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Authoritarian leadership and firm-level voluntary turnover among SMEs in Thailand: Does benevolent leadership matter?

Wisanupong Potipiroon (Faculty of Management Sciences, Prince of Songkla University–Hat Yai Campus, Songkhla, Thailand)
Orisa Chumphong (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Thaksin University, Songkhla, Thailand)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 20 December 2022




This research aims to examine the impact of authoritarian leadership on firm-level voluntary turnover among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand and asks whether benevolent leadership can mitigate the adverse impact of authoritarian leadership.


A total of 110 owner-managers of SMEs and 951 employees in Thailand were invited to participate in the study. Tobit regression was used for analyzing aggregated data (i.e. employees' assessment of owner-managers' leadership styles) and firm-level voluntary turnover data provided by SME owner-managers.


The results showed that authoritarian leadership was positively related to voluntary turnover, whereas benevolent leadership was negatively related to voluntary turnover. Furthermore, the relationship between authoritarian leadership and voluntary turnover was moderated by benevolent leadership, such that the highest levels of voluntary turnover rates were observed among firms with high-authoritarian and low-benevolent leaders. In contrast, firms with high-authoritarian and high-benevolent leaders were not necessarily associated with high turnover rates. These results were observed for both the voluntary turnover rates of full-time and part-time employees and the weighted voluntary turnover rate.

Practical implications

These findings suggest that owner-managers of SMEs should take a balanced leadership approach to managing their employees, acting as paternalistic leaders who tread a fine line between being “strict and cold” and being “strict and warm.” They can achieve this by showing care and genuine concern for employees when enacting authority.


While past research has shed important light on the additive and joint effects of authoritarian and benevolent leadership styles on individual-level outcomes, this study contributes to this body of work by being among the first to show that these effects are also isomorphic at the organizational level of analysis.



Potipiroon, W. and Chumphong, O. (2022), "Authoritarian leadership and firm-level voluntary turnover among SMEs in Thailand: Does benevolent leadership matter?", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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