Open Journal of Leadership
2013. Vol.2, No.4, 95-102
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojl) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojl.2013.24015
Open Access 95
Calling for Authentic Leadership: The Moderator Role of
Calling on the Relationship between Authentic
Leadership and Work Engagement
Victor Seco, Miguel Pereira Lopes
Social and Political Sciences Institute, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received October 19th, 2013; revised November 18th, 2013; accepted November 25th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Victor Seco, Miguel Pereira Lopes. This is an open access article distributed under the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any me-
dium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Authentic Leadership (AL) literature supports the existence of a positive relationship between perceived
AL, follower work engagement, and positive attitudes like calling. Our research doesn’t confirm that rela-
tionship and fosters the possibility of AL influence could not be felt by employees. It was also expected,
theoretically, a positive effect of Calling as well as with trust. We have found a significant negative effect
on the relationship between AL and calling. But our findings brought some positive insights. There was a
positive significant relationship between calling and work engagement. Calling had also moderated, with
a positive significant result, the relationship between AL and work engagement. Future research should
focus on the importance of perceived AL within the education public services, and the significant effect of
calling on work engagement. Our study suggests that organizations could promote employee calling work
orientation, stimulate leaders to become more authentic, and improve positively organization performance.
Keywords: Work Engagement; Authentic Leadership; Work Orientations; Calling
People need to believe and trust their leaders more than ever.
Believing, as in Gilbert (1991), involves the knowledge and
mental representation of significant information, which is re-
garded as truthful. The authenticity of the leader in exercising
his/her positive qualities of character will be the beacon that
help people to face the growing complexity and trust deficit that
storms the present day. That is why, from the bankruptcy of
several global firms (Enron, Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers)
and the noticeable lack of honesty on the part of their leaders, a
new focus of interest in the study of leadership has emerged
that in turn has led both researchers and professionals in man-
agement towards the now renamed “authentic leadership”
Leaders often underestimate the challenge of engaging em-
ployees but it is becoming increasingly important, given that
disengaged employees represent a high cost to the organizations
(Avery, McKay, & Wilson, 2007). Employee engagement has a
direct effect on performance (Harrison, Newman, & Roth,
Authentic leadership is positively related to engagement as
authentic leaders strengthen the feelings of self-efficacy, com-
petence and confidence of their followers, as well as the identi-
fication with the leader and the organization, which results in
higher levels of engagement (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Gardner,
Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005). On this topic
Cartwright and Holmes (2006: p. 206) argue that: “As indi-
viduals become increasingly disenchanted and disillusioned
with work and fatigued by the constant demand to change and
to be flexible in response to organizational needs, employers
now need to actively restore the balance, recognize the meaning
and emotional aspects of work and move towards creating a
more energized, fulfilled and engaged workforce”.
From a professional’s perspective of AL, Bill George (2007)
gave the motto and, in his book “True North, Discovering your
authentic Leadership”, used a very effective metaphor for pre-
senting the importance of authenticity: top executives should
use their internal compass to find and follow the True North in
the business world. On the other hand, researchers such as Lu-
thans and Avolio (2003), helped to improve the AL construct
by defining it as “a process that draws from both positive psy-
chological capacities and a highly developed organizational
context, which results in both greater self-awareness and
self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of leaders and
associates, fostering positive self-development” (p. 243). This
alternative of leadership is immersed in a specific field of psy-
chology known as Positive Psychology focusing on the study
and appreciation of forces, virtues and the most positive aspects
of life, converging on the development of people, self-realization
and meaning of life (Seligman & Csikzentmihalyi, 2000). Posi-
tive Psychology emphasizes the study of grace, excellence and
authenticity and raises their importance as determinants for life
to the level of diseases, disorders or anxieties (Peterson &
Seligman, 2003). Also, the study of work engagement is re-
garded by Positive Psychology as very important.
We are aware that when we study leadership we must not
forget followers. They follow those who lead, not for them, but
for a greater good. As Kets de Vries (2001: p. 107) argues,
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
“meaningful activity at work becomes a way to transcend per-
sonal concerns; it becomes a way to create a sense of continuity.
