creativity is generally negative (e.g., Wang et al., 2013;Zhang
et al., 2011).
However, in the present research, we suggest that AL is not a simple
creativity inhibitor, but rather, we argue that the relationship between
AL and employee creativity is more complex. Drawing from the
transactional theory of stress, we consider fear and defensive silence as
two important underlying mechanisms that can enhance our under-
standing of how AL aects employee creativity. Accordingly, we de-
velop mediating hypotheses for the role of fear and defensive silence,
thereby oering a unique perspective on the ALemployee creativity
1.3. AL, fear, and employee defensive silence
When individuals are confronted with stressors or external threats,
they may intentionally try to protect themselves from them (Schlenker
& Weigold, 1989). One possible protection mechanism is being defen-
sively silent. Van Dyne, Ang, and Botero (2003) dened defensive si-
lence as a conscious decision where one is withholding relevant ideas,
information, or opinions as a form of self-protection, based on fear(p.
1367). In other words, defensive silence is a behavioral response to the
negative emotion of fear, and it can be viewed as a coping attempt to
neutralize that situation and to restore the individual's well-being (Oh &
Farh, 2017). Defensive silence is thus a conscious and active strategy to
withhold relevant input. Individuals could potentially speak up, but
after considering the estimated costs and benets, they nd it safer to
stay quiet (Milliken, Morrison, & Hewlin, 2003). The experience of fear
makes the alternative of speaking up less attractive, and often results in
a decision to withhold relevant input. In sum, defensive silence can be
described as a fear-based coping strategy that triggers an employee to
withhold his/her thoughts or relevant input as a form of self-protection.
Although a general concept of silence has already been discussed in the
literature (Milliken et al., 2003;Morrison, 2011), only a few studies
have directly examined this fear-based form of silence (Brinseld, 2013;
Kish-Gephart, Detert, Treviño, & Edmondson, 2009). We argue that
defensive silence can provide a more nuanced explanation of how AL
inuences important employee work behaviors such as creativity.
Conceptually, AL behavior is derived from the Chinese word li-
wei, meaning awe and inspiring fear (Cheng et al., 2004). On the one
hand, this implies that the fear inspired by authoritarian leaders may
encourage employees to stand on their toes and to give their best at
work (Huang et al., 2015). On the other hand, because authoritarian
leaders are very demanding and expect absolute conformity to their
decisions, social interactions between such leaders and their sub-
ordinates have been described as inherently intimidating, threatening,
and stressful (Chen et al., 2014;Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). Such
threatening and stressful relationships generate negative feelings and
make employees feel at unease at work, and as such, AL behavior is
likely to increase fear in employees.
In turn, employees may withhold relevant ideas and information
due to the feeling of fear resulting from their interactions with au-
thoritarian leaders. That is, fear is likely to be associated with the desire
to engage in defensive silence. Employees may reason that it is better to
remain silent and play it safeout of fear of making the relationship
with an authoritarian leader worse than it is, or out of fear of negative
career consequences (e.g., losing the opportunity to get better com-
pensation or promotion, or even worse: job loss). Such fear is likely to
reduce the extent to which employees speak up about their concerns or
problems in the workplace. This view is in line with the work of Van
Dyne et al. (2003), who showed that defensive silence is especially used
as a response to external threats that are related with fear (cf. Brinseld,
2013). In sum, we propose that defensive silence is a coping strategy
resulting from an employee's fear and it may be used as a form of
protection against the pressuring or dominating relationship experi-
enced when an employee is exposed to an authoritarian leader.
Supporting these arguments, previous research has indeed shown
that an employee's decision to remain silent is an avoidance strategy to
cope with the fear resulting from the interpersonal relationship with a
superior (Kiewitz, Restubog, Shoss, Gracia, & Tang, 2016). Therefore,
based on previous research and our theoretical arguments above, we
predict that an exposure to a highly demanding and pressuring leader
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
who expects absolute and unquestionable obedience (i.e., an author-
itarian leader) is likely to be associated with employee fear, and in turn,
defensive silence. Consequently, we advance the following hypothesis.
Hypothesis 1. Authoritarian leadership will have a positive indirect
relationship with employee defensive silence via fear.
1.4. Implications for employee creativity
Thus far, we have argued that AL is associated with employee de-
fensive silence via fear. In turn, we propose that defensive silence is
likely to be associated with reduced levels of creative behaviors.
Generally, silence refers to the withholding of potentially relevant and
important inputs or situations in which an employee refuses to share
what (s)he has in mind (Morrison & Milliken, 2000;Pinder & Harlos,
2001). As Morrison (2014) puts it, it is not merely a lack of speech, as
not speaking can occur for many reasons, including having nothing
meaningful to convey(p. 174). However, being defensively silent
implies that an employee is not speaking up when (s)he has suggestions,
information, or useful ideas to tackle a potential problem due to fear.
Such an employee may for instance lack sucient courage or mental
energy to put forward his or her creative ideas to a fear-triggering au-
thoritarian leader. More specically, because exhibiting creative be-
havior requires employees to move beyond their tasks to look for new
ways of doing things and generating ideas (Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson,
Chonko, & Roberts, 2008), employees who choose to remain silent
because of fear are less likely to show creative behaviors. This is in line
with previous research indicating that innovation is reduced when
employees remain silent at work (Brinseld, 2013).
In sum, defensive silence represents a fear-based coping strategy
linking AL to employee creativity. Additionally, to the extent that an
authoritarian leader invokes fear, and consequently defensive silence,
we expect that employees confronted with AL should exhibit lower
levels of creative behaviors. Accordingly, we propose fear and defensive
silence as the underlying mechanisms through which AL suppresses
employee creativity, leading to the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 2. Authoritarian leadership will have a negative indirect
relationship with employee creativity via defensive silence.
Hypothesis 3. Authoritarian leadership will have a negative indirect
relationship with employee creativity, via employee fear and defensive
silence, serially.
1.5. The moderating role of employee psychological capital
The transactional theory of stress indicates that individuals' char-
acteristics can mitigate the extent to which they are aected by stres-
sors or threats in their immediate environment (Lazarus & Folkman,
1991). These characteristics are particularly linked to individuals' re-
sources, which can be anything that help an individual to attain his or
her goals (Halbesleben, Neveu, Paustian-Underdahl, & Westman, 2014;
Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Because PsyCap is a positive appraisal of
circumstances and probability for success based on motivated eort and
perseverance(Luthans et al., 2007, p. 550), we identify and focus on
employee PsyCap as an important personal resource that can attenuate
the negative eects of AL. When confronted with an authoritarian
leader, we suggest that PsyCap is likely to buer the feelings of fear that
encourage defensive silence and in turn, reduce employee creativity.
