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    Knowledge creation on China, from proven China experts.

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  • Faculty & Research

    Knowledge creation on China, from proven China experts.

    386
  • Faculty & Research

    Knowledge creation on China, from proven China experts.

    386
Monday, January 4, 2021

Can Authentic Leadership Create a Positive Impact on Work-Family Balance?

By Michael Kwan

A recent study conducted by CEIBS, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and the University of Sydney has revealed a positive relationship between authentic leadership and work-family balance (WFB). In looking to examine the effects of authentic leadership on the WFB of followers, we surveyed over 200 employees in a Chinese company. Our findings indicate that authentic leadership effectively enhances followers’ WFB.

In exploring the effects of authentic leadership on the WFB of followers by focusing on the mediating roles of leader-member exchange (LMX), work-to-family enrichment (WFE) and the moderating role of traditionality in China, our study makes a key addition to a growing body of evidence that highlights how authentic leadership is an effective means of avoiding moral problems, advancing organisational aims and sustaining employee well-being (of which WFB is a key indicator).

Authentic leadership, characterized by the perception that a leader is trustworthy and inclined to develop a close relationship with a follower, can promote a higher quality of leader-member exchange (LMX). Work-family enrichment theory contends that resources gained in the workplace, like social capital and authentic leadership, can be shifted to the family domain. As such, a strengthened LMX can enrich the quality of family life. This enhancement is also known as work-to-family enrichment.

Our research symbolizes a fresh contribution to existing literature on authentic leadership, traditionality, LMX, and the work-family interface in several ways. First, it extends the literature on authentic leadership by going beyond work-related consequences, to include their spill-over effects on WFB. Second, it provides a new perspective on the mechanism underlying authentic leadership processes and demystifies the association between authentic leadership and WFB. Third, it integrates Chinese cultural values into the work-family literature – a first in this research field.

So what of the role of traditionality in examining the intersection of effective leadership and WFB? Effective leadership is context specific. In the Chinese setting, effective leadership encapsulates being cognizant of the heavy emphasis local society places on traditional beliefs. Chinese people tend to attach great importance to hierarchy and maintaining harmony. They also tend to keep distance from those of different status, and take for granted that authority holders possess certain privileges. Therefore, employees with high traditionality are likely to be highly motivated by authentic leaders whom they perceive as more approachable. In contrast, individuals with low traditionality regard authentic leadership as a norm, and are therefore less influenced by authentic leaders to develop quality LMX relationships.

In conclusion, the practical implications of this research highlight the importance of organisations cultivating an environment in which WFB can thrive. To the extent that authentic leaders facilitate LMX and WFE (which then contribute to the emergence of WFB) organisations should encourage authentic leadership and create a suitable context for its expression.

Considering leadership style when selecting supervisors is key. Those with much positive psychological capital, who exhibit genuine emotion and deliver useful information, should be given priority when promotion decisions are made. Organisations should also strive to cultivate transparency and morality. A well-constructed organisational climate that strongly encourages sincerity may also help to promote authentic leadership.

Finally, as traditionality is an important boundary condition that strengthens the effects of authentic leadership, organisations need to seek unique ways to integrate followers with different personal values. For those with high traditionality, authentic leaders will prove most effective. For those with low traditionality, authentic leadership may be less effective, and organisations should implement additional measures to achieve LMX.

This article refers to a study entitled “Effects of authentic leadership on work-family balance in China” published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology here.

Michael Kwan is an Associate Professor of Management at CEIBS. For more on his teaching and research interests, please visit his faculty profile here. Minmin Wang is a Research Assistant at CEIBS. Yijing Lyu is an Assistant Professor of Management at Xiamen University. Jiaqi Le is a Graduate in Media Practice at the University of Sydney.