Skip to Main Content

Share / Save   

The Trickle-Down Effect- A Case for the Humble CEO.

CEOs who exercise humility in their leadership styles are likely to elicit high performance from employees.

Humility in leadership has a new champion! With an insightful look at the trickle-down effects of humble chief executive officers (CEOs), Dr. Amy Yi Ou, assistant professor of the business school at the National University of Singapore, purports that:

"Humble CEOs tend to empower leaders in their organizations, which in turn has a cascade effect throughout that organization and positively impacts job performance."

Her work has since won the 2013 Alvah H. Chapman, Jr. Outstanding Dissertation Award, presented by the Center for Leadership (CFL) at Florida International University (FIU) in partnership with the Network of Leadership Scholars (NLS).

“Based on social information processing theory, I found CEO humility to be positively associated with empowering leadership behaviors, which in turn, correlates with TMT (top management team) integration,” she says. “TMT integration then positively relates to middle managers’ perception of empowering organizational climate, which is then associated with their work engagement, affective commitment, and job performance – a cascading effect.”

Dr. Ou’s dissertation entitled “Understanding Humble Chief Executive Officers: Connections to Top Management Team Integration and Middle Manager Responses” explores the concept of humility among chief executive officers (CEOs) and the process through which humility is connected to top management team integration and middle manager responses. To test her ideas, Dr. Ou twice gathered information from 328 TMT members and 645 middle managers in 63 private companies in China.

“Young researchers with fresh ideas are vital for directing and informing leadership study and practice,” reports Mayra Beers, Ph.D., Director of Operations for the Center and a Knight Research Fellow. “We had more than 30 outstanding entries from around the world and are pleased to be able to recognize Dr. Ou’s insightful study.”

Dr. Ou’s primary research interests are strategic leadership, organizational culture, organizational ambidexterity, and cross-cultural management. Her research on “Cross-National, Cross-Cultural Organizational Behavior” was featured in the Journal of Management (2007); she also was the winner of the journal’s 2012 Scholarly Impact Award and the Best Paper Award. Her articles have appeared in Group & Organization Management (2012) and Journal of Applied Psychology (2011).

“I thank FIU’s Center for Leadership for this award,” she says. “Receiving the award gives me more confidence to continue my research on leader humility. I appreciate being connected with the Center for Leadership and meeting potential collaborators through this relationship.”

Dr. Ou received her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Arizona State University (2011). Her master’s degree in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management (2003) and bachelor’s degree in Finance were both earned at Peking University.

As the recipient of the award, Dr. Ou receives a $3,000 cash prize. She was honored at the Network of Leadership Scholars meeting at the Academy of Management Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida and will deliver a presentation of her dissertation at the annual Research Colloquium at the FIU Center for Leadership, November 20th of this year.