The Emergence of Self-Sacrificial Leadership: An Exploration of the Theoretical Boundaries from the Perspective of the Leader
Jeffrey A. Matteson
Historically, self-sacrificial leadership was demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King. Contemporaneously, the selfless contributions of business leaders, especially during situational crises, have fueled the genesis of research on the role of self-sacrifice in leadership. Presently, all published studies investigating self-sacrificial leadership have been conducted quantitatively using controlled laboratory experiments. In these studies, the aspects of post-conventional moral reasoning, the spiritual features of self-transcendence, and several concepts related to positive psychology such as empathy, altruism, hope, and courage have received insufficient attention. In this exploratory research, qualitative interviewing and cross-case analyses were employed to examine the boundaries of the construct. The construct of leader self-sacrifice is framed using concepts including attributes of charisma, risk taking, and willingness to experience harm and loss to establish the theoretical boundaries. Implications for the development of a theory of self-sacrifice in leadership, its practical utility, and recommendations for future research are discussed.
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