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Proactive personality and career success

Fu Yang (School of Business Administration, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)
Rebecca Chau (School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relation of subordinate proactive personality with subjective evaluations of career success by direct supervisors, as well as conceptualize the quality of leader-member exchange (LMX) as a mediator and power distance orientation as a moderator for understanding this relation.


Data were collected using a two-wave survey research design. Participants were drawn from 360 supervisor-subordinate dyads from mainland China. Hierarchical regression analyses, Edwards and Lambert’s (2007) moderated path analysis approach, and Preacher et al.’s (2010) Monte Carlo simulation procedure were used to test the hypothesized relationships.


LMX mediated the positive relationship between proactive personality and career success. Both the relationship between LMX and career success and the indirect relationship between proactive personality and career success were stronger when power distance orientation was lower.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the authors’ understanding of how and when proactive personality facilitates employee career success in the era of the boundaryless career. However, all data were collected within a single organization, which limits the observed variability and decreases external validity.

Practical implications

Training employees to facilitate initiative in the workplace may build and maintain better and stronger relationships with their supervisors. To enhance person-organization fit, organizations should recruit and hire employees with lower levels of power distance orientation.


This study provides solid evidence that the extent to which LMX mediates the relationship between proactive personality and career success depends on power distance orientation. It represents a promising new direction for the proactive personality and career success literatures.



Yang, F. and Chau, R. (2016), "Proactive personality and career success", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 467-482.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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