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Authentic leader(ship) development and leaders' psychological well-being: an outcome-wide analysis

Ayse Yemiscigil (Fordham University, New York, New York, USA)
Dana Born (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Scott Snook (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Emily Pate (MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 13 October 2022

Issue publication date: 7 November 2022




Despite a fast-growing interest in leadership development programs, there is limited research on the impacts of leadership development and a narrow focus on professional competencies as outcomes. The authors’ aim was to test whether authentic leadership development (ALD), an identity-based leadership development approach, is associated with positive changes in leaders' psychological well-being.


In a large sample of leaders (N = 532) from five different ALD programs, the authors conducted a pre-registered outcome-wide analysis and tested within-person changes in key indicators of psychological well-being and explored individual differences moderating these changes.


Results showed significant increases in self-concept clarity, sense of purpose in life and personal growth about two to three weeks after the programs ended. Changes in stress and health were not consistent. These changes did not differ across socio-demographic status (gender, age), work-related factors (leadership, industry and tenure) and most personality factors (extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience). Those with high emotional variability experienced greater improvements in some outcomes of well-being while individuals with higher income and conscientiousness (who had high baseline self-concept clarity) experienced smaller improvements. Longer follow-up assessments were associated with smaller changes.


As one of the most comprehensive assessments of ALD outcomes to date, this study shows the potential of ALD for improving outcomes beyond leadership skills, the well-being of leaders, highlighting the return on value in leadership development and pointing to learning and development as a workplace well-being intervention.



The authors thank Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership for funding this project. The authors also thank Jennifer Lerner, Horace Ling, Suzanne Cooper, Ashley Davis, Charlie Dorison, Teddy Svoronos, Amy Cuddy, Jack Schultz, Shan Shan, Chelsea Zabel, Mala Paliwal, Seeam Noor, Joanna Damp, David Gergen, Wendy Sherman, Jorrit de Jong, David Margalit, Warren Dent, Jessica Creighton for the help and support. The authors finally thank anonymous reviewers for the helpful feedback.


Yemiscigil, A., Born, D., Snook, S. and Pate, E. (2022), "Authentic leader(ship) development and leaders' psychological well-being: an outcome-wide analysis", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 43 No. 8, pp. 1287-1307.



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