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Gain or loss: the double-edged effect of empowering leadership on employees’ innovative behaviours

Zhengwei Li (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Chenye Qiu (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Kai Zeng (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Feirong Wang (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 15 February 2022

Issue publication date: 20 January 2023

1044

Abstract

Purpose

Empowering leadership is often considered unequivocally positive for employees, but recent studies have shown that this ostensibly straightforward effect is more complex. The dual facets of the effect of empowering leadership – especially on employees’ innovative behaviour – have received insufficient attention. Based on job demand-resource (JD-R) theory, this study aims to propose a theoretical framework for the relationship between empowering leadership and employees’ innovative behaviours with a dual process model of gain and loss.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is survey based, with 261 paired leader–employee data points collected in the People’s Republic of China.

Findings

The results show that empowering leadership has a “double-edged” effect on employees’ innovative behaviours: it affects innovative behaviours positively through employee job engagement and negatively through emotional exhaustion. Moreover, trust in leaders moderates the mediating roles of job engagement and emotional exhaustion.

Originality/value

This study contends that empowering leadership has a dual impact on employees and proposes a promising model of this double-edged effect to contrast with other complex models in the empowering leadership literature. Furthermore, this study uses JD-R theory to deeply explore the dual process whereby empowering leadership influences employees’ innovative behaviour and provides practical guidance for business management.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This study was funded by the Key Project of Zhejiang Provincial Philosophy and Social Science Foundation of China (19NDJC023Z), Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (LY20G020017; LY22G010003), Zhejiang Provincial Philosophy and Social Science Foundation of China (21NDQN211YB) and 2021 Zhejiang University of Technology Humanities and Social Sciences Pre-research Fund Project (SKY-ZX-20210197, SKY-ZX-20210198).

Citation

Li, Z., Qiu, C., Zeng, K. and Wang, F. (2023), "Gain or loss: the double-edged effect of empowering leadership on employees’ innovative behaviours", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 233-250. https://doi.org/10.1108/CMS-06-2021-0243

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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