Leaving behind a legacy through work becomes an affirmation
of the person’s sense of self and identity; it can become an im-
portant form of narcissistic gratification”. Meaningful work
fosters the employees’ self-esteem, hope, health, happiness and
sense of personal growth (Csikszentmihalyi, 2003).
In the specific case of schools, teachers are followers, work-
ing for the greater good of society, but need to be highly en-
gaged in their job, because dealing with young people and their
specific traits is not easy and entails more than merely a salary
in return for their work. It is far more than simply a well-paid
job and a structured career. Working in a mass public school
requires a special kind of dedication and a humanitarian orien-
tation, caring for young people, shifting their future. When
teachers feel that the organization cares for and is helpful to the
community, they feel that they are performing meaningful work.
Chalofsky (2003) has consistently demonstrated that people
rate purpose, fulfillment, autonomy, satisfaction, close working
relationships and learning as more important than money.
Frankl (1984) said that the “search for meaning is the primary
motivation in life”. The present paper extends the study of the
relationship between AL and Work Engagement and focuses on
an additional construct which is Work Orientations. This study
will be endeavored from the followers’ standpoint. To achieve
this, correlations are sought between the dimensions of those
constructs, based on answers given by public secondary school
teachers. This paper is structured as follows. First, a description
of the constructs under evaluation is given: Work Engagement,
AL and Work Orientations. Next we present hypotheses corre-
spondent to the proposed theoretical model. This includes the
analysis of the relationship between AL, Work Engagement and
Work Orientations, namely of its component Calling. The ob-
jective is to capture relationships between authentic leadership
and work engagement characteristics and the essence of work
orientations. Finally, the usual format is followed: method,
results, discussion and conclusions. The main limitations of this
research and suggestions for future studies are also explored.
Work engagement is an important conceptualization of
adults’ happiness and well-being at work. Engagement refers to
the relationship the employee has with his work; the better the
relationship, the greater the level of engagement (Schaufeli &
Salanova, 2011). This construct reflects a Positive Psychology
trend defined in 2002 by Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzáles-Romá
and Bakker as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind
that is characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption” (p. 74).
Vigor refers to “high levels of energy and mental resilience
while working”, i.e., the will and persistence of someone who is
engaged with the work. Dedication is defined as a strong in-
volvement in one’s work and a fulfilled meaning of it. Absorp-
tion means the concentration and happiness felt in one’s work
that helps time pass quickly. Work engagement has a close
relationship with a phenomenon that has been studied for a
quarter of a century, the burnout syndrome. While burnout is
caused by deterioration of working health, work engagement is
associated to a process of improving that working health. Ac-
cording to a recent review, work engagement is positively asso-
ciated, for instance, with mental and psychosomatic health,
intrinsic motivation, efficacy beliefs, positive attitudes towards
work and the organization, and high performance (Schaufeli &
Salanova, 2007). According to Buskist, Benson and Sikorski
(2005), teachers who have a call presented different work en-
gagement behaviors, namely: 1) demonstrated a broad and
in-depth knowledge of the subject to teach; 2) turned relevant
the knowledge on the day-to-day issues; 3) emphasized the
critical thinking on the part of students; and 4) shared with each
other their values, trivia and academic enthusiasm.
AL emerged as an important component in positive leader-
ship studies since its initial conceptualization in the late seven-
ties, until its theoretical maturity was proposed as a “root con-
struct of leadership theory” (Gardner, Avolio, & Walumbwa,
2005: p. 315). The construct AL was initially proposed by Lu-
thans and Avolio (2003) and was developed by Gardner et al.
(2005) and Avolio and Luthans (2006). However, Avolio,
Gardner, Walumbwa & May (2004) were the first to propose
this as a theoretical model derived from the positive organiza-
tional behaviour, in which leaders are deeply aware of how
people think and behave, the context in which they operate and
are perceived by others, as well as of values/morals systems,
knowledge, perspectives. They are also conscious of their own
strengths as well as of that of others. In AL, there are four
characteristic dimensions that describe the behavior of the
leaders and allow them to be recognized as authentic as shown
in Table 1.