According to Luthans, Youssef, and Avolio (2015), PsyCap is an
individual's positive psychological state of development that is char-
acterized by: (1) having condence (ecacy) to take on and put in the
necessary eort to succeed at challenging tasks; (2) making a positive
attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future; (3)
persevering toward goals and when necessary, redirecting paths to
goals (hope) in order to succeed; and (4) when beset by problems and
adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resilience)
to attain success(p. 2). The combination of ecacy, optimism, hope,
and resilience (i.e., high PsyCap) is positively related with desirable
organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational com-
mitment, citizenship behaviors, and job performance (Dawkins et al.,
2013;Newman et al., 2014;Peterson, Luthans, Avolio, Walumbwa, &
Zhang, 2011), and negatively related to undesirable outcomes such as
absenteeism, turnover, job stress, burnout, cynicism, and job deviance
(Dawkins et al., 2013;Newman et al., 2014). As individuals develop
higher levels of PsyCap, the quality of their personal lives and overall
well-being is enhanced (Luthans, Youssef, Sweetman, & Harms, 2013).
High PsyCap also helps individuals to better cope with stressors in their
immediate work environment (Avey, Luthans, & Jensen, 2009;Avey,
Reichard, Luthans, & Mhatre, 2011;Baron, Franklin, & Hmieleski,
2016;Luthans et al., 2007).
Because AL can be viewed as a signicant stressor (Chen et al.,
2014;Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008), we argue that PsyCap mitigates the
eects of AL on employee emotional reactions. That is, with higher
levels of PsyCap, employees should be able to cope better with the
stressful experiences from an authoritarian leader. More specically,
when they are confronted with AL, employees with high PsyCap are
more likely to keep the right mindset and a positive outlook on their
abilities to reach their work goals under such a leader. As such, high
PsyCap should reduce the fear that working with an authoritarian
leader might generate. In contrast, employees with lower levels of
PsyCap are less likely to eectively cope with the pressuring and de-
manding nature of AL because these employees nd it dicult to
maintain a positive outlook and to persevere in the face of challenging
and stressful situations. As a result, low PsyCap is likely to exacerbate
the fear employees may experience under an authoritarian leader.
Although we are unaware of any previous studies examining the
moderating eect of PsyCap on AL, there is indirect support for our
proposition. For instance, previous research shows that individuals with
higher levels of PsyCap are able to cope better with stressful situations
at work and keep an optimistic outlook above all odds by responding
with positive rather than negative feelings (Roberts, Scherer, & Bowyer,
2011). Similarly, Li et al., (2016) found that employees with lower le-
vels of PsyCap were more aected by the negative interpersonal re-
lationships between them and their immediate supervisor. Here, we
argue that PsyCap is likely to operate in a similar way. Specically, for
those with lower levels of PsyCap, AL is expected to exacerbate their
feelings of fear, which subsequently encourages defensive silence and
reduces creativity. Therefore, we predict that PsyCap provides the ne-
cessary resources needed to cope with AL and thus mitigates the fear
resulting from such leaders.
Hypothesis 4. Employee PsyCap will moderate the serially mediated
relationship between authoritarian leadership and employee creativity,
such that the positive relationship between authoritarian leadership
and fear is stronger when PsyCap is low.
1.6. Overview of the research
Below, we present two eld studies designed to test our theoretical
model. Study 1 is a cross-sectional study involving employees and their
immediate supervisors working in Nigerian-based organizations, while
Study 2 is a time-lagged eld study conducted in Chinese-based orga-
nizations. In both studies, we used a multi-source design where ratings
from multiple sources were used to reduce same-source bias (Podsako,
MacKenzie, & Podsako, 2012). In Study 1, we rst tested whether
defensive silence mediates the relationship between AL and employee
creativity. Here, employees responded to measures of AL, whereas
leaders responded to measures of their employees' defensive silence and
creativity. We also controlled for employees' ratings of abusive super-
vision to account for the unique eects of AL and assess the robustness
of our ndings. We further tested our full theoretical model in Study 2
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
by including the measures of employee fear and PsyCap and assessing
our measures in three waves. More specically, AL and PsyCap were
assessed at Time 1, fear was assessed at Time 2 (two weeks after Time
1), and employee ratings of defensive silence as well as supervisor
ratings of creativity were assessed at Time 3 (two weeks after Time 2).
2. Method
2.1. Study 1
2.1.1. Sample and procedure
We collected data from three organizations in Lagos-Nigeria, as part
of a large research project on developing eective leadership. These
organizations were involved in hospitality, nancial, and consulting
services. Before administering the surveys, one of the authors contacted
an organizational member from the participating organizations, who
then facilitated the data collection. Two separate surveys were dis-
tributed to employees and their direct supervisors. Respondents were
informed through a cover letter that their responses would only be used
for research purposes and that individual responses would not be
shared with their organizations. We also noted that participating in the
study was voluntary. The surveys included a unique identication code
written on the top-right of each survey that enabled us to match em-
ployee and supervisor responses. After completion, the questionnaires
were directly handed over to one of the research team members. In
appreciation of participants' involvement, they entered a rae draw to
win one of four online shopping vouchers priced at approximately $15
Of the 200 employees-supervisor surveys distributed, 133 em-
ployees together with their corresponding supervisor surveys were re-
turned (approximately a 68% response rate). Of these 133, only 115
employee-supervisor surveys were matchable (for an overall response
rate of 56%). We found that there were no statistically dierence be-
tween the valid respondents and those invalid in terms of age
(t=0.39, p> .05) and of gender (t= 0.30, p> .05). In total, all
employees were nested under 28 supervisors. On average, 4 employees
worked under the same supervisor. Of the 115 employees, 46% were
male and reported working under their respective supervisors for an
average of 2.6 years. Among the supervisors, 50% were male.
Employees provided ratings of their supervisors' authoritative leader-
ship behaviors, as well as their perceptions of abusive supervision,
whereas supervisors rated employees' defensive silence and their crea-
tive behaviors.
2.1.2. Measures
All items were measured on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly
disagree,5=strongly agree). We used established scales for measures. Authoritarian leadership. To measure AL, we used Cheng et al.'s
(2004) scale. A sample item of this scale is My supervisor always
behaves in a commanding fashion in front of employees.The
Cronbach's alpha was 0.89. Defensive silence. Supervisors rated employees' defensive
silence using 5-item scale developed by Van Dyne et al. (2003).A
sample item includes: This employee…“Withholds relevant information
due to fear.The Cronbach's alpha of this scale was 0.86. Employee creativity. Supervisors rated employee creativity
using Baer and Oldham's (2006) 4-item scale (α= 0.88). A sample
item includes, This employee often comes up with creative solutions to
problems at work. Control variable. We controlled for abusive supervision, which
is dened as the subordinates' perceptions of the extent to which their
supervisors engage in the sustained display of hostile verbal and
nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical contact(Tepper, 2000, p.
