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Does leader humility matter? Effects on altruism and innovation

Fermín Mallén (Department of Business Administration and Marketing, Universitat Jaume I, Castellon de la Plana, Spain)
Emilio Domínguez-Escrig (Department of Business Administration and Marketing, Universitat Jaume I, Castellon de la Plana, Spain)
Rafael Lapiedra (Department of Business Administration and Marketing, Universitat Jaume I, Castellon de la Plana, Spain)
Ricardo Chiva (Department of Business Management and Marketing, Universitat Jaume I, Castellon de la Plana, Spain)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 17 June 2019

Issue publication date: 17 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effect of leader humility in firm innovativeness. The study highlights the importance of promoting altruism within organizations as a mechanism that may explain why leader humility fosters innovation.

Design/methodology/approach

The study was conducted in a sample frame of 11,594 Spanish companies. In total, 568 valid questionnaires were obtained and 284 different companies participated in the study. Structural equations were used to validate the proposed hypotheses.

Findings

All the hypotheses proposed in the conceptual model were confirmed. Results provide empirical evidence of the positive relationship between leader humility and firm innovativeness, as well as the mediating role played by altruism. In other words, leader humility promotes altruism and, in turn, firm innovativeness.

Research limitations/implications

The sample of companies is heterogeneous in terms of firm turnover, size, export ratio and age. The study is focused on firm innovativeness and only studies altruism as a mediating variable in the relationship between leader humility and firm innovativeness.

Practical implications

The present study provides some guidelines which may help companies to improve their competitiveness, enhancing workplace conditions.

Originality/value

There are few empirical studies that analyze the effect of humble leaders or leader humility on innovation. The main value of the present research is to further the current knowledge of this relationship by disentangling the mediating effect of altruism within organizations.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the University Jaume I (Ref. P1.1B2013-14 and Ref. UJI-A2017-05) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Ref. ECO2011-26780) for their financial support for this research.

Citation

Mallén, F., Domínguez-Escrig, E., Lapiedra, R. and Chiva, R. (2019), "Does leader humility matter? Effects on altruism and innovation", Management Decision, Vol. 58 No. 5, pp. 967-981. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-11-2018-1180

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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