This way the theoretical model of AL includes not only
leader behaviours but also their characteristics as well as that of
their followers, such as their levels of psychological capital,
suggesting a more integrated approach to the study of leader
ship and organizational behaviour (Gardner et al., 2005; Lu-
thans, Norman, & Hughes, 2006). Authentic leaders are those
“who know who they are and know what they believe in (Avo-
lio, Gardner, & Walumbwa, 2005: p. 13). When leaders are
AL characteristic dimensions.
Self-awareness Refers to the knowledge that the leader has about his or her strengths and weaknesses.
Relational transparency It has to do with the characteristics of the leader, generating a climate of trust among the followers that
allows for the sharing of thoughts and emotions.
Balanced processing Refers to the leader’s capability to set and show goals and carefully examine relevant information before
making a decision.
Internalized moral perspective Relates to self-regulation behaviour according to personal values and principles when facing group,
organization or society pressures.
1Adapted from Walumbwa et al., 2008: pp. 95-96).
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
aware of how their own actions affect those who are around
them, being open and transparent to the processes and influ-
ences within and outside of their organizations, the followers
have a better sense of the organizational goals/challenges.
Hence, a measure of AL will be based not only on the follow-
ers’ perceptions as well as those of the leaders (Authentic
Leadership Questionnaire, Walumbwa et al., 2008). Nonethe-
less, AL is emerging as an alternative perspective of leadership
in different organizational settings including education. In
terms of education it is the work of Paul Begley that is most
associated with AL (Begley, 2001, 2006). Often values-based
literature on AL has also been attributed to the work of Robert
Starratt (2004). Begley (2006) proposes three prerequisites to
AL in schools: self-knowledge, a capacity for moral reasoning,
and sensitivity to the orientation of others.
Duignan (2007), referring to an authentic approach to educa-
tional leadership, argues “that while authentic leadership fo-
cuses on ethics and morality in actions and interactions, it must
also promote and support the core values of schooling, that is,
educative and authentic teaching and learning”.
So, “Authentic educative leaders challenge others to partici-
pate in a visionary dialogue of identifying in curriculum,
teaching and learning (especially pedagogy) what is worthwhile,
what is worth doing (moral purpose) and preferred ways of
doing and acting together”.
You can’t expect great AL results in contexts in which trust
is shaken. However, it is in times of crisis that people discover
ways to prepare the future better. Thus, we are convinced that
self-awareness is absolutely fundamental in building great or-
ganizations. You cannot be emotionally intelligent if you are
not also self-aware. This requires, in addition to maturity, in-
tense work of self-examination or individuation. Criticisms,
even the toughest, are essential for the construction of self-
awareness. To do so, you need to get honest feedback from
followers, i.e. the followers must also be authentic.
Especially in public schools, teachers have great need for
someone that listens, understands and, above all, tells them the
truth. If we practice authenticity, it is in teamwork, in the de-
partment, that such support appears. Authentic leaders have to
maintain high levels of motivation especially in this era of
“trigger events”. Such extrinsic motivation will help if it is seen
as an opportunity to change the future and make it better.
Employees increase their commitment and quality of life due
to satisfaction at work (Loscoco & Roschelle, 1991; Wrzes-
niewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). People who
consider their work as a Job live (?) simply to earn money, as
that allows them to do whatever they wish to do outside of their
job. They have little investment and gain little satisfaction other
than the paycheck. As Wrzesniewski et al. (1997) said, “The
major interests and ambitions of Job holders are not expressed
through their work” (p. 22). When work is perceived as a job,
people look forward to taking a break, finishing work, the
weekend, public holidays, and vacations. Outside of their
working hours, little or no thought, time, or energy is devoted
to work. On the other hand, people who believe that the most
important thing in their life is their Career place importance not
only on the money they can possibly earn, but also on their
ability to climb to the upper realms of power or make decisions
within their organization. A career is perceived as a progression
of continuous improvement through pay raises, promotions,
better opportunities and experiences regarded as essential to
ongoing advancement. People commit themselves to working
far beyond the normal workday, during evenings, weekends,
and vacations. As such, they “have a deeper personal invest-
ment in their work and mark their achievements” (Wrzes-
niewski et al., 1997: p. 22). Coetzee (2008) recently presented a
valuable theoretical framework (career enablers, career drivers,
career harmonizers, career preferences and career values) to
help individuals recognize the significance of developing their
inner career resources and drawing on these psychological re-
sources to improve their universal employability characteristics
and abilities. Last but not the least, we refer to Calling as the
way people live to work. Their work is something that simply
fulfills their lives. They are unconcerned with earnings or ca-
reer advancements. A calling is work that a person feels called
to do by a higher power. Work that is a calling feels as if it both
contributes to humanity and is also in line with an individual’s
purpose in life. Characteristically, people perceiving their work
as a calling indicate they would do the work for little or no pay.