178). We decided to control for abusive supervision considering
previous research showing that AL positively correlates with such
negative supervisor behavior (Aryee, Chen, Sun, & Debrah, 2007).
Moreover, abusive supervision tends to inuence employee fear-based
cognitions (Kiewitz et al., 2016) and creativity (Zhang, Kwan, Zhang, &
Wu, 2014). Therefore, by including abusive supervision as a control
variable, we account for the unique inuence of AL and provide
evidence of the robustness of our predictions. We measured abusive
supervision using Mitchell and Ambrose's (2007) 5-item scale
(α= 0.94). A sample item was, My supervisor makes negative
comments about me to others.
2.1.3. Measurement model
Prior to testing our hypothesized model, we assessed the validity
and appropriateness of our measurement model by conducting a robust
conrmatory factor analysis (CFA) in MPlus 6.0, taking into account the
clustered nature of our data. As shown in Table 1, our proposed mea-
surement model with three distinct factors (Model 1) had a better t
than two-factor models (Models 24), or a model where all items are
loaded onto the same factor (Model 5).
2.1.4. Hypotheses testing
Descriptive statistics and correlations of all study variables at the
individual level are presented in Table 2.
Because the 115 employees were nested under 28 supervisors, our
sample does not consist of independent observations. Multilevel ana-
lysis solves the violation of this independence assumption by taking the
clustering of employees within a work unit (i.e., employees working for
the same supervisor) into account in that it allows a randomly-varying
intercept between work units. We conducted multilevel regression
analysis using the lme4 and mediation package in R (Bates, Maechler,
Bolker, & Walker, 2015;Tingley, Yamamoto, Hirose, Keele, & Imai,
2014). To test our proposed mediation model (Hypothesis 2), we focus
on the paths that constitute the indirect eect (Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger,
1998; see also Aguinis, Edwards, & Bradley, 2016). That is, we test
whether AL is related to defensive silence and that, in turn, defensive
silence is related to employee creativity.
Table 1
Comparison of measurement models for main variables in Study 1.
Model Factors χ
df χ
/df SatorraBentler Scaled Δχ
Model 1 Three factors: Creativity, Defensive Silence, and AL 223.28 132 1.69 0.92 0.08 0.07
Model 2 Two factors: Creativity and Defensive Silence were combined into one factor 423.43 134 3.16 167.38
0.75 0.14 0.10
Model 3 Two factors: Creativity and AL were combined into one factor 460.56 134 3.44 355.48
0.71 0.15 0.12
Model 4 Two factors: Defensive Silence and AL were combined into one factor 369.74 134 2.76 59.16
0.79 0.12 0.10
Model 5 One factor: all three factors were combined into one factor 584.61 135 4.33 231.78
0.60 0.17 0.13
Note: We used a robust maximum likelihood estimator to take the clustered nature of our data into account. Following methodological recommendations (Satorra &
Bentler, 2010), we corrected the χ
using the SatorraBentler scaling correction when comparing the proposed measurement model with the alternative nested
=p< .001.
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
Results are presented in Table 3.
Our results showed that AL was
positively related to employee defensive silence, (b= 0.43, p= .001).
Next, defensive silence was negatively related to creativity,
(b=0.27, SE = 0.10, p= .006). To provide a complete test of our
mediation model, we calculated a 95% condence interval
for the
proposed indirect eect. Results revealed a signicant indirect eect,
indicating that defensive silence mediates the relationship between AL
and employee creativity (indirect eect = 0.12; 95% CI = [0.25;
0.02]). This conrms Hypothesis 2.
Study 1 showed that AL might decrease employees' creativity be-
cause employees are more likely to withhold valuable information.
Interestingly, this eect still held up when we took a closely related
construct, abusive supervision, into account. This indicates that the
mechanism of AL on defensive silence is independent from that of
abusive supervision. Now that we know that defensive silence is a
mechanism behind the relationship between AL and employee crea-
tivity, we are able to look at this process more in depth, as we only
tested defensive silence as a coping strategy that employees adopt in
response to AL and as such did not test the emotions they feel in
response to AL in line with transactional theory of stress. In Study 2, we
build upon these ndings by examining when and why AL is positively
related to employee defensive silence. More precisely, we integrate fear
in our model as a proximal antecedent of defensive silence, and assess
psychological capital as a boundary condition of this negative indirect
Further, although same-source bias was reduced in Study 1 as the
data was collected from multiple sources (Podsako, MacKenzie, Lee, &
Podsako, 2003), the cross-sectional nature of the study and the fact
that leaders provided measure of defensive silence could raise some
concerns. However, past research has demonstrated the appropriate-
ness of using other ratings of defensive silence. More specically, pre-
vious research showed that organizational members with whom em-
ployees closely interact with on a day-to-day basis can detect defensive
silence (Kiewitz et al., 2016). In our sample, the supervisors who pro-
vided the ratings defensive silence closely interacted with focal em-
ployees and have worked together for over two and half years. Never-
theless, to mitigate these concerns, we obtained employee ratings of
defensive silence in Study 2. In addition, we employed a time-lagged
research design of employeesupervisor dyad in Chinese organizations,
allowing us to separate our measurements in time. As Podsakoet al.
(2012) noted, the use of a temporal design and multisource ratings
diminishes the respondent's ability and motivation to use his or her
prior answers to answer subsequent questions(p. 888).
2.2. Study 2
2.2.1. Sample and procedure
We collected data from four organizations (nance, advertising,
web service and retailing organizations) in Chengdu, a southwest me-
tropolitan area in China. A consulting rm was commissioned to con-
duct the data collection task. Two separate surveys were distributed to
employees and their direct supervisors based on the list provided by a
contact person in each organization. Based on this list, 479 employees
and their supervisors were paired and they received the surveys in three
waves. Respondents were aware of the voluntary nature of participation
and the strict condentiality of this survey. In appreciation of partici-
pants' voluntary involvement, the respondents who had completed all
three waves entered into a rae draw to win one of 20 shopping
vouchers of an e-commerce company priced at RMB 200 (approxi-
mately $ 30) each.
