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Directing our own careers, but getting help from empowering leaders

Minseo Kim (Department of Psychology, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA)
Terry A. Beehr (Department of Psychology, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential effects of empowering leadership on followers’ subjective career success through psychological empowerment, protean career orientation, and career commitment.


Full-time employees working in the USA were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants answered surveys at three separate points over a six-week period (n=261). Structural equation modeling and bootstrapping were used to verify the indirect effect of empowering leadership on career satisfaction controlling for common method variance and growth need strength.


Empowering leadership was positively related to followers’ subsequent psychological empowerment, which in turn predicted protean career attitudes and career commitment, but only career commitment had a significant relationship with career satisfaction.

Research limitations/implications

Empowering leadership behaviors focus on potentially career-enhancing factors, including providing followers with the confidence, inspiration, and authority to assume control of their work lives. Empowering leaders benefit their followers’ careers, and psychological empowerment and career commitment may be important mechanisms in the empowering leadership-career success relationship when their effects are considered simultaneously. Employees’ development of a protean career orientation has less direct effect on subjective career success than simple commitment to a career.


Empowering leadership has been overlooked in career literature. The findings advance the understanding of how empowering leader behaviors could help employees’ subjective career success in a serial mediation model. Additionally, the study empirically demonstrates that psychologically empowered employees are more likely to engage in protean career actions and navigate their own career goals.



Kim, M. and Beehr, T.A. (2017), "Directing our own careers, but getting help from empowering leaders", Career Development International, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 300-317.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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