Why and when employees like to speak up more under humble leaders? The roles of personal sense of power and power distance

Xiaoshuang Lin, Zhen Xiong Chen, Herman H.M. Tse, Wu Wei, Chao Ma

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70 Citations (Scopus)


Research investigating the underlying mechanisms and boundary conditions under which leader humility influences employee voice remains underdeveloped. Drawing from approach–inhibition theory of power and leader humility literature, we developed a moderated-mediation model in which personal sense of power (i.e., employees’ ability to influence other individuals such as their leader) was theorized as a unique mechanism underlining why employees feel motivated to speak up under the supervision of humble leaders. Additionally, the cultural value of power distance was proposed to be a relevant boundary condition to influence such relationship. We tested the model using time-lagged supervisor–subordinate matched data. Results of mixed models analyses provided support for our hypotheses confirming that employees’ personal sense of power mediates the relationship between leader humility and employee voice, and such relationship was found to be stronger when employees’ power distance was lower rather than higher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-950
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Leader humility
  • Personal sense of power
  • The approach–inhibition theory of power
  • Voice

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