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Being aware of death: How and when mortality cues incite leader expediency and servant leadership behavior

Ogbonnaya, Chidiebere, Babalola, Mayowa, Ali, Moazzam, Ren, Shuang, Usman, Muhammed, Wang, Zhining (2024) Being aware of death: How and when mortality cues incite leader expediency and servant leadership behavior. Journal of Management Studies, . ISSN 0022-2380. (doi:10.1111/joms.13051) (KAR id:104521)

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The COVID-19 crisis has been associated with existential concerns regarding mortality. These concerns, described as “mortality cues,” can influence people’s emotions, behaviors, and the quality of leadership in organizations. Using the contingency model of death awareness (CMDA; Grant & Wade-Benzoni, 2009), we provide new evidence on how mortality cues can incite negative and positive leadership behaviors via two forms of death awareness: death anxiety and death reflection. Specifically, we theorize that mortality cues can increase leader death anxiety, giving rise to leader expediency (a leader’s use of unethical practices to expedite work for self-serving purposes); however, mortality cues can also facilitate leader death reflection and, consequently, servant leadership behavior. We further suggest that leaders’ responses to mortality cues depend on their psychological capital (PsyCap), such that leaders with high (vs. low) PsyCap respond to mortality cues with less expediency (via death anxiety) and more servant leader behaviors (via death reflection). We support our hypotheses through three separate studies using an experiment, time-lagged data from healthcare workers, and daily diary data from non-healthcare professionals. We conclude that mortality cues have a double-edged influence on leadership behavior. We also discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/joms.13051
Uncontrolled keywords: leader expediency, mortality cues, servant leadership, leader death reflection, leader death anxiety
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Chidi Ogbonnaya
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2024 11:09 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 14:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Ogbonnaya, Chidiebere.

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