Of the 479 employees and 479 supervisors to whom the survey was
distributed, we received 198 employee-supervisor matches at the end of
the third wave (approximately a 41.33% response rate). Of these 198
matches, 192 employee-supervisor surveys were usable because in six
dyads, either the key variables were missing, or the participants
Table 2
Means, standard deviations, scale reliabilities, and correlations of the variables.
Study 1
1. AL 3.01 0.90 (0.89)
2. Defensive Silence 2.51 1.04 0.55
3. Abusive Supervision 2.80 1.18 0.69
4. Creativity 2.38 1.06 0.32
Study 2
1. AL 4.61 1.60 (0.83)
2. Defensive Silence 4.34 1.64 0.35
3. Abusive Supervision 3.29 1.69 0.36
4. Creativity 4.29 1.98 0.20
5. Fear 4.13 1.68 0.46
6. PsyCap 5.65 1.01 0.06 0.05 0.01 0.11 0.04 (0.84)
Numbers in parentheses on the diagonal are reliabilities of the scales.
Study 1, N= 115; Study 2, N= 192. In Study 1 the scale ranged from 1 to 5, while in Study 2 the scale ranged from 1 to 7.
p< .01.
p< .001.
Table 3
Results for Study 1.
Predictors Criterion variable
Employee defensive
Employee creativity
Intercept 0.71
(0.35) 3.57
AL 0.43
(0.14) 0.01 (0.16)
Abusive Supervision 0.18 (0.10) 0.17 (0.11)
Defensive Silence 0.27
Marginal R
(model t for xed
0.29 0.16
Conditional R
(overall model
0.43 0.44
Unstandardized coecients are reported. Standard errors are in the brackets.
The statistical signicance of our hypothesized eects did not change when
we did not control for abusive supervision.
To our knowledge, there is no program that can calculate a nonparametric
bootstrapped condence interval for multilevel modelling. Therefore, we used a
quasi-Bayesian Monte Carlo approximation with 5000 simulations to calculate a
95% condence interval of our proposed indirect eect (see King, Tomz, &
Wittenberg, 2000).
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
returned an almost blank survey in any of the three waves (overall
response rate was 40.08%). We compared respondents with missing
data to those respondents with fully completed data and there were no
signicant dierences in terms of age (t=0.1893, p> .05) and
gender (t=0.12, p> .05). Of the employee respondents, 43.8%
were male and reported working under their supervisors for an average
of 3 years. Among the supervisors, 67.2% were male. Employees pro-
vided ratings of PsyCap, their supervisors' AL, and abusive supervision
as a control variable at Time 1, fear at Time 2, and defensive silence at
Time 3. Also at Time 3, supervisors provided us with ratings of em-
ployee creative behaviors.
2.2.2. Measures
The measures for AL, defensive silence, creativity, and abusive su-
pervision are the same as in Study 1. All items were measured on a 7-
point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree,7=strongly agree), because
participants in Asia are more likely to select the mid- points and avoid
extreme responses on 5-point Likert scales (Chen, Lee, & Stevenson,
1995;Hamamura, Heine, & Paulhus, 2008). As such, we used a 7-point
Likert scale as it provides higher scale granularity that reduces response
bias. The Cronbach's alphas of AL, defensive silence, creativity, and
abusive supervision are 0.91, 0.89, 0.91, and 0.89 respectively. Psychological capital (PsyCap). At Time 1, we measured
employee PsyCap using a 12-item scale (Avey et al., 2011). Sample
items are (a) I feel condent contributing to discussions about the
organization's strategy(self-ecacy); (b) If I should nd myself in a
jam at work, I could think of many ways to get out of it(hope); (c) I
can get through dicult times at work because I have experienced
diculty before(resilience); (d) I am optimistic about what will
happen to me in the future as it pertains to work(optimism). The
Cronbach's alpha of the scale was 0.84. Consistent with previous
research on PsyCap (e.g., Rego et al., 2017), we used the overall
PsyCap score in our analyses, because we did not theorize the sub-
dimensions of employee PsyCap to have dierentiated eects. Fear. At Time 2, we measured employee fear using the 4-item
scale from Kiewitz et al. (2016). Employees were asked to report the
extent to which they had been feeling scared,”“
fearful(ranging from 1 = very slightly to 7 = very much so). The
Cronbach's alpha of this scale was 0.86. Control. As we did in Study 1, we also controlled for abusive
supervision using the same 5-item scale used in Study 1 to account for
the unique eect of AL.
2.2.3. Measurement model
We evaluated the factorial structure of our research models using
nested CFA models approach. However, given that there are ve con-
structs and 34 items, our sample-to-item ratio is quite small (5.65),
which is much lower than 10, as recommended by Everitt (1975).A
small ratio will cause less precise and less reliable factor loadings
(MacCallum, Widaman, Zhang, & Hong, 1999). To minimize potential
estimation issues and aid an appropriate indicator-to-sample ratio, we
followed the recommended procedure of MacCallum et al. (1999);
Landis, Beal, and Tesluk (2000), and Little, Cunningham, and Shahar
(2002) to create parcels for measures with more than ve items (i.e., AL
and PsyCap).
We acknowledged that from an empiricist-conservative perspective,
parceling may prevent modeled data from fully representing the re-
sponses of the individual (Little, Rhemfulla, Gibson, & Schoemann,
2013). However, the advantages of parceling in this study outweigh the
disadvantages for two empirical reasons. First, compared to parcels,
item-level data are usually of low reliability, low communality and a
smaller ratio of common-to-unique factor variance (see Bagozzi &
Heatherton, 1994;Kishton & Widaman, 1994;MacCallum et al., 1999;
Hau & Marsh, 2004;Little et al., 2002). This is especially true in a small
sample size study like ours. Second, compared to the models with items,
the models with parcels are more parsimonious and have less para-
meters to be estimated. Therefore, there are less chances for residuals to
be correlated, for dual loadings to emerge, or for more sampling errors
(MacCallum et al., 1999).
Parceling has been used in past research in organizational studies in
general (e.g., Akgün & Keskin, 2014;Farh, Hackett, & Liang, 2007;
Hornung, Rousseau, Glaser, Angerer, & Weigl, 2010;Wu, Parker, Wu, &
Lee, 2018) and in leadership research in particular (Cooper, Kong, &
Crossley, 2018;Lam, Lee, Taylor, & Zhao, 2018;van Prooijen & de
Vries, 2016). Here, we used the random assignment method widely
used in previous studies to generate three dierent types of parcels for
each construct. We did not bundle items to parcels based on EFA
loadings because on the one hand, EFA results indicate that these items
should be loaded to one common factor; and on the other hand, pur-
posively parceling may change the original factorial structure of con-
structs. Therefore, a random assignment approach is more appropriate.
