How Inconsistency in Leaders’ Charismatic and Commitment Signals Undermines Employee Change Support
Prior research has emphasized how leaders use charismatic communication to motivate employee support for organizational change. But beyond inspirational visions, employees also pay attention to whether a leader’s actual behaviors signal leader commitment to change. However, it remains under-explored how leaders can communicate true commitment and how a leader’s charismatic communication and commitment behaviors jointly shape support for change. Taking a signaling perspective on change leadership, we suggest that a specific combination of leader behaviors—high charisma and low commitment—will undermine support for change because it triggers perceptions of inconsistency between what leaders say and do. We argue that this inconsistency effect will be particularly strong among employees who are dispositionally resistant to change, and is channeled through perceptions of leader integrity. We find partial evidence for our predictions in an experimental vignette study using behavioral measures of change support. Our study reveals the limitations of examining charismatic communication to motivate change in isolation, with important implications for leadership and change researchers, as well as practitioners. We call for research that explores the interactive effects of multiple leader signals to motivate organizational change.