Authentic leadership, trust and work engagement : the mediating role of psychological safety
Maximo, Natasha DeJesus Damas
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The ever-changing global business environment of today is presenting organisations with numerous challenges and in some instances result in economic and ethical meltdowns. The mining industry, in particular, is faced with a volatile market and consequently mining companies are experiencing increasing financial turmoil coupled with human capital problems resulting in labour unrest and often inoperativeness. As these challenges gain momentum, the mining industry will need to respond through a restructure of operations. Although the mining industry has been faced with a need to restructure before, it has not been faced with this challenge recently. Therefore, only a small portion of management teams holds the skills to respond effectively. For the mining industry in South Africa to adequately address these challenges, leadership will play a pivotal role. Consequently, organisations need a new kind of business leader and leadership should be examined from an authentic perspective. Authentic leadership has been associated with various positive outcomes such as trust in supervisor, psychological safety and work engagement. Both employees and organisations should support one another in order to remain viable. Trust is an important component of effective leadership and building relationships. In order for employees to feel secure and able to adapt to change, organisations should develop an environment which fosters trust and psychological safety and which, in turn, will lead to increased work engagement. The objectives of this study were to examine the relationship between authentic leadership, trust in supervisors, psychological safety and work engagement. In addition, another objective was to examine if trust in supervisor and psychological safety had an effect on the relationship between authentic leadership and work engagement. An available sample of 244 employees was taken from the mining industry in the Free State province. The questionnaires were distributed to employees across all levels in a mining organisation. All of these employees were given the choice to participate in the research. The measuring instruments utilised were the Authentic Leadership Questionnaire, Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, Workplace Trust Survey and Psychological Safety Questionnaire. Descriptive and inferential statistics, Raykov’s rho coefficients, Pearson product-moment correlations coefficients, Mplus and bootstrapping were used to analyse the data. The results indicated that authentic leadership had a statistically significant positive relationship with trust in supervisor as well as psychological safety. Authentic leadership did not have a statistically significant positive relationship with work engagement. The results indicated that authentic leadership had a statistically significant indirect effect on work engagement via trust in supervisor. Authentic leadership did not have a statistically significant indirect effect on psychological safety via trust in supervisor. Furthermore, authentic leadership did not have a statistically significant indirect effect on work engagement via psychological safety. Various recommendations were made for the mining industry as well as for future research. Organisations should understand the impact of authentic leadership on outcomes such as trust, psychological safety and work engagement. Organisations should select leaders who display the four dimensions of authentic leadership as well as implement structured leadership programmes or interventions. Recommendations for future research included utilising longitudinal research designs or diary studies as well as expanding the study to other organisations, industries, and provinces; also including additional sources of data over and above supervisors and subordinates. Future research may also employ a mixed method approach and include other related leadership constructs in the data collection.