"How Does Expressing Humility Affect Female Leaders? Role of Supervisors’ Gender"
Does showing humility generate positive outcomes for female leaders? On the one hand, from the gender-role congruence perspective, the expression humility matches observers’ expectation of a female leader’s communal quality and thus amplifies her leadership influence. On the other, the agency-community model suggests that humility might hurts her agentic expression, which in turn degrades others’ judgments on her leadership capability. To address these seemingly contradicted viewpoints, we differentiate leadership outcomes into leadership effectiveness (e.g., bringing positive influence on others) and leadership impression (i.e., whether an individual is seen as a “qualified leader”). We argue that for a female leader, expressing humility would improve her leadership effectiveness in coaching followers and promote their satisfaction at work. However, being humble could hurt her supervisors’ impression about her leadership capability, especially in the eyes of male supervisors. We conduct three empirical studies (experiment, scenario manipulation, and survey) to test our hypotheses and conclude that (1) humble (vs non-humble) female leaders have a greater positive impact on followers’ received coaching and satisfaction (2) male supervisors (vs female supervisors) will give a humble female leader a lower leadership impression rating on her promotability through a lowered perceived leadership competence. The research conclusion should bring important insights and suggestions for improving leadership development and assessment programs in organizations.
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