That is how satisfying it is. Bunderson and Thompson (2009)
concluded that people feel calling “as a cause rather than as a
consequence of choices and sacrifices” so “individuals develop
an early sense of their gifts and interests, which leads them to
certain types of work, which in turn motivates them to justify
their choices, which in turn deepens their occupational com-
mitment, and so on” (p. 53). For those individuals, it is the
work itself which provides satisfaction, rather than any external
recognition or reward. People “find that their work is insepara-
ble from their life” (Wrzesniewski et al., 1997: p. 22).
In an article suggestively named “The Call to teach”, Buskist
et al. (2005) reported that the performance and well-being of
teachers and students depend to a large extent on how teachers
see their profession as a call.
Dobrow (2007: p. 4) argued that some authors have dealt
with the sense of calling and differently named, but related,
constructs: 1) work orientations, including a calling orientation
(Wrzesniewski et al., 1997); 2) work preferences, particularly
intrinsic motivation (Amabile et al., 1994); 3) a discerned, con-
scious sense of calling (Weiss, Skelley, Haughey and Hall,
2003; Hall and Chandler, 2005); and 4) work engagement and
flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Kahn, 1990; May, Gilson, and
Harter, 1999). Dobrow (idem) suggested that domain-specific
self-esteem, “one of the psychological conditions of work en-
gagement”, i.e., “people’s feelings about their abilities”, is a
very important calling component (p. 6). The author considered
seven calling “core elements: passion, identity, urgency, en-
gulfs consciousness, sense of meaning, domain-specific self-
esteem and a subjective sense of longevity” (p. 7).
We expected, as in specialized literature, AL positive influ-
ence on work engagement. Then, we explored the novelty of
the positive relationship between AL and Calling according to
Positive Psychology study and appreciation of forces, virtues,
self-realization and meaning of life. We also studied the posi-
tive relationship between Calling and Work Engagement. Fi-
nally, we assumed that Calling could foster the relationship
between AL and Work Engagement. The theoretical model
used in this study is presented in Figure 1.
Open Access 97
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
Leaders’ Authentic Leadership as a Predictor of
Teachers’ Work Engagement
Toor and Ofori (2008: p. 620) give the following description
of authentic leaders: “Authentic project leaders possess positive
values, lead from the heart, set the highest levels of ethics and
morality, and go beyond their personal interests for the
well-being of their followers. They capitalize on the environ-
ment of trust and are able to motivate people and accomplish
challenging tasks.” Authentic leaders are stated as role models
by Avolio and Gardner (2005) as “leading by example” (p. 326).
So we can infer that AL causes the transformation of followers,
however, this occurs because of the transparency of the leader
and not because of deliberate actions with the objective to
change followers (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). Authentic leaders
also foster authenticity among their subordinates, feel less
threatened by the changes that employees’ genuine/creative
ideas may imply and are more inclined to welcome their crea-
tive suggestions (Michie & Gooty, 2005).
H1: Leaders’ Authentic Leadership is positively associated
with teachers’ work engagement.
Authentic Leadership as a Predictor of Teachers’
Avolio & Gardner (2005) and later Spitzmuller & Ilies (2010)
described authentic leadership, transformational leadership,
charismatic leadership, and spiritual leadership as positive
leadership styles. They explained that these different positive
leadership styles are very close in meaning and understanding.
