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Seizing the benefits of age diversity: could empowering leadership be the answer?

Cara-Lynn Scheuer (Management and Decision Sciences, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina, USA)
Catherine Loughlin (Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 17 February 2021

Issue publication date: 20 April 2021




Acknowledging that only examining the main effects of diversity may be limiting, the authors explore integrating van Knippenberg et al.'s (2004) categorization–elaboration model (CEM) of workgroup diversity as a linchpin in the relationship between empowering leadership and performance in age-diverse work groups. While prior research has focused almost exclusively on the impact of transformational leadership in diverse contexts, few studies have found the positive effects of transformational leadership to be diminished in certain age-diverse contexts. Consequently, the authors investigate whether empowering leadership may be a better approach in this context due to its emphasis on accommodating and participative behaviors.


Using survey data gathered from work group members across a wide array of industries (N = 214), the authors test for the moderating effects of empowering leadership on the relationship between age diversity and work group performance and its indirect relationship via information elaboration (while controlling for transformational leadership).


Empowering leadership positively moderated the direct relationship between age diversity and work group performance and the indirect relationship via information elaboration, whereas transformational leadership had the opposite effect. “Coaching” and “showing concern/interacting with the team” drove the positive effects of empowering leadership, and “personal recognition” and “intellectual stimulation” predicted the negative effects of transformational leadership.

Practical implications

This research offers insights into how managers can lead age-diverse work groups more effectively (i.e. by utilizing an empowering as opposed to a transformational leadership approach, with a particular emphasis on “coaching” and “showing concern/interacting with the team” behaviors).


The study identifies an “alternative” moderating contingency to the age diversity–performance relationship (empowering leadership).



The authors would like to acknowledge the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services at Saint Mary's University (Canada) for funding this research. The authors would also like to thank Allegra Network LLC, Mr. George Nixon and Mr. David Williamson III for helping to facilitate the data collection for this study.


Scheuer, C.-L. and Loughlin, C. (2021), "Seizing the benefits of age diversity: could empowering leadership be the answer?", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 495-515.



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