An uncertainty management perspective on the antecedents of leader self-serving behavior

Mayowa T. Babalola, Yuanmei Qu, Moazzam Ali, Chandra Shekhar Rao Pathki, Muhammad Usman, Michael Muchiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leader self-serving behavior has been associated with a range of adverse outcomes in the workplace. However, much remains to be explored about why and when such leader behavior emerges in organizations. This research develops and tests a theoretical framework that delineates the emotional and cognitive states that give rise to leader self-serving behavior. Specifically, we draw on uncertainty management theory to theorize that job insecurity heightens leaders' anxiety and self-serving cognitions that subsequently trigger leader self-serving behavior. We further argue that the overall justice of an organization effectively mitigates the indirect relationship between a leader's sense of job insecurity and leader self-serving behavior via leader anxiety and self-serving cognitions. Results from a three-wave field study involving 481 leader–follower dyads provide support for our hypothesized model. We discuss the implications of our findings for leadership theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • leader job insecurity
  • leader self-serving behavior
  • overall justice
  • self-serving cognitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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