If all the three types of parceling lead to similar results, we can safely
conclude that the random parceling mechanism is robust and will not
alter the conclusion that the ve-factor model is the best model.
We then conducted measure model analyses with the full combi-
nations of these three types of parcels (45 models: ve CFA
models × three types of AL parcels × three types of PsyCap parcels).
The three types of parcels yielded quite similar results, indicating the
robustness of our random parceling strategy. Results were summarized
in Table 4. As in Study 1, our proposed measurement model (Model 1)
had an adequate t, and tted better than a model where defensive
silence and employee fear were loaded onto one factor (Model 2), a
model where AL and PsyCap were loaded onto one factor, while de-
fensive silence and employee fear were loaded on the other factor
(Model 3), a model where variables that focused on the employee were
loaded onto one factor (Model 4), and a single factor model (Model 5).
2.2.4. Hypotheses testing
Descriptive statistics and correlations of all study variables are
displayed in Table 2. We tested our proposed mediation model using
SPSS PROCESS macro developed by Hayes, 2013 and the lavaan
package in R (Rosseel, 2012). The results
are presented in Tables 5 and
6. We followed the same analytical strategy as in Study 1 by examining
the paths that constitute of the serial mediated eect (see Fig. 2) and
controlling for abusive supervision. Finally, we test whether this serial
indirect eect is conditional upon employees' PsyCap (Hypothesis 4)
due to its moderating eect on the relationship between AL and em-
ployee fear.
Our results showed that AL was positively related to employees'
defensive silence (b= 0.32, SE = 0.08, p< .001). Further, AL was also
positively related to employees' felt fear (b= 0.42, SE = 0.07,
p< .001) and, in turn, employees' felt fear was positively related to
defensive silence (b= 0.24, SE = 0.07, p= .001). The indirect eect of
AL on defensive silence through employee fear was signicant (indirect
eect = 0.10, 95% CI = [0.03, 0.20]), showing evidence for
Hypothesis 1.
As in Study 1, defensive silence was negatively related to employee
creativity (b=0.21, SE = 0.09, p= .024). Next, we tested the serial
mediated eect (AL Employee Fear Defensive Silence Creativity;
Hypothesis 3). A 95% bias-corrected bootstrapped condence interval,
based on 5000 simulations, showed a signicant serial indirect eect
(indirect eect 0.02, 95% CI = [0.06, 0.004]). This conrms
Hypothesis 3. The simple mediated eect tested in Study 1 (Hypothesis
2) was also signicant (indirect eect 0.05, 95% CI = [0.13,
The formulas are available upon request from the corresponding author.
The statistical signicance of our hypothesized eects did not change when
we did not control for abusive supervision.
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
0.005]), suggesting that employee fear only partially mediated the
indirect eect between AL and employee creativity through defensive
We proceeded to test the full serial moderated mediation
(Hypothesis 4). Results are presented in Table 6. In line with Aiken,
West, and Reno (1991), we mean centered the predictors involved in
the interaction so that main eects reported in Table 6 are easier to
interpret. We found a signicant interaction between AL and PsyCap on
employees' felt fear, (b=0.13, SE = 0.06, p= .04; see Fig. 2). Simple
slope tests revealed that the eect of AL on employees' felt fear was
stronger at low levels of PsyCap (1 SD below the mean; b= 0.59,
SE = 0.11, p< .001) and weaker at high levels of PsyCap (1 SD above
the mean; b= 0.32, SE = 0.09, p< .001).
We further explored Hypothesis 4 by testing whether PsyCap
moderated the serial indirect eect of AL on employee creativity. We
used the lavaan package in R (Rosseel, 2012) to calculate the index of
moderated mediation (Hayes, 2015). If this index is dierent from zero,
the indirect eect diers across levels of PsyCap. Results revealed a
signicant index of moderated mediation (index = 0.01, 95% boot-
strapped CI = [0.001, 0.024]), showing that the serial indirect eect
was stronger and more pronounced at low levels of PsyCap (indirect
eect = 0.027, 95% bootstrapped CI = [0.079, 0.003]) and
weaker at high levels of PsyCap (indirect eect = 0.015, 95% boot-
strapped CI = [0.050, 0.002]). In sum, these analyses support
Hypothesis 4.
3. General discussion
Employee creativity is critical for organizational success and sur-
vival (Amabile, 1988;Gumusluoglu & Ilsev, 2009). Yet, although much
is known about the benets of employee creative behavior and how
positive forms of leadership can stimulate such behavior (e.g., Bai et al.,
2016;Gong et al., 2009;Li, Zhao, & Begley, 2015), we have relatively
less understanding of how potentially darker sides of leadership such as
AL might hinder individual employee creativity. In this research, we
argued that authoritarian leaders inhibit employee creativity by in-
creasing employee fear, which, in turn, encourages defensive silence,
resulting in reduced levels of creativity. We further argued that em-
ployee PsyCap mitigates the fear triggered by authoritarian leaders.
Across two eld studies conducted in Africa and Asia, we found full
support for our proposed theoretical model. Specically, the results
obtained showed that AL undermines employee creativity, with the
relationship between AL and creativity serially mediated by employee
fear and defensive silence. Our results further suggested that employee
PsyCap moderated the relationship between AL and employee fear,
Table 4
Comparison of measurement models for main variables in Study 2.
Models χ
1(df = 179) 317.603387.036 0.920.94 0.060.08 0.05
312.94313.63, p< .01
2(df = 183) 631.117700.00 0.780.82 0.110.12 0.11
253.25306.06, p< .01
3(df = 186) 888.45992.42 0.670.71 0.140.15 0.14
291.85418.43, p< .01
4(df = 188) 1214.651389.236 0.530.56 0.170.18 0.15
463.48473.82, p< .01
5(df = 189) 1682.501853.30 0.350.36 0.200.21 0.17
Model 1 (Five Factors): Creativity, Defensive Silence, Fear, AL and PsyCap;
Model 2 (Four Factors): Defensive Silence and Fear were combined into one
factor; Model 3 (Three Factors): AL & PsyCap, Defensive Silence & Fear, and
Creativity; Model 4 (Two Factors): Variables focusing on the employee (AL,
PsyCap, Fear, Defensive Silence) were combined into one factor; Model 5 (One
Factor): all items were combined into one factor.
Results of each model were summarized from nine combinations of the three
types of parcels of AL and of three types of parcels of PsyCap.
Table 5
Mediated regression results for Study 2.
