Faculty Publications - College of Business


Debby Thomas

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This study used quantitative research to investigate the acceptability and effectiveness of empowering leadership in various cultural contexts. The importance of finding appropriate leadership styles to use in cross-cultural situations is paramount. Development organizations as well as multinational organizations struggle to find appropriate forms of leadership that are effective in mobilizing the workforce in highly diverse cultural contexts. The effects of empowering leadership on psychological empowerment and self-leadership are measured in two cultural contexts representing both high and low power distance and collectivism to explore how empowering leadership behaviors affect the empowerment of subordinates. This research is located within five intersecting theoretical frameworks: empowerment, psychological empowerment, empowering leadership, cross-cultural studies, and African leadership studies. Two hundred forty-five surveys were collected—121 from Rwanda and 124 from the United States. The self-report surveys assessed followers’ perception of their leader’s empowering leadership, as well as the followers’ cultural values and psychological empowerment and self-leadership. First, hierarchical regression analysis showed that empowering leadership has a significant positive effect on both psychological empowerment and self-leadership in both cultural context. This research contributes to the field of empowerment by offering empirical evidence that empowering leadership is appropriate and effective in both high and low power distance and collectivism cultures. Second, hierarchical regression analysis with tests for moderation show that power distance moderates these relationships, especially in high power distance cultures, while collectivism only moderates occasionally. This contributes to the field of cross-cultural studies by indicating that power distance is a cultural value that can have a moderating effect and needs to be included in future cross-cultural studies. This thesis provides evidence that empowering leadership is an effective form of leadership that produces employee empowerment in diverse cultural contexts, and it provides new insights into an appropriate form of leadership for international development organizations to implement when working overseas.


Submitted to Regent University School of Business & Leadership, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership, Debby Thomas, June 2015.

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