Developing and validating a scale of altruistic leadership

Zheltoukhova, Ksenia and West, Michael and Burgoyne, John (2016) Developing and validating a scale of altruistic leadership. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The focus of many disciplines on cooperation as a strategy for effective societal functioning stimulates continuing debate on altruism generally and altruistic leadership more specifically. Theoretical articulation of the concept of altruistic leadership is limited, with most leadership scholars focusing on self-sacrificial behaviours, rather than leaders’ motivational state. This thesis draws on the social science literature to address the question of the nature of altruistic leadership and its effects, using a mixed-method approach. A new measure of altruistic leadership was developed using an exploratory survey of 806 managers and 1,049 employees, and qualitative interviews with leader-follower pairs eliciting 35 critical incidents describing altruistic leadership. Validity and reliability of the scale were then tested in a survey of a matched sample of 184 managers and 532 employees working in four organisations in the UK financial services sector. The contribution of this research to the field is twofold. First, two new dimensions of the altruistic leadership construct – expectation to bear costs of self-sacrifice and empathic concern – were revealed. Additionally, altruistic leadership predicted follower perceptions of leader effectiveness, organisational climate and support for creativity above the variance explained by transformational and servant leadership. Followers reported the least positive leadership outcomes if their leaders considerably overestimated how altruistic they were, compared to the ratings given to them by followers. Theoretically, the thesis enhances our understanding of the nature and effects of altruistic leadership, raising important questions about its role in the work of organisations. This insight could act as a foundation for further studies of altruistic motivation of leaders in experimental settings. The scale is also practically useful as a tool for leader recruitment, development, and self-reflection. Future studies should continue applying this scale across a range of organisational settings to examine how altruistic leadership is expressed.

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Thesis (PhD)
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09 Jun 2016 08:30
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:35