Predictors Criterion variable
Employee fear Employee defensive
Intercept 1.65
(0.34) 2.53
AL 0.42
(0.07) 0.32
0.04 (0.10)
(0.07) 0.11 (0.07) 0.06 (0.07) 0.11 (0.09)
Fear 0.24
Defensive Silence 0.21
0.23 0.13 0.18 0.12
Unstandardized coecients are reported. Standard errors are in the brackets.
Table 6
Moderated mediation results for Study 2.
Predictors Criterion variable
Employee fear Employee
defensive silence
Intercept 3.63
(0.25) 3.18
(0.37) 6.22
AL 0.45
(0.07) 0.23
(0.08) 0.08 (0.11)
Psychological Capital 0.16 (0.11) 0.10 (0.11) 0.22 (0.14)
AL × Psychological
(0.06) 0.03 (0.07) 0.07 (0.08)
Abusive Supervision 0.16
(0.07) 0.06 (0.07) 0.10 (0.09)
Fear 0.23
(0.08) 0.18 (10)
Defensive Silence 0.20
0.25 0.18 0.13
Unstandardized coecients are reported. Standard errors are in the brackets.
Fig. 2. The eect of AL on Employees' Felt Fear at dierent levels of PsyCap.
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
such that the relationship was stronger when PsyCap was low rather
than high. These moderated mediation results were strongly supported
even after controlling for abusive supervision, providing evidence for
the robustness of our ndings. Below, we discuss the implications of
these ndings.
3.1. Theoretical implications
Our research ndings oer important contributions to extant lit-
erature. First, our study corroborates emerging research suggesting that
AL can hinder employee creativity (Wang et al., 2013;Zhang et al.,
2011). Despite existing research, there is still a lack of a cogent theo-
retical framework that provides an in-depth understanding of precisely
why and when authoritarian leadership may inhibit individual em-
ployee creativity. Accordingly, we developed a transactional theory of
stress perspective (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) to advance our under-
standing of the link between AL and individual employee creativity.
Our ndings suggest that employees form a stressful and demanding
appraisal of AL to the extent that it becomes detrimental for stimulating
employee creativity. Our study therefore provides an alternative theo-
retical perspective that future research interested in exploring other
consequences of AL can draw upon.
Second, rather than portraying just a direct relationship, our re-
search provides a richer insight into why authoritarian leaders aect
individual employee creativity. In doing so, we address the insucient
attention devoted to the underlying mechanisms linking the AL -
creativity relationship by examining both fear and defensive silence.
Until now, the AL literature has been limited in that it speculates that
fear and fear-based coping mechanisms trigger employees' behavioral
reactions to such leadership without explicitly testing this speculation
(e.g., Cheng et al., 2004;Farh et al., 2006). By drawing on the trans-
actional theory of stress (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and empirically
testing this perspective, our study demonstrates that fear and fear-based
coping mechanisms (defensive silence) play a central role in linking AL
to employee creativity. That is, the pressure to obey and submit to an
authoritarian leader induces the emotion of fear in employees, which
results in defensive silence and further makes it less likely for them to
engage in creative behaviors. In doing so, we also answer the call for
more research on the role of emotions within leadership literature (e.g.,
Gooty et al., 2010).
More broadly, our study provides additional insights and expands
what we know about employees' behavioral reactions to AL. In this
regard, we also emphasize the importance of investigating more than
one mechanism in the same study to deepen our understanding of the
processes through which leadership inuences work outcomes
(Hannah, Schaubroeck, & Peng, 2016). On the ip side, even though we
showed that AL could reduce employee creativity via fear and defensive
silence, it would be interesting to examine whether AL can also reduce
or enhance deviant creativity (i.e., the violation of a leader's order to
stop pursuing a new idea; Mainemelis, 2010). Deviant creativity is set
to occur when an employee already generates new ideas and violates
the leader's instructions to stop pursuing such ideas. As we found that
AL negatively inuences creativity, employees working under author-
itarian leaders may also engage in less creative deviance. In contrast, it
could also be possible that employees engage in deviant creativity to
get backto or impress the leader (Mainemelis, 2010). Exploring both
possibilities would be a fruitful line of research.
Third, we also add to the literature on silence by examining the
antecedents and consequences of defensive silence in our model. With
our ndings suggesting both AL and employee fear as antecedents, and
employee creativity as a consequence of defensive silence, we address
the recent calls made by Brinseld (2013) and Morrison (2014) for
scholars to devote more attention to this line of research because of its
potential to help reduce its occurrence and potential negative eects.
The present research presents a signicant contribution to silence lit-
erature in this regard as our ndings suggests that authoritarian
leaders, by pressuring employees to obey their last command, are
even more capable of inhibiting creativity than a related leadership
style approach, abusive supervision, which we controlled for in both
studies. As such, our research underscores the need to encourage lea-
ders to be less authoritative in their approaches.
Fourth, we also contribute to the literature by examining employee
PsyCap as a moderator of AL's impact. Although PsyCap has been
identied as an important personal resource that could be useful in
navigating dierent leadership employee relationships (see Dawkins
et al., 2013;Newman et al., 2014), to date, we only found two studies
focusing on these relationships. For instance, Li et al. (2016) found that
abusive supervision resulted in more psychological distress for fol-
lowers who have low rather than high levels of PsyCap. Wang et al.
(2014) also found that the relationship between authentic leadership
and followers' job performance was stronger for those low rather than
high in PsyCap. Wang et al. (2014) reasoned that although authentic
leadership has a positive eect on followers' performance, this eect
becomes less strong when followers already have a high level of
PsyCap, and thus are less in need of positive psychological resources
from their leader. Here, our research suggests that not all employees are
susceptible to the same degree to the fear triggered by authoritarian
leaders. In particular, it suggests that employees low in PsyCap are
more likely to experience fear resulting from AL, whereas high PsyCap
mitigates such detrimental eect. Accordingly, our study oers new
insights into individual factors that may make employees more sus-
ceptible to the negative eects of AL. This also corroborates the
emerging research showing the importance of PsyCap in helping em-
ployees deal with destructive leadership at work (e.g., Li et al., 2016).
Finally, by examining AL in both the African and Chinese contexts,
our study also contributes to AL literature. To date, extant literature has
examined the eects of AL in an Asian, especially Chinese, context. As
such, little is known about the eects of AL beyond this context, par-
ticularly where AL is equally prevalent (e.g., Africa) (Zagorsek, Jaklic,
& Stough, 2004). Chen et al. (2014) noted that more research on AL is
needed in cultures outside of the Chinese context, especially in cultures
that share similar characteristics to examine the theory's general-
izability. Given that Nigeria is a society that is also characterized by
high power distance where people generally accept authority dom-
inance (Hofstede, 2001), our study responds to Chen et al.'s call by
examining the consequences of AL on employee creativity using a
sample from Nigeria. In fact, China and Nigeria both have an identical
power distance index score of 80. Considering its rapidly growing
economy and burgeoning presence of both Eastern and Western mul-
tinational companies in the country (Babalola, Stouten, Euwema, &
Ovadje, 2016), Nigeria provides an ideal setting for extending AL re-
search. Thus, our study enriches our understanding of AL outside the
Chinese context and serves as a useful starting point to establishing the
generalizability of the construct in other societies.
