Linking Authentic Leadership With Employee Initiative Behavior and Task Performance: The Mediating Role of Emotional Sharing and Communication Satisfaction

in Leadership


As competition between companies intensifies and uncertainty increases, it is becoming important to try new adjustments in order to achieve performance in line with these environmental changes. In addition, companies are in a situation where they have to put forth various efforts to enhance their competitiveness (Lounsbury & Ventresca, 2002). As the business environment changes, the demands on organizational members are also changing. In the past, responsive actions to changes were emphasized, but initiative responses to changes are increasingly required, and achievement of performance is also emphasized (Ashford et al., 1998; Feldman & Pentland, 2003).

There are many ways to motivate members to take initiative behavior and achieve performance, one of them being leadership. Various studies have been conducted on the effects of leadership, and many recent studies have focused on the specific topic of authentic leadership (e.g., Gardner et al., 2011; Weiss et al., 2018). This increased interest in authentic leadership is due to recent corporate scandals and various immoral issues (Peus et al., 2012). These unethical corporate problems required desirable value-driven leadership, such as authentic leadership, which is believed to solve dysfunctional situations and build trust among organizational members of the leader (Weiss et al., 2018).

Further, authentic leadership has been suggested to motivate followers and increase effectiveness within the organization (e.g., Gardner et al., 2011; Weiss et al., 2018; Yammarino et al., 2008).

Nonetheless, prior research does not sufficiently address the specific processes and mechanisms in which authentic leadership positively influences followers. Therefore, in the current study, the effect of authentic leadership on followers’ initiative behavior and performance is examined, and the specific path of influence is explored. In particular, we focus on emotional sharing and communication as an important component of the influence of authentic leadership on members. Since authentic leadership aims for a transparent relationship with its organization’s members, and because it focuses on eliciting respect and trust (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner et al., 2009), it is expected to be able to successfully achieve emotional sharing and satisfy members through communication.

This study focuses on emotional sharing because emotions are important for organizational life (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995), and the way emotions are experienced and expressed within an organization has a broad and significant influence on work-related outcomes (Goleman, 1995). Emotions are subjective experiences that are mostly felt in social interactions (Parkinson, 1996). The expression and repression of emotions determines how people feel and influences cognitive functioning as well as the ability to form and maintain effective interpersonal relationships (Gross & John, 2003). Therefore, the sharing of emotions between a leader and members can be seen as a factor that can positively influence the attitudes, behaviors, and task performance of members within the organization.

In addition, satisfactory communication between leaders and members can lead to positive results within the organization by allowing members to form more effective work relationships (Gray & Laidlaw, 2004). In particular, satisfaction with communication for leaders can increase the overall satisfaction of employees within the organization and contribute to performance improvement (Butler et al., 2003). Therefore, in the current study, emotional sharing and communication satisfaction are expected to play an important role in authentic leadership, leading to positive results for members. From this point of view, we focus on whether authentic leadership has a significant relationship with organizational members’ initiative behavior and task performance. In addition, we examine the mediating role of emotional sharing and communication satisfaction. Thus, our study makes two major contributions to the literature. First, we present a mechanism depicting the specific pathways which can explain the relationship between authentic leadership and followers’ initiative behavior and task performance. Second, through an empirical analysis, we suggest that leaders pay attention to members’ emotional sharing and communication satisfaction. This approach will not only expand the existing research findings, but also enrich the attention-grabbing areas of interactions between leaders and followers.

Theory and Hypotheses
Authentic Leadership
Authenticity is being true to oneself (Avolio & Gardner, 2005), acting in conformity with one’s true self with one’s own experiences, such as values, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and expressing what one thinks and practices (Harter, 2002). Authentic leadership has been conceptualized as a multidimensional construct composed of self-awareness, relational
transparency, balanced processing, and internalized moral perspective (Walumbwa et al., 2008). According to Walumbwa et al. (2008), authentic leadership is a way of being with a clear set of values.

Authentic leaders can promote follower authenticity when they present their authentic selves to others and generate an environment in which followers can have more opportunities for genuine self-expression (Algera & Lips-Wiersma, 2012). Previous literature on authentic leadership demonstrated that when leaders realize and act on their true values or strengths and help others do the same, followers have a greater chance of achieving well-being, which positively affects performance (Hsiung, 2012). Researchers also found that authentic leadership can have positive relationships with followers’ satisfaction with the supervisor, organizational commitment, and willingness to make an extra effort (Peus et al., 2012; Walumbwa et al., 2008). Emotions play a substantial role in authentic leadership because people can utilize rich information that emotions provide about themselves, others, and the various interpersonal interactions inside organizational environments (Avolio et al., 2004; Lazarus, 1991). Authentic leaders can elicit positive emotions from followers and foster a sense of identification with their leaders and organizations (Fredrickson, 2001). Authentic leaders can broaden followers’ thinking and, in turn, induce behaviors focused on valueadded behaviors (Emiliani, 1998). These behaviors help followers negotiate organizational challenges more effectively, improve their well-being in the workplace, and eventually build positive emotional states such as job engagement (Avolio et al., 2004).

