Prevention-focused leadership and well-being during the pandemic: The mediating role clarity and workload
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This is an author-created, un-copyedited version of an article accepted for publication in Leadership and Organization Development Journal.
Purpose – The global pandemic has required organisational leaders to respond rapidly in a time of uncertainty. A specific challenge for leaders during the global pandemic is the salient and immediate threat to worker health and well-being. Unfortunately, the consequences of different leadership actions in this context are not well understood. By exploring the path from leader behaviour to employee well-being via experienced work characteristics, this study aims to provide a framework for better understanding pandemic threat and corresponding leadership impact. Design/methodology/approach – Two prevention-focused leadership strategies were explored: defend and adapt strategy. Two important work characteristics role clarity and workload were used to help explain the links between leadership strategies and well-being. Potential mediating pathways were tested in path analysis with Mplus (v7.4) based on 515 online survey responses. Findings – Different mediating pathways demonstrated complex associations between the constructs. Increases in the both prevention-focused leadership strategies were found associated with positive well-being by increasing employees’ perceptions of leadership and by improving role clarity in the workplace. Notably, evidence also supported that increase in defend strategy was linked to reduced worker well-being through intensified workload. Originality/value – In times of uncertainty amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, prevention-focused leadership is vital to engage the workforce and ensure compliance with safety procedures to avoid associated risks to worker health and organisational performance. This research focused on the rarely studied topic of prevention-focused leadership, and how prevention strategies were related to employee well-being. Based on the findings for prevention-focused defend and adapt strategies, this study suggested leadership practices that might shape employee well-being in a time of turbulence.
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