Cooperation as a function of leader self-sacrifice, trust, and identification
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Purpose – To examine the psychological processes underlying the effect of leaders' self-sacrifice on follower cooperation, that is, trust and collective identification. Design/methodology/approach – The main effect of leader self-sacrifice was tested on people's willingness to cooperate. In addition, people's perceptions of trust and collective identification were assessed. These effects were tested using a public good experiment, and a cross-sectional survey in a German multinational company. Findings – The findings from both the experimental study and the cross-sectional survey showed that leader self-sacrifice has a positive effect on cooperation (measured by contributions in a public good dilemma and organizational citizenship behavior in the survey). Moreover, perceptions of trust in the leader and feelings of collective identification mediated this effect of self-sacrifice. Practical implications – The present finding indicates that organizations need to focus on and implement leadership styles based on self-sacrifice. It is suggested that one possible way to do this is to train managers more effectively in how they can clearly communicate the goals that they personally value and for the achievement of which they are willing to engage in sacrificial behavior. Originality/value – This research identifies important mediators of a leadership style considered to be effective in organizations. In addition, the findings of this research also show the usefulness of both experimental paradigms and survey studies to examine the issue of leader self-sacrifice.