3.2. Practical implications
Beyond the theoretical implications of the present study, our nd-
ings also hold signicant practical implications. Although a recent
study suggests that AL behavior could be eective in soliciting con-
formity and potentially improving productivity (Huang et al., 2015),
our ndings suggest that authoritarian leaders fall short in enhancing
employees' creativity by unintentionally silencing them based on fear
and triggering defensive silence. Hence, our ndings serve as a caution
to organizations about the potentially detrimental eects of AL and
suggest that they pay closer attention to the overly controlling manner
of their leaders. That is, leaders should be encouraged to give room for
employees' inputs and feedback to stimulate creativity. In addition,
organizations could also implement training programs to educate
people holding leadership positions about the importance of building
an appropriate climate that encourages positive interpersonal treat-
ments and relationships at work (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Misati, 2017)
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
as well as pay more attention to the selection criteria of new leaders to
avoid AL.
The signicance of the ALfear relationship for employee and or-
ganizational functioning cannot be overstated, as fear resulting from
working under intimidating and authoritative supervisors can trigger
defensive silence, which in turn inhibits creativity in the workplace.
Given that creativity plays a vital role in organizational success and
survival (Gumusluoglu & Ilsev, 2009), our ndings that AL induces fear
and defensive silence thus suggest the need for practical interventions
aimed at creating a psychologically safe work environment. Beyond this
practical intervention, top management themselves can create work
environments that encourage employees to express their opinions and
be proactive. This is especially important, because middle and lower-
level managers tend to draw from the actions of their top management
teams to derive cues about existing work climates and norms for ap-
propriate behaviors (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador,
2009). A more psychological safe and open climate can be helpful in
reducing employee fear (Edmondson, 2003) and in doing so, increase
the creativity in the workplace.
In addition, employees should also be assisted to develop their
abilities to cope with stressors and potentially demanding workplace
relationships (such as AL). Our ndings in this regard suggests that
organizations could benet from helping employees develop their
PsyCap as it was found to buer the negative impact of AL. The de-
velopment of PsyCap seems viable as it is considered to be state-likein
nature. On a continuum perspective dichotomized by purepoles of
state and trait, PsyCap is positioned as midrange and therefore a state-
likeconstruct that is relatively malleable and open to development and
performance management (Luthans et al., 2007;Newman et al., 2014).
Indeed, empirical evidence has demonstrated signicant increases in
PsyCap through external inuences such as interventions in as little as
one to three hours of training (Dawkins et al., 2013;Luthans, Avey,
Avolio, & Peterson, 2010;Luthans & Youssef, 2017), even if these
training sessions happen online (Luthans, Avey, & Patera, 2008). In-
terestingly research has shown that leaders' PsyCap are also contagious
and can result in higher levels of followers' PsyCap (Chen, Wen, Kong,
Niu, & Hau, 2017;Story, Youssef, Luthans, Barbuto, & Bovaird, 2013).
As such, organizations would benet from not only focusing on devel-
oping subordinates' PsyCap, but also the PsyCap of their daily super-
visors. Developing organizational members' PsyCap could alleviate the
negative impact of AL and thus foster employee creativity over time.
3.3. Potential limitations, future research directions, and conclusions
The strengths of our research lie in testing our hypothesized model
across two studies, utilizing two complementary research designs, as
well as obtaining data from multiple sources (i.e., employees and their
direct supervisors) and multiple waves, which reduces same-source bias
(Podsakoet al., 2012). Moreover, we also controlled for employees'
ratings of abusive supervision to assess the robustness of our ndings.
Despite these strengths, our study is not without some limitations. One
of the limitations is that the cross-sectional design of Study 1 precludes
us from fully drawing causal conclusions. In order to overcome this
limitation, we separated our measurements across three dierent times
in Study 2. Even though the relationship order of our model is theo-
retically driven, future research should consider an experimental re-
search design or collect all data included in our model repeatedly across
time to strengthen causal inferences.
An interesting next step for future research is to test how our the-
oretical model could help shed light on other outcomes of AL, such as
employee performance, deviance, and organizational citizenship be-
haviors. Future research along this line could also focus on the impact
of the other dimensions of paternalistic leadership such as benevolent
leadership. While it is useful to include these dimensions in future re-
search, research suggests that the overall paternalistic leadership con-
struct is not very useful and that its scales should be used separately
(Chou, Cheng, & Jen, 2005;Farh et al., 2006). Recent studies have
equally yielded to this suggestion by focusing solely on AL (e.g.,
Schaubroeck et al., 2017). For example, it may be that leader bene-
volence can buer the negative consequences of AL, as benevolence
refers to an individualized concern for subordinates' personal well-
being (Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). This reasoning is in line with a
study that showed that leader benevolence facilitates employee crea-
tivity (Wang & Cheng, 2010).
Future research should also explore the role of other theoretically
driven moderating variables that could impact the AL creativity link.
For example, future research could focus on the impact of, for example,
individual power distance orientation or other personal resources that
enhance employees' ability to deal with stressors. This suggestion is in
line with recent research suggesting that, under certain circumstances,
AL may be positively related to followers' outcomes (Huang et al., 2015;
Wang & Guan, 2018). That is, AL may not always be detrimental for
followers or the organization. For example, Huang et al. (2015) showed
that AL had a positive impact on revenue growth at the rm level in a
harsh economic environment (i.e., when external resources are scarce).
Wang and Guan (2018) also showed a positive relationship between AL
and employee performance, but especially when power distance is high.
