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The effect of leadership on work-related flow: a moderated mediation model

Junbang Lan (School of Business, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong)
Chi-Sum Wong (Department of Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sha Tin, Hong Kong)
Chunyan Jiang (Department of Human Resource Management, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China)
Yina Mao (Department of Human Resource Management, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 3 April 2017




Some indirect evidence indicates that leadership may affect work-related flow, a core concept in positive psychology. However, the exact process of how this relationship takes place is still unknown. Based on the nature of leader-member exchange (LMX), the purpose of this paper is to hypothesize a moderated mediation model of the LMX-flow relationship in which psychological empowerment is the mediator while emotional intelligence (EI) is the moderator.


Two samples are utilized in the study. One sample (n=219) is from the service industry representing a high emotional labor job, and the other sample (n=208) is from the manufacturing industry representing a low emotional labor job.


In both the samples, psychological empowerment mediates the positive relationship between LMX and work-related flow. However, the moderated mediation effect of EI is supported only in the service sample but not in the manufacturing sample.

Practical implications

Leader plays an important role in facilitating subordinates’ flow experience by enhancing psychological empowerment. For the high emotional labor job, employees with high EI are better able to transfer leader’s support into flow experience.


The paper, as the first study to connect LMX with flow concept, advances the study of positive psychology in workplace context, especially the leadership field. By proposing a mediating mechanism and outlining EI as a moderator, the study explains how LMX relates to flow experience at work.



This research was jointly supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC; Grant number: 71272104 and 71402069).


Lan, J., Wong, C.-S., Jiang, C. and Mao, Y. (2017), "The effect of leadership on work-related flow: a moderated mediation model", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 210-228.



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