However, authentic leadership is considered to be the root con-
cept of positive leadership styles. Thus, authentic leadership
can incorporate other leadership styles. Avolio & Gardner
(2005) and Spitzmuller & Ilies (2010) outlined that both trans-
formational and charismatic leadership deliberately focuses on
the follower and his actions. Transforming the follower and
making the follower identify with the leader are the objectives.
Csikszentmihalyi’s research on flow (1990) has found that the
activities that foster optimal experiences, which can be viewed
as episodic manifestations of a calling, are characterized by
being challenging and requiring appropriate skills.
H2: Leaders’ Authentic Leadership is positively associated
with teachers’ calling.
Teachers’ Calling as a Predictor of Teachers’ Work
Wrzesniewski et al. (1997) found that calling orientation was
strongly linked to life and job satisfaction. According to Do-
brow (2007: p. 7) calling is consists of the following core ele-
ments: 1) passion; 2) identity; 3) urgency; 4) engulfs con-
sciousness; 5) sense of meaning; 6) domain-specific self-esteem,
and 7) a subjective sense of longevity. The author (p. 6) consid-
Hypothesized theoretical model.
ered the domain-specific self-esteem as crucial in calling con-
struct. She quotes the importance of people’s subjective percep-
tions of their abilities in work engagement and includes it in the
characterization of “flow-encouraging activities” from Csik-
H3: Teacher’s calling is positively associated with teacher’s
Teachers’ Calling as a Moderator of the Relationship
between Leaders’ Authentic Leadership and
Teachers’ Work Engagement
Wrzesniewski et al. (1997) found that calling orientation was
strongly linked to life and job satisfaction. In their study, Bak-
ker, Albrecht and Leiter (2011: pp. 7-8) considered that “per-
sonal resources like self-esteem, optimism, and self-efficacy
help employees to cope with the daily demands in organiza-
tional life.” They also consider the “climate for engagement”
where employees are “more likely to respond by investing time
and energy and by being psychologically involved in the work
of their organization” (p. 13).
H4: Teachers’ calling moderates the relationship between
Leaders’ Authentic Leadership and teachers’ work engagement.
Data and Sample
Data was collected by handing out a questionnaire containing
questions for three different organizational behaviour variables.
Data collection was done by handing out personally self-ad-
ministered surveys. This means that those who received the
questionnaire were not compelled to participate. Due to the
sensitive nature of the questions on the behavior of the leader,
we included a section in the introduction of the questionnaire in
which we emphasized the anonymous and confidential nature
of the analysis of results. The population which received the
questionnaire was a non-probability convenience sample be-
cause we distributed the questionnaire in a wide range of
schools in the northern coast of Portugal. The dataset contains
data from 326 respondents, followers that know and frequently
meet their leader, between the age of 31 and 62. Among the
employees, or followers, who filled in the questionnaire, 24.2%
were male and 75.8% were female, which is a normal percent-
age in education research.
Authentic Leadership—We have used the 16-item scale
translated into Portuguese to measure the independent variable
Authentic Leadership (AL), called the Authentic Leadership
Questionnaire (ALQ) which is formed and was tested by
Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, and Peterson (2008)
and has been widely used in research. Some sample items are: 1)
Accurately describes how others view his or her capabilities
(self-awareness); 2) Listens carefully to different points of view
before coming to conclusions (balanced processing); 3) Dem-
onstrates beliefs that are consistent with actions (internalized
moral perspective); 4) Says exactly what he or she means (rela-
The followers’ perception of the authentic leader is used to
measure AL as it is often explained that the perception of the
leader by the follower determines the existence of a leader and
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
his effectiveness, and the perception possibly differs when dif-
ferent values are maintained by the follower (Lord & Maher,
1994; Yan & Hunt, 2005). The original Cronbach’s Alfa of this
measure was .84 and for our sample it was .89. Employees were
asked to report the frequency (0: “not at all”; 4: “frequently, if
not always”) with which their supervisors adopted the 16 be-
haviours. We conducted a Principal Components Analysis
(PCA) and we obtained a medium Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO)
Measure of Sampling Adequacy of .710. After the PCA was
checked for suitability, the analysis showed that it is suitable to
use the scale as measuring one core factor which explained
41.23% of the variance. As the total variance table shows, there
are four possible components that explained 73.636% of the
total variance. This finding was supported by the scree plot
which showed a clear break after the first component and the
component matrix revealed that all items load on component
one (Cattell, 1966; Pallant, 2007). We computed an overall AL
score as it is more appropriate, which is consistent with the
findings of Walumbwa et al. (2008).
