Leaders’ perceived authenticity—the sense that leaders are acting in accordance with their “true self”—is associated with positive outcomes for both employees and organizations alike. How might leaders foster this impression? We show that sensitive self-disclosure, in the form of revealing weaknesses, makes leaders come across as authentic (Studies 1 and 2)—because observers infer that the discloser is not engaging in strategic self-presentation (Study 3). Further, the authenticity gains of sensitive self-disclosure have positive downstream consequences, such as enhancing employees’ desire to work with the leader (Studies 4A and 4B). And, as our conceptual account predicts, these benefits emerge when the revealed weakness is made voluntarily (as opposed to by requirement; Study 5), and are more pronounced if the disclosure is made by a relatively high-status person (Study 6). We also present anecdotal field evidence (Study 7) consistent with the causal effects identified in Studies 1–6.
- Leaders’ interpersonal perception
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology