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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01925

Why Do Leaders Express Humility and How Does this Matter: A Rational Choice Perspective

JianChun Yang1 and  Xiao Chen2*
  • 1School of Business Administration, Guizhou University of Finance and Economics, China
  • 2School of Business, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China

The utility of leader humility expressing behavior has been examined by several studies across multiple levels. However, our knowledge about why leaders express humility continues to be sparse. Drawing on rational choice theory, this paper proposes a model examining whether followers’ capability triggers leader’s humility expressing behavior and how followers’ interpretations of it influence its effectiveness. Results from 278 leader-follower dyads from a time-lagged research design showed that followers' capability as perceived by the leader is positively related to leader-expressed humility and, in turn, this behavior would conditionally enhance follower-trust, that is, followers will trust the humble leader less when they attribute leader’s expressed humility more to be serving impression management motives. Several theoretical and practical implications of this observation are discussed in this study.

Keywords: leader-humility, follower capability, inferred motives of leader-humility, Trust, Rational choice theory

Received: 13 Feb 2019; Accepted: 05 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Darren C. Treadway, University at Buffalo, United States

Reviewed by:

Shane Connelly, University of Oklahoma, United States
Alessandro De Carlo, Giustino Fortunato University, Italy  

Copyright: © 2019 Yang and Chen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Xiao Chen, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, School of Business, Guangzhou, 510420, Guangdong Province, China,