Emotional Sharing
Emotional sharing means openly and candidly communicating one’s emotional experiences with others and expressing one’s true inner feelings to others who interact with oneself (Liu et al., 2011). Emotional sharing can help to stimulate social bonds and strengthen social relationships. By talking about an emotional event, people can build a collective memory and consolidate their memory of individual situations where the event occurred (Finkenauer et al., 1997). Further, individuals can increase the level of positive affect by speaking out about their positive emotional events or receive various types of help, including comfort, consolation, advice, and solutions, by sharing negative emotional experiences (Rimé, 2009). Emotions occur when forecasts fail to live up to projections, such as when expectations are disproved or when activities are interrupted (Rimé, 2009; Weick, 1995). Cognitive functioning can achieve social sharing of emotions. For example, by communicating openly with others, people can unfold emotion-eliciting events and their own feelings and emotional reactions. Individuals can organize the emotional material into subsequent relationships that conform according to rational thinking (Werner & Kaplan, 1967). Repeated communication regarding an individual emotional experience serves as a powerful tool for evolving of its mental representation (Rimé, 2009).

Given that the process of social sharing is helpful for gaining social attention and interest and responding to the quest for meaning or for contributing to the production of meaning aroused by emotions (Rimé, 2009), emotional sharing sustained by the help of authentic leaders is more likely to succeed and thereby increase followers’ enthusiasm and motivation to work. Authentic Leadership and Emotional Sharing Employees often feel the need to engage in impression management when interacting with leaders because they recognized the power hierarchy (Yagil & Medler-Liraz, 2014). Rather than expressing their genuine feelings, followers often regulate emotions and hide negative emotions (Hecht & LaFrance, 1998). Previous authentic leadership scholars have emphasized the idea of “leading by example” (Avolio et al., 2004; Hsiung, 2012). Authentic leaders try to reveal their genuine emotions transparently and are more willing to accept the thoughts or opinions of their subordinates (Gardner et al., 2005). As followers learn to trust these authentic leaders, followers are likely to share ideas and express their feelings more openly (Walumbwa et al., 2008). The emotional honesty of a leader is likely to be modelled by followers when they face emotional obstacles. Followers can feel more comfortable expressing their emotional experience, including negative emotions that are not usually considered appropriate, without the fear of ridicule or other social punishments (Liu et al., 2008). With an authentic leader, followers may feel more capable of displaying and sharing genuine emotions. The following hypothesis is drawn based on previous studies.

Hypothesis 1: Authentic leadership is positively related to employees’ emotional sharing.

The Mediating Role of Emotional Sharing
Authentic leaders serve as role models for subordinates by demonstrating high moral standards, honesty, and integrity, and motivate followers to respect and identify with their leaders (Avolio et al., 2004). In addition, authentic leaders show positive psychological states, such as optimal selfesteem and psychological well-being, and help others maintain a positive psychological state like themselves (Gardner et al., 2005). Because authentic leaders communicate through their own language and high-level moral standards and values, authentic leaders will communicate smoothly with their subordinates and share emotions naturally (May et al., 2003). Thus, emotional sharing is the open and candid discussion of mutual emotional experiences and expressing one’s own feelings (Liu et al., 2011). Emotional sharing with the leader strengthens the emotional bond of the subordinates and allows them to have positive emotions. Followers with strengthened bonds are more active and willing to takeinitiatives for the organizational benefit (Ashford et al., 1998). Initiative behavior is described as a self-initiating personality, an active approach, and continuous overcoming of difficulties in the pursuit of goals (Frese et al., 1997). Therefore, employees consider their social environment when evaluating the costs and benefits of initiative behavior (Hsiung, 2012).

On the other hand, task performance refers to the degree to which one’s job is successfully achieving official requirements or expectations (Williams & Anderson, 1991). In the workplace, emotional sharing with the leader occurs naturally in the work process and in life. Therefore, when emotions are shared well with the leader, intimacy increases due to the positive responses and perceptions formed in business promotion. Through this, information related to work is provided, which can help improve work progress and performance. In addition, the close relationship between leaders and subordinates, which can be formed in the organization through emotional sharing, removes uncertainties that may occur in human relationships and allows them to focus more on their work and increase their task performance (Collins & Miller, 1994). Therefore, if these theoretical discussions are linked, emotion sharing can be expected to play a mediating role in the relationship between authentic leadership and initiative behavior and between authentic leadership and task performance.