Examining under which circumstances AL may be less detrimental, or
even positive, for employees is something future research should ex-
For instance, it would be interesting to examine employee mind-
fulness as a buer for fearful reactions to AL. Research indicates that
mindfulness- a conscious state of mind that allows individual to stay
in the present moment without expressing judgment or reaction
(Glomb, Duy, Bono, & Yang, 2011) - mitigates defensive reactions
(Niemiec et al., 2010) and emotional responses (Long & Christian,
2015) to stressors. Thus, it is possible that mindfulness buers the
mediating roles of fear and defensive silence in the relationship be-
tween AL and employee creativity. Therefore, examining the role of
mindfulness on the AL creativity link would be a valuable line of
We tested our model in Nigeria and China, which are societies
characterized as high power distance cultures. Power distance may be
associated with high tolerance for authoritarian leaders, and thus may
reduce the adverse employee reactions to such leaders. Even though we
expect our ndings to be applicable for organizations in Western cul-
ture where AL is predominant, future research should replicate and
extend our current ndings to other cultures. For future studies con-
ducted in low power distance cultures, such as most Western cultures, it
could be that the predicted relationships are stronger. For instance,
authoritarian leaders might have more detrimental eects on employee
creativity in Western cultures, because of followers' low tolerance for
hierarchy and authority dominance (Zagorsek et al., 2004). Such re-
search could for instance not only examine power distance orientation
at the national level but also examine the role of individually held
cultural orientations in employee reactions to AL.
In conclusion, our study of how AL undermines employee creativity
through its relationship with fear and defensive silence makes sig-
nicant contributions to leadership and creativity literatures by of-
fering a more elaborate view on how AL hinders employee creativity.
Moreover, we also highlight the role of employee PsyCap, mitigating
the negative eect of AL. We urge researchers to devote more attention
to this line of research, considering the potential opportunities for fu-
ture research in this area especially focusing on antecedents of AL,
other psychological mechanisms, and potential boundary conditions on
important work and organizational outcomes.
The authors would like to acknowledge Talya N. Bauer for her va-
luable insights and developmental feedback towards strengthening an
earlier version of this manuscript.
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Liang Guo is Professor of Computational Social Science at the Institute of Computational
Behavioral Science in Shandong University at Weihai. His research focuses on E-business,
research methods, and organizational functioning. His research has been published in
journals such as Journal of Management,Journal of Vocational Behavior,Journal of
International Management,among others.
Stijn Decoster is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Zayed University,
UAE. His research focuses on organizational leadership. His research has been published
in journals such as The Leadership Quarterly,Journal of Business Ethics,among others.
Mayowa T. Babalola is currently an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior and
HRM at the Peter Faber Business School, Australian Catholic University. Mayowa's re-
search interests lie in the intersection of leadership and behavioral ethics. His work has
appeared in journals such as Journal of Management and Journal of Business Ethics.
Leander De Schutter is a PhD student at the Chair of Leadership and Human Resource
Management at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. He is interested in how
individual human behavior aects organizational performance and avidly follows
methodological trends in the eld of management and psychology. He has published his
research in journals such as Journal of Applied Psychology,Social Psychological and
Personality Science,Harvard Business Review,and European Business Review.
Omale A. Garba is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for African Studies in Boston
University. His research focuses on leadership and work engagement. His recent research
has been appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics and International Journal of Hospitality
Katrin Riisla is a PhD candidate at the University of Leuven, Belgium, where she focuses
on unethical leadership in organizations and its implications on employee functioning,
misconduct and wellbeing. Her research has been presented at top management con-
ferences such as The Academy of Management Annual Meeting.
L. Guo et al. Journal of Business Research 92 (2018) 219–230
... Because differences in fit statistics were smaller from the recommend cutoff statistics (i.e., ∆CFI >.01, ∆RMSEA > .015;Chen, 2007;Cheung & Rensvold, 2002), we concluded that our measures were invariant across time. ...
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Based on goal setting theory, this study explores the positive effect and influencing process of authoritarian leadership on employee performance, as well as the moderating role of individual power distance in this process. Data from 211 supervisor-subordinate dyads in Chinese organizations indicates that authoritarian leadership is positively associated with employee performance, and learning goal orientation mediates this relationship. Furthermore, power distance moderates the effect of authoritarian leadership on learning goal orientation, such that the effect was stronger when individual power distance was higher. The indirect effect of authoritarian leadership on employee performance via learning goal orientation is also moderated by power distance. Theoretical and managerial implications and future directions are also discussed.
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We investigated the relationships between leaders' and their followers' psychological capital and organizational identification in a Chinese community. Participants included 423 followers on 34 work teams, each with its respective team leader. Hierarchical linear models (HLM) were used in the analyses to delineate the relationships among participants' demographic background (gender, age, marital status, and educational level), human capital, and tenure. The results revealed that leaders' psychological capital positively influenced their followers' psychological capital through the mediation effect of enhancing followers' organizational identification. The implications of these findings, the study's limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.
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The article looks at different perspectives on paternalistic leadership and assesses the current state of research and literature on the subject. Paternalistic leadership is typically defined as a leadership style that is based on fatherly benevolence combined with strong discipline and authority. It has been described as benevolent dictatorship and negatively received by much of the Western management literature available. Views on paternalistic leadership imply that managers take interest in the personal lives of workers and look out for their personal well-being. Cross-cultural studies have shown that employees in Mexico report higher paternalistic values than employees in the U.S. due to Mexican cultural values that promote strong familial relationships and respect for hierarchy.
When and why do people engage in different forms of proactive behavior at work? We propose that, as a result of a process of trait activation, employees with different types of self-construal engage in distinct forms of proactive behavior if they work in environments consistent with their self-construals. In an experimental Study 1 (N = 61), we examined the effect of self-construals on proactivity and found that people primed with interdependent self-construals engaged in more work unit-oriented proactive behavior when job interdependence also was manipulated. Priming independent self-construals did not enhance career-oriented proactive behavior, even when we manipulated job autonomy. In a field Study 2 (N = 205), we found that employees with interdependent self-construals working in jobs with high interdependence reported higher work unit commitment and higher work unit-oriented proactive behavior than employees in low interdependent jobs. Employees with independent self-construals working in jobs with high autonomy also exhibited stronger career commitment and more career-oriented proactive behavior than those in jobs with low autonomy. This research offers a theoretical framework to explain how dispositional and situational factors interactively shape people's engagement in different forms of proactive behavior.
The now recognized core construct of psychological capital, or simply PsyCap, draws from positive psychology in general and positive organizational behavior (POB) in particular. The first-order positive psychological resources that make up PsyCap include hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism, or the HERO within. These four best meet the inclusion criteria of being theory- and research-based, positive, validly measurable, state-like, and having impact on attitudes, behaviors, performance and well-being. The article first provides the background and precise meaning of PsyCap and then comprehensively reviews its measures, theoretical mechanisms, antecedents and outcomes, levels of analysis, current status and needed research, and finally application. Particular emphasis is given to practical implications, which focuses on PsyCap development, positive leadership, and novel applications such as the use of video games and gamification techniques. The overriding theme throughout is that PsyCap has both scientific, evidence-based rigor and practical relevance. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior Volume 4 is March 21, 2017. Please see for revised estimates.