Empowering leadership, employee goal orientations and work performance

Sut I. Wong Humborstad (Department of Communication, Culture and Languages, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)
Christina G.L. Nerstad (Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)
Anders Dysvik (Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 4 March 2014



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the possible curvilinear relationship between empowering leadership and individual in-role and extra-role work performance and the potential moderating role of individual goal orientations.


Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted based on data from 655 certified accountants. Leaders' empowering behavior was measured using Ahearne et al.'s scale. Mastery and performance goal orientations were measured using items from VandeWalle. In-role work performance was measured via a ten-item scale developed and used by Kuvaas and Dysvik. Organizational citizenship behavior was measured using items validated by Van Dyne and LePine.


Too little empowerment might have a negative or limited impact – or none at all – on individual in-role and extra-role work performance. In addition, individual mastery orientation positively moderates these curvilinear relationships.

Research limitations/implications

Empowering leadership-employee performance relationships are not necessarily linear. The present study provides an alternative explanation to the somewhat inconsistent findings in the current literature.

Practical implications

Due to the curvilinear nature of empowering leadership, leaders should not just casually adopt this leadership style but ensure that they implement it at high levels with clear clarification of the goals and work roles.


Even though empowering leadership is important to individual performance, scant research has explored whether and when empowering leadership could be detrimental. This study provides an additional view to empowerment research by examining the potential curvilinear influence of empowering leadership.



I. Wong Humborstad, S., G.L. Nerstad, C. and Dysvik, A. (2014), "Empowering leadership, employee goal orientations and work performance", Personnel Review, Vol. 43 No. 2, pp. 246-271. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-01-2012-0008

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