Leading the team, but feeling dissatisfied: Investigating informal leaders' energetic activation and work satisfaction and the supporting role of formal leadership

Chia Yen Chiu, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Ashlea Bartram, Jing Wang, Paul E. Tesluk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Most research on informal leadership focuses on the benefits of leading, with little attention placed on exploring the potential negative implications for individuals with informal leadership status. We integrate adaptive leadership theory and conservation of resources theory to highlight the energetic activation level and work satisfaction of informal leaders based on four complementary studies. Results of Study 1 (survey) confirmed a negative association between individuals' informal leadership status and their work satisfaction, particularly under conditions of low formal leadership support. In Study 2 (interviews), we concluded that experienced low energetic activation level is the key mechanism explaining the informal leadership status-work satisfaction relationship. In Study 3 (survey), we then confirmed that when formal leadership support is absent, individuals' informal leadership status is negatively associated with their work satisfaction through the mediation of their lowered energetic activation. Finally, based on a scenario manipulation (Study 4), we reported that informal leaders, as compared to non-leaders, had a lower energetic activation level and thus lower satisfaction under the condition of low formal leadership support. Our findings contribute to the literature by highlighting the energetic activation of engaging in informal leadership roles and the continued relevance of formal leadership support to informal leaders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-550
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • energetic activation
  • informal leadership
  • teams
  • work satisfaction

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