Work Orientations—We measured work orientations using a
translated adaptation of the “University of Pennsylvania
WORK-LIFE questionnaire” used by Wrzesniewski et al.
(1997). We translated the 18 items into Portuguese asking
about specific aspects of relationships at work ignoring the
authors’ true-false proposition. Some sample items are: 1) “My
work makes the world a better place” (calling); 2) “I am eager
to retire” (job); 3) “I view my job primarily as a stepping stone
to other jobs” (career). A five-point Likert-type scale with 1
being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree” was
used for the subjects’ responses to each of the 18 items. We
also conducted a Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and we
obtained a non-acceptable Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) Meas-
ure of Sampling Adequacy of .341. Thus, we decided to con-
sider only the Calling component in the present research and its
estimated Cronbach’s alpha was .696.
Work Engagement—Follower engagement was measured
using the 9-item scale, translated into Portuguese, Utrecht Work
Engagement Scale (UWES), free for use for non-commercial
scientific research, formed and tested by Schaufeli and Bakker
(2003), which originates in the 17-item UWES. Some sample
items are: 1) “At my work I feel I am bursting with energy”
(vigor); 2) “My job inspires me” (dedication); 3) “I feel happy
when I am working intensely” (absorption). These items used a
seven-point Likert scale with 0 being “never” and 6 being “al-
ways”. Within the present research the estimated Cronbach’s
alpha was .94 (Schaufeli, Bakker and Salanova, 2006; Cron-
bach’s α = .89). The PCA was used to measure the higher order
structure of the 9-item scale of follower engagement as well.
After checking the suitability of the analysis, the test showed
that the scale measured one core factor explaining 68.67% of
the variance. Additionally, the scree plot showed a clear break
after the first component and the factors loaded strongly on the
first component (Cattell, 1966; Pallant, 2007). We computed an
overall work engagement score as recommended by Schaufeli
et al., 2006.
Control variables—In every analysis, time of work with cur-
rent leader, service time in school and age of the respondent
were controlled because of their possible influence on the out-
come variables included in the present research. These vari-
ables were included in the demographics section of the ques-
A hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to
evaluate the relationship between leaders’ authentic leadership,
from the point of view of the followers, and follower calling
and work engagement and to test calling for moderation. This
analysis accounts for the step by step inclusion of controlling,
independent, dependent, and moderating variables in the analy-
sis (Hox, 2002; Pallant, 2007). The independent and dependent
variables and the moderator variable in this study were indi-
vidual-level variables. In the analysis, the hypotheses were
tested in three steps. In the first step, the control variables (i.e.
time of work with current leader, service time in school and age
of the respondent) were considered. In the second step, the
independent variable (i.e. perceived authentic leadership) and
Calling were entered. In the third step, the independent variable
(i.e. perceived authentic leadership) and the moderator variable
(i.e. calling) were entered.
Table 2 contains descriptive statistics and bivariate correla-
tions for all study measures included in the present research.
The amount of males and females in the sample reflected the
normal settlement of gender distribution in the education sector
(M = 1.76, SD = .43).
Test of Hypotheses—Tables 2 and 3 both show results to
test the stated hypotheses. Table 2 shows the correlations
among the variables; Table 3 contains the results of the hierar-
chical regression analysis of the two dependent variables (i.e.
work engagement and calling). Table 2 shows significant cor-
relations between perceived authentic leadership and calling (r
= −.25, p < .01), time of work with current leader (r = .27, p <
0.01), and service time in school (r = .17, p < .01). We must
also refer the significant correlation between calling and work
engagement (r = .56, p < .01). The results of the hierarchical
multiple regression analysis in Table 3 are used to test the
stated hypotheses. Step 1 shows that the controlling variables
(i.e. age, time of work with current leader, and service time in
school of the followers) have significant statistical influence on
work engagement (ΔR2 = .10, p < .001). Including the inde-
pendent variable, perceived authentic leadership, and work
engagement and calling in step 2 led to a significant shift in
variance explained by the dependent variable calling (ΔR2 = .08,
Means, standard deviations, and correlations among study variables.
