Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of leaders’ life goals on their work related wellbeing. Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts aspirations (life goals) pursued in terms of personal growth, health, affiliation and community support psychological wellbeing, while aspirations of wealth, image and fame thwart wellbeing. However, little is understood about the influence of life goals towards leaders’ wellbeing at work, specifically job burnout. Design – The study explores seven dimensions of aspirations on a sample of 386 New Zealand leaders towards emotional exhaustion and cynicism. Data were collected in two waves (1=predictors and 2=outcomes) and structural equation modeling was used to test the relationships between variables. Findings – The study found that all extrinsic aspirations were significantly and positively correlated with job burnout, while mainly the intrinsic aspirations were significantly and negatively correlated. The structural model showed that wealth and image aspirations were positively related to emotional exhaustion and cynicism, while health aspirations were negatively related. Finally, relationship aspirations were negatively related to cynicism. Implications – This study shows the importance of life goals and the role they play towards leaders’ job burnout. Leaders focussed on extrinsic aspirations are more likely to burnout at work than those focussed on intrinsic aspirations. Hence, what leaders focus on in terms of overall life objectives matter for their workplace wellbeing. Originality/value – Findings are significant because, for the first time, relationships between the SDT dimensions associated with (a leader's) life goal orientations and job burnout has been established.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Roche, M., Haar, J. M. (2013). Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 34(6), 515-531.
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