social sciences




John H. Wilson

Regent University


In spite of much conceptual work, there is a paucity of empirical research into the

relationship between the constructs of psychological empowerment and self-leadership. This study

examined whether employee psychological empowerment perceptions are related to employee

engagement in behavioral and natural rewards self-leadership strategies, and whether these

relationships are strengthened for employees with an internal locus of control. The findings

demonstrated a significant positive relationship between psychological empowerment and both

behavioral and natural rewards self-leadership strategies. Further, internal locus of control was

found to moderate this relationship in regards to behavioral self-leadership strategies, but not

natural rewards self-leadership.

Keywords: Psychological Empowerment, Self-Leadership, Locus of Control, Organizational Leadership


In recent years, there has been much interest in the extant literature about psychological

empowerment, employee assessments about their autonomy in task performance rather than mere

choices about how to accomplish assigned tasks (Bordin, Bartram, & Casimir, 2007; Spreitzer,

1995; Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). Psychological empowerment differs from role empowerment,

also called environmental empowerment, which relates to the effort on the part of organizational

executives, to transfer some choices or decision making power from managers to operational-

level employees (Labianca, Gray, & Brass, 2000; Logan & Ganster 2007; Meyerson & Kline,

2008). Therefore, role empowerment deals more with granting decision making power and

access to resources, while psychological empowerment focuses on the degree that an individual

perceives they are empowered.

Prominent authors in the field of empowerment have asserted that self-leadership

behaviors are the critical element for effective results in autonomous work environs described in

empowerment models (Carson & King, 2005; Houghton & Yoho, 2005; Manz, 1992). For

instance, DiLiello and Houghton (2006) suggested that self-leadership has much potential for

aiding organizations in responding to new challenges in the 21st century. Likewise, Carson and

King (2005) suggested, “empowerment and self-leadership are avenues to influence and or

improve direction and motivation within organizations by placing greater emphasis on employee

mindset and skill development for each individual in the workplace” (p. 1050). Individuals who

display self-leadership will seek ways to direct their own activities through behavioral strategies,

through natural reward drawn from their work, and through cognitive thought strategies. (Manz

& Sims, 1980; Sims & Manz, 1995). The inducement towards empowerment programs in

leadership theory and practice seem to hinge on the notion that individuals in a less controlling

work environment will have a stronger sense of ownership in the success of the organization

(Argyris, 1998; Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Spreitzer, 1995).

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