Authentic leadership and safety consciousness: the role of psychological empowerment and psychological ownership at a South African mine
The advent of globalisation has changed the world of business for ever, presenting numerous challenges which have in some instances resulted in both economic and ethical meltdowns. The mining industry is no exception; in fact, the industry has been faced with challenges that include, amongst others, a volatile market and increased financial strain as well as human resource issues, often resulting in labour unrest and safety incidents. Stakeholders turn to organisational leaders and supervisors for solving these compounding problems confronting industry. Leadership plays an integral role in addressing these issues, however, very few in the leadership ranks are equipped to skilfully and effectively address these challenges. In order for the South African mining industry to effectively address these challenges, leadership within this safety critical environment needs to be examined from the perspective of authentic leadership. Authentic leadership has been linked to a number of positive employee and organisational outcomes, including psychological empowerment, psychological ownership and safety consciousness. Employees who experience their leaders as authentic and empowering are likely to display positive work behaviours. Due to the perceived control over their environment, psychologically empowered employees are likely to develop psychological ownership towards their organisation, behaving in ways that promote the best interests of their organisation. Within a safety critical environment, such as mining, employees experiencing psychological ownership towards their organisation are likely to display work behaviours and attitudes that promote safety performance; thus developing a heightened level of safety consciousness. The objectives of this study were to determine the relationship between authentic leadership, psychological empowerment, psychological ownership and safety consciousness. In addition, another objective was to determine if psychological empowerment and psychological ownership had any effect on the relationship between authentic leadership and safety consciousness. A sample of 283 managers/supervisors was obtained from a mining organisation in the Free State province of South Africa. Questionnaires were distributed and all managers/supervisors were given the choice to participate in the research. The following measuring instruments were utilised, namely the Authentic Leadership Questionnaire, Measuring Empowerment Questionnaire, Psychological Ownership Measure and Safety Consciousness Scale. Descriptive and inferential statistics, Raykov’s rho coefficients, Pearson product-moment correlations coefficients, Mplus and bootstrapping were used to analyse the data. The results of the study indicated that authentic leadership had a statistically significant positive relationship with only two dimensions of psychological empowerment, namely impact and competence. Authentic leadership had a statistically significant positive relationship with psychological ownership. Authentic leadership had a statistically significant indirect effect on psychological ownership via impact. Psychological empowerment did not have a statistically significant positive relationship with safety consciousness. Psychological ownership had a statistically significant positive relationship with safety consciousness. Authentic leadership had a statistically significant indirect effect on safety consciousness via psychological ownership. Furthermore, authentic leadership did not have a statistically significant indirect effect on safety consciousness via psychological empowerment. A number of recommendations were made for the mining sector and for future research. It is important that organisations understand the impact of authentic leadership on outcomes such as psychological empowerment, psychological ownership and safety consciousness. Organisation should, when selecting leaders, select leaders who display the four dimensions of authentic leadership. The organisation should invest in the development of authentic leaders, through interventions and leadership programmes. Recommendations for future research included undertaking longitudinal research designs as well as transcending industry lines and looking into different industries, provinces and organisations. A mixed method approach may also be employed in future research.