ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 2177-2193.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02177

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Be your own leader: The multi-level motivational mechanisms of individual self-leadership

LUO Wenhao1, WANG Yao2()   

  1. 1School of Economics and Management, North China University of Technology, Beijing 100144, China
    2Business School, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing 100088, China
  • Received:2021-12-31 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: WANG Yao


Currently, business organizations are continuously promoting changes in organizational structure and methods of work. Meanwhile, employees are also increasingly pursuing their own values and goals. Therefore, individual self-leadership has become an important and evolving research topic in organizational management research. Individual self-leadership not only contributes to organizational development and personal performance improvement but is also closely related to self-growth in uncertain times. It is thus necessary to investigate the driving factors and mechanisms of self-leadership. A literature review of extant studies found that the current concept of self-leadership is mostly based on classical control theory, emphasizing the process of self-control and influence. However, its relatively broad content means that it has been difficult to accurately reflect new meanings of self-leadership. At the same time, empirical research on the antecedents of individual self-leadership has been limited to a single level, without considering multi-level interactions. More importantly, existing research fails to fully address the motivational processes behind the antecedents of self-leadership.

With this practical and theoretical background, this study aims to initially answer the core scientific question of "how does individual self-leadership form" through three closely related theoretical studies. Firstly, the present study defines and expands the conceptualization of individual self-leadership, and develops a reliable and valid scale for it. On the one hand, the concept of individual self-leadership has undergone substantive changes in this period of new management practice; on the other hand, the existing definition and measurement of self-leadership have been criticized because it is too broad and has insufficient reliability and validity. To this end, this study intends to reconceptualize self-leadership by building on a grounded analysis of new management practices. Furthermore, through conducting qualitative interviews and following a scale development process, Study 1 aims to develop and validate a new scale for individual self-leadership. Secondly, starting from the intrinsic motivation-driven nature of self-leadership, Study 2 theoretically investigates the influence of individual cognitive characteristics and team leadership style on the formation of individual self-leadership. Specifically, this study initially proposes that employees' belief in leadership co-creation promotes individual self-leadership by inspiring their personal goal strivings, and team empowering leadership promotes self-leadership by satisfying employees' psychological need for autonomy. Further, team leaders’ empowering leadership behaviors will also strengthen the impact of employees’ beliefs in leadership co-creation on self-leadership, resulting in a cross-level moderation model. Finally, Study 3 examines the influence mechanism of organizational contexts and team self-leadership on individual self-leadership, so as to develop a trickle-down effect model. Specifically, this study proposes that organizational shared vision and autonomy support climate can work together to enhance team self-leadership, which can further motivate individual self-leadership. In addition, the positive effect of team self-leadership on individual self-leadership will be enhanced in the context of high task interdependence and high adoption of telecommuting. To sum up, the integrated framework developed in this study emphasizes the multi-level influences and the motivational processes underlying the formation of individual self-leadership. It also echoes recent discussions on the paradoxical feature of self-leadership.

Our research is expected to make theoretical contributions to the self-leadership literature in the following ways. This research enriches and expands the concept of self-leadership, better reflecting the changes in management practices, and also provides a clearer concept and scale with accepted reliability and validity for subsequent studies. On this basis, the theoretical exploration of the formation mechanism of individual self-leadership provides a foundation for developing a multi-level theoretical framework of self-leadership, thereby helping to deepen the understanding of self-leadership in the academic world and management practice. However, given the conceptual nature of the current study, we call for further empirical examinations of self-leadership and its formation mechanisms. Future studies could also consider the role of self-leadership in digitalization transformation and artificial intelligence-driven contexts.

Key words: self-leadership, motivational mechanism, multi-level model, trickle-down effect, conceptual extension

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