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Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership


  • Bradley P. Owens

    (The State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260)

  • Michael D. Johnson

    (University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195)

  • Terence R. Mitchell

    (University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195)


We draw on eight different lab and field samples to delineate the effects of expressed humility on several important organizational outcomes, including performance, satisfaction, learning goal orientation, engagement, and turnover. We first review several literatures to define the construct of expressed humility, discuss its implications in social interactions, and distinguish expressed humility from related constructs. Using five different samples, Study 1 develops and validates an observer-report measure of expressed humility. Study 2 examines the strength of expressed humility predictions of individual performance and contextual performance (i.e., quality of team member contribution) relative to conscientiousness, global self-efficacy, and general mental ability. This study also reveals that with regard to individual performance, expressed humility may compensate for lower general mental ability. Study 3 reports insights from a large field sample that examines the relationship between leader-expressed humility and employee retention as mediated by job satisfaction and employee engagement as mediated by team learning orientation. We conclude with recommendations for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Bradley P. Owens & Michael D. Johnson & Terence R. Mitchell, 2013. "Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(5), pages 1517-1538, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:24:y:2013:i:5:p:1517-1538
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1120.0795

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wilmar Schaufeli & Marisa Salanova & Vicente González-romá & Arnold Bakker, 2002. "The Measurement of Engagement and Burnout: A Two Sample Confirmatory Factor Analytic Approach," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 71-92, March.
    2. Knight, Patrick A. & Nadel, Jerome I., 1986. "Humility revisited: Self-esteem, information search, and policy consistency," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 196-206, October.
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