Hypothesis 2: Emotional sharing mediates the relationship between authentic leadership and followers’ initiative behavior.
Hypothesis 3: Emotional sharing mediates the relationship between authentic leadership and followers’ task performance.

Emotional Sharing and Communication Satisfaction
Communication satisfaction can be described as the personal satisfaction an individual experiences when successful communication occurs with others (Downs & Adrian, 2004) or a positive emotional response when expectations are met in a message exchange process (Hecht, 1978).

The social sharing of emotions facilitates the cognitive articulation of emotions. Unfamiliar or exceptional events stimulate storytelling which enhances shared knowledge and provides an outline within a context where the exception is significant (Bruner, 1990). Exceptions can be made understandable within the framework of a story. The communication process helps individuals reinterpret the situation and evaluate their coping potential more positively (Liu et al., 2008).

Emotional sharing between leaders and subordinates, and among subordinates themselves, is also a healing process. Sharing emotional experiences with leaders helps followers cope with stress more effectively (Harris & Kacmar, 2006).

When others who have been subjected to similar experiences provide advice that these feelings have understandable origins, individuals are reassured that their feelings have some objective basis, thereby reducing self-disapproval (Thoits, 1985).

Social sharing of emotions supports a framework for conversation development (Liu et al., 2011). People can more easily step out of the shadow of frustration and experience positive emotional states in a workplace that has an atmosphere of high emotional sharing (Gross & John, 2003). Additionally, employees are more likely to be fully aware of their emotional experience, receive advice or support, and perceive communication satisfaction because of open and honest conversation and emotion management assistance.

Hypothesis 4: Emotional sharing is positively related to communication satisfaction.

The Mediating Role of Communication Satisfaction
According to organizational communication research, when employees’ needs for communication are met, they are likely to build more effective work relationships (Gray & Laidlaw, 2004). In contrast, counterproductive communication generates dissatisfaction with jobs, leaders, and organizations (Butler et al, 2003). Previous studies have investigated the various relationships between communication satisfaction and job satisfaction (Pincus, 1986), communication satisfaction and job performance (Pincus, 1986), and communication satisfaction and organizational commitment (Putti et al., 1990). Bolino (1999) refers to the reciprocity of employees in an organization. According to this study, employees behave differently depending on how they are treated and how they feel within the organization. Therefore, when the employees are satisfied with the communication, they reciprocate by committing initiative behavior or by making extra efforts to encourage the effective functioning of their organization.

Emotional awareness gained through emotional sharing also works for fine-tuning job performance, such as managing uncontrollable feelings, helping to develop positive emotional skills, and keeping motivated (Avolio et al., 2004; Zeidner et al., 2004). Therefore, we propose that communication satisfaction may mediate the relationship between emotional sharing and initiative behavior or task performance. The following hypothesis is based on the discussion above:

Hypothesis 5: Communication satisfaction mediates the relationship between emotional sharing and followers’ initiative behavior.
Hypothesis 6: Communication satisfaction mediates the relationship between emotional sharing and followers’ task performance.

The Serial Mediating Role of Emotional Sharing and Communication Satisfaction Our study focuses on employees ‘emotional sharing and communication satisfaction to investigate the relationship between authentic leadership, employees’ initiative behavior, and task performance. Authentic leaders are characterized by being true to themselves and exhibiting behavior consistent with their values, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). Leaders who understand their core values and who are consistent with them could be authentic in their emotional expressions because of self-discipline and congruity between values and behaviors. The clarity of their deep-seated value system may enable balanced processing and make leaders more inclined to accept the perspectives of others.

Based on this, authentic leaders openly and frankly share their emotions in their relationships with subordinates, and subordinates who actively share their emotions with the leader communicate more smoothly with the leader (Liuet al., 2011). In addition, sharing emotions with the leader allows them to experience a positive emotional state and provides help to get out of frustration more easily (Gross & John, 2003). Therefore, such emotional sharing can increase satisfaction regarding communication with the leader and enhance the positive aspects of communication. Communication satisfaction with the leader enables subordinates to form effective work relationships (Gray & Laidlaw, 2004) and can also affect positive attitudes and behaviors and achievement of task performance (Putti et al., 1990). On the other hand, employees show reciprocity, and if they are treated well in the organization, they will show effective actions and results in return for the organization (Bolino, 1999). As one of the effective behaviors and results, initiative behavior and performance improvement are also included. Therefore, the following hypotheses can be established based on these theoretical discussions.

Hypothesis 7: Emotional sharing and communication satisfaction sequentially mediate the relationship between authentic leadership and initiative behavior.
Hypothesis 8: Emotional sharing and communication satisfaction sequentially mediate the relationship between authentic leadership and task performance.


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