Although it is an increasingly popular assumption that leader mindfulness may positively affect leader behaviors and, in turn, employee outcomes, to date, little empirical evidence supports this view. Against this backdrop, the present research seeks to develop and test a serial mediation model of leader mindfulness. Specifically, we propose that leader mindfulness enhances employee performance and that this relationship is explained by increased leader procedural justice enactment and, subsequently, reduced employees’ emotional exhaustion. We conducted three studies to test this model. Study 1 involved employees from a wide range of organizations in the USA (N = 275 employees). Study 2 used a sample of leaders and employees from China and measured our model variables at three different points in time (N = 182 employees and 54 leaders). Both studies provide consistent support for our hypotheses. Finally, Study 3 involved a laboratory experiment in which 62 senior executives were assigned to either a mindfulness induction or to a control condition. Again, results revealed a significant and positive link between leader mindfulness and leader procedural justice enactment. In sum, these findings expand our understanding of mindfulness to the domain of leadership, a key area of organizational research. Moreover, they complement prior studies by showing that mindfulness dynamics go beyond intrapersonal effects but also influence the attitudes and behaviors of others. We discuss our findings in light of their contributions to the mindfulness, ethics, and leadership literatures and point out implications for practice.
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For the justice scales, we used the following introduction texts and items adapted from Colquitt 2001: For the items on distributive justice, participants were asked to refer to “the outcomes that you receive from your job, such as pay, rewards, evaluations, promotions, assignments, etc.” They then responded to items such as “To what extent do those outcomes reflect the effort that you put into your work?” and “To what extent do those outcomes reflect what you contribute to the organization?” (Cronbach’s α = .94). For interpersonal justice, participants were asked to refer to “the interactions you have with your supervisor as decision-making procedures (about pay, rewards, evaluations, promotions, assignments, etc.) are implemented.” They then responded to items such as “To what extent does your supervisor treat you in a polite manner?” and “To what extent does your supervisor treat you with dignity?” (Cronbach’s α = .86). For informational justice, the introduction is “questions below refer to the explanations your supervisor offers as decision-making procedures (about pay, rewards, evaluations, promotions, assignments, etc.) are implemented.” Sample items included: “To what extent is your supervisor candid when communicating with you?” and “To what extent does your supervisor tailor communications to meet your personal needs?” (Cronbach’s α = .93). All items were rated on a five-point scale from 1 = to a very small extent to 5 = to a very large extent.
Specifically, in line with our hypotheses, the results of these analyses showed that leader mindfulness was significantly related to procedural justice enactment (γ = .20, SE = .07, p < .01). Procedural justice enactment, in turn, was significantly related to employee emotional exhaustion, even after controlling for leader mindfulness (γ = −.48, SE = .12, p < .001). Finally, results of a bootstrapping analysis supported the proposed indirect effect that leader mindfulness was indirectly and negatively related to employee emotional exhaustion via procedural justice enactment (point estimate = −.10; 95% CI = [−.19, −.02]). Hence, these results of the multilevel analysis are consistent with the results for the aggregated model.
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We are grateful to Jessie Fan for her help with collecting data for this paper.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Schuh, S.C., Zheng, M.X., Xin, K.R. et al. The Interpersonal Benefits of Leader Mindfulness: A Serial Mediation Model Linking Leader Mindfulness, Leader Procedural Justice Enactment, and Employee Exhaustion and Performance. J Bus Ethics 156, 1007–1025 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3610-7
- Procedural justice enactment
- Justice rule adherence
- Emotional exhaustion
- Employee performance
- Field study
- Serial mediation