Variable2 M SD1 2 3 4 5 6
1. AL 2.99.671.00
2. Calling 3.52.68−.25** 1.00
3. WE 4.24.96−.57 .56** 1.00
4. Age 46.57.0.01 .09 .26** 1.00
5. TWCL 184.108.40.206** .07 .059 .14* 1.00
6. STS 220.127.116.11** .14* .29** .59** .43** 1.00
2(TWCL)—Time of work with current leader (1 = >10 years, 2 = 5 < years
< 10, 3 = < 5 years). (STS)—Service time in school (1 = >10 years, 2 = 5 <
years < 10, 3 = <5 years). (AL)—Authentic Leadership. (WE)—Work
Engagement. N = 326. **p < .01 (2-tailed), *p < .05 (2-tailed).
Open Access 99
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
Results of hierarchical regression analyses, standardized regression coefficients.
Authentic Leadership & Work Engagement & Calling3
Work Engagement Calling
N = 326. Estimate SE R2 adj ΔR2 Estimate SE R2 adj. ΔR2
Step 1 (Control variables) .09 .10*** .01 .02
Constant 2.68*** .35 3.12*** .26
Age .13 .01 .01 .01
TWCL −.06 .06 .01 .05
STS .24** .10 .13 .08
Step 2a (Control variables & AL) .10 .07 .09 .08***
Constant 3.04*** .41 3.96*** .29
Age .12 .01 −.02 .00
TWCL −.04 .07 .08 .05
STS .26** .10 .17* .07
AL −.09 .08 −.30*** .06
Step 2b (Contr o l variables & Calling) .37 .28***
Constant 0.34 .35
Age .12 .01
TWCL −.07 .05
STS .17 .09
Calling .53*** .06
Step 3 (interaction AL & Calling) .24 .25***
Constant 4.08*** .22
AL −.46*** .09
AL × Calling .64*** .02
p < .001). Hypotheses 1 and 2 predicted that there is a positive
association between the perceived authentic leadership and
follower work engagement and calling. Hypothesis 1 was not
supported and we did not find statistically significant results.
Hypothesis 2 was not supported either because we found statis-
tically significant negative results (ß = −.30, p < .001). Hy-
pothesis 3 predicted that there is a positive association between
follower calling and work engagement. A significant and posi-
tive support was found with statistically significant data (ß
= .53, p < .001). Hypothesis 4 predicted that the calling of the
followers moderates the relationship between authentic leader-
ship and follower work engagement. Hypothesis 4 was sup-
ported as being statistically significant (ß = .64, p < .001).
Discussion and Conclusions
Making Sense of the Main Findings
The present study did not confirm the results of previous
studies (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Eagly, 2005; Gardner, Avolio,
Luthans, May, & Walumbwa, 2005; Ilies, Morgeson & Nahr-
gang, 2005; Toor & Ofori, 2008) in emphasizing the significant
effects of perceived authentic leadership in the followers’ work
engagement. We even noticed there was an insignificant nega-
tive effect (ß = −.09). This could be explained because follow-
ers in that public school context had a specific relationship with
leaders. They worked daily with no close control. They only
contacted their leaders when there were disciplinary and peda-
gogical problems or meetings during the year. Thus, they felt
free to do their job proposing their own solutions. Begley (2006)
proposes three prerequisites to AL in schools: self-knowledge,
a capacity for moral reasoning, and sensitivity to the orientation
of others. We can also say that AL is not yet a characteristic
leadership process in every school. While few school leaders
claim to be authentic leaders, there is no empirical research on
whether these perceptions are shared by their followers. We can
conclude that the followers we have studied did not feel, or
perceive AL, as the respondents of other referred studies.
About AL effect on followers’ calling, a significant negative
effect (−.30, p < .001) was found and it becomes rather strange
because, in theory, a positive relationship between AL and
calling was expected. In fact, Avolio et al. (2004) suggested
that AL increases employees’ identification with the organiza-
tion and the leader, thus fostering employees’ positive emotions
(as well as trust, hope and calling), which in turn promote their
optimism and positive work attitudes, thereby influencing their
3TWCL (Time of work with current leader); STS (Service time in school);
AL (Authentic Leadership). ***p < .001 **p < .01 (2-tailed) *p < .05
The predictive power of followers’ calling refers to the sig-
nificant positive effect (.53, p < .001) on work engagement.
V. SECO, M. P. LOPES
Levels of follower work engagement increased, as levels of
calling increased. This is in line with Dobrow (2007) impor-
tance of people’s subjective perceptions of their abilities in
work engagement and we could include calling in the charac-
terization of Csikszentmihalyi “flow-encouraging activities”
Finally, we conclude that the moderation of calling (.64, p
< .001) is also significant in the relationship between AL and
Work Engagement. So calling is a powerful variable in the
explaining work engagement in our study. Only by creating a
caring, concerned and compassionate environment in our
schools can school leaders provide the ignition, the calling,
needed to the necessary stretch for work engagement. The more
calling people have the more work engagement people feel. To
be engaged, followers showed that it would be better if they had
a calling in their work.
Limitations and Future Research
Studying a special kind of organization may have produced
some cultural biases. Portuguese public schools organizational
culture may make teachers less sensitive to authentic leaders
than the employees from other organizations.
At present time, we assume that it is quite difficult to per-
ceive the existence of an organizational culture in most of the
research schools. Above all, we can envision a shared set of
values and behaviours, which are representative of each public
For recommendations and information on how to implement
the authentic leadership process we refer to the consultancy
report “Authentic Leadership—The Leadership Style of the 21st
Century” specially written with the use of the research findings
of three separate studies on authentic leadership. Within this
report, especially the work of George and Sims (2007), which
provides a Personal Leadership Development Plan that, was
considered as the main guideline for developing authentic lead-
ership within an organization.
Future research should focus on delving deeper into per-
ceived AL within the education public services. This is a fasci-
nating field which is important for a better understanding of
public servants’, especially teachers’, work engagement. We
would like to help the foundation of the dynamics needed to
promote authentic rather than “contrived collegiality” (Har-
Another important area for further research is to address the
significant effect of calling on work engagement. The implica-
tions would include important issues as vocational education
training in subjects like Positive Psychology and NeuroLead-
ership (Ringleb & Rock, 2008).
Future studies must also consider other mediating or moder-
ating variables as trust, empowerment, leader-member ex-
change and employees’ authenticity.
Implications for Management and Concluding
In spite of some limitations mentioned above, the present
study adds to existing literature on authentic leadership by
showing results which do not support the existence of a positive
relationship between perceived authentic leadership and fol-
lower work engagement. Authentic leadership is proven to be
valuable for organizations in the “Authentic Leadership—The
Leadership Style of the 21st Century” report. Recommendations
indicate the possible influence of culture on the effectiveness of
authentic leadership in different countries which could be use-
ful for organizations within different cultures or with aspira-
tions to move to or work with different cultures. Our research
does not confirm that relationship and fosters the possibility of
AL influence not being felt by employees. In addition, the pre-
sent study should stimulate leaders to become more authentic
which will also induce employees to behave as such to posi-
tively stimulate organization performance.
Finally, our study suggests that organizations could promote
employee calling work orientations at the initial teacher educa-
tion stage. According to Schleicher (2012: p. 68), “the pre-
dominant model for teacher employment in OECD countries is
“career-based” public service in which entry is competitive,
career development is extensively regulated and lifetime em-
ployment is largely guaranteed … The quality of the teaching
force depends excessively on getting initial recruitment and
teacher education right, and that any improvement over time
will take many years to affect most serving teachers”.
Calling, at least, could be considered as a powerful path for
fostering improved organizational work engagement.
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