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31 July 2021
Asia Pacific Business Review
Special Issue Editor(s)
Nanjing University, China
Rutgers - State University of New Jersey, USA
Cherrie J. Zhu,
Monash University, Australia
Nanjing University, China
The Role of Leadership in Human Resource Management: Perspectives and Evidence from Asia Pacific
The objective of this special issue is to advance our understanding of the role of leadership at all levels of organizational hierarchies in promoting effective human resource management (HRM) in the broadly-defined Asia Pacific region. Leadership and HRM are two key factors affecting outcomes at organizational, team/unit, and individual levels either within the same country or in a cross-border context (Boada-Cuerva, Trullen, & Valverde, 2019; Chang, 2016; McClean & Collins, 2019; Steffensen Jr, Ellen III, Wang, & Ferris, 2019). However, the development of the two fields to date has largely occurred in parallel (Vermeeren, Kuipers, & Steijin, 2014), thus not capturing the full range of potential benefits and insights to be gained from analyses drawing on both fields and creating an urgent need to integrate research on leadership and HRM in various contexts (Boada-Cuerva et al., 2019; McClean & Collins, 2019; Steffensen Jr et al., 2019).
More particularly on the urgent need for integrating leadership and HRM research, we note first that focusing on either leadership or HRM alone fails to explain most of the variance in resultant outcomes in key studies in the extant literature (Jiang, Lepak, Hu, & Baer 2012; Podsakoff, MacKenzie, & Bommer, 1996; Tzabbar, Tzafrir, & Baruch, 2017). For example, because leadership and HRM may be correlated with each other (Chang, 2016; McClean & Collins, 2019) and may both affect organizational, team and individual outcomes (Steffensen Jr et al., 2019), it is important that they can be examined simultaneously to minimize omitted variable bias when estimating their impacts.
Furthermore, leadership and HRM may interact with each other when shaping various outcomes, complementing or substituting each other’s impact. Several recent studies have started to investigate such interactions (Chuang, Jackson, & Jiang, 2016; Jiang, Chuang, & Chao, 2015; McClean & Collins, 2019; Steffensen Jr et al., 2019). For example, Jiang et al. (2015) have found an interactive effect between service-oriented high performance work systems (HPWSs) and service leadership on service climate. In addition, HRM practices and leadership behavior may mediate the other's influence on outcomes (Han, Liao, Taylor, & Kim, 2018; Lopez-Cabrales, Bornay-Barrachina, & Diaz-Fernandez, 2017). However, this stream of research is still at an early stage and more theoretical and empirical studies are needed to advance our understanding of the complexities involved in the interaction of leadership and HRM at multiple levels, and in different types of context including domestic and international situations.
Finally, many HRM and leadership studies are based on Western theories, conceptualization and measures while overlooking the specific features of leadership and HRM shaped by the Asia Pacific cultural, institutional, and historical contexts (Rowley, Ishikawa & Oh, 2019; Rowley, Oh, & Jang, 2019). For example, in countries influenced by Confucian culture, paternalistic leadership style is salient which has important implications for performance (Lau, Li, & Okpara, 2020). In addition, effective HRM in Asia Pacific may take different practices from those of the West (Cooke, Liu, Liu, & Chen, 2019; Ouyang, Liu, Chen, Li, & Qin, 2019). For example, high control HRM practices are found to be significantly and positively associated with firm performance in China (Su & Wight, 2012; Su, Wright, & Ulrich, 2018). How these unique features of leadership behavior and HRM in Asia Pacific interact with each other and what are the implications of these interactions for outcomes of organizations and employees are of great theoretical and empirical importance.
The processes of interaction between the various elements comprising HRM (e.g., high performance, high commitment, high control, high involvement, and international HRM) and the attributes of leadership (e.g. authentic, ethical, transformative leadership, leader-member exchange and global leadership), and their effects on various organizational, team and individual outcomes, are complicated and may involve a variety of relationships. To note only a few:
- leadership may have an indirect effect on outcomes through HRM practices, or HRM practices may have an indirect effect on outcomes through leadership. For example, transformational CEOs are likely to adopt skill-based HRM practices (Lopez-Cabrales, Bornay-Barrachina, & Diaz-Fernandez, 2017) and human-capital enhancing HRM practices (Zhu et al., 2005), which, in turn, will influence organizational outcomes;
- organizational-level transformational leadership-enhancing HRM practices may influence team-level transformational leadership, which, in turn, will impact team creativity (Han, Liao, Taylor, & Kim, 2018);
- leadership may strengthen the influence of HRM practices on outcomes, or HRM practices may strengthen the influence of leadership on outcomes. For example, the CEO’s charismatic leadership would strengthen the positive relationship between high-commitment HR practices and organizational performance (McClean & Collins, 2019). Leadership may also weaken the influence of HRM practices on outcomes, or HRM practices may weaken the influence of leadership on outcomes.
- in the study on expatriates of MNCs, the links between leadership skills and HRM practices (e.g., global staffing, cross-cultural performance assessment) have been highlighted as a critical issue for further research (Dowling, Festing & Engle, 2017).
Therefore, it is important and urgent for advancement of both theory and practice to investigate the complex interactions between leadership and HRM and their effects on organizational outcomes in different contexts.
In sum, both HRM practices and leadership are multi-level concepts. HRM practices within a single or cross-border context can be formulated and analyzed at any single level or multiple levels including firm, department/unit, team, and individual levels (Nishii & Wright, 2017). Correspondingly, leadership theory can be applied to the roles of any single leader or multiple leaders including boards of directors, CEOs, top management team (TMT), HR managers, and lower-to-middle managers (LTMMs) (Steffensen Jr et al., 2019). However, there is a lack of a clear picture as to how HRM practices interact with leadership at each of these different levels (firm, unit, team, and individual) and in different types of context in the existing literature. Thus, we believe that integrating leadership and HRM at multiple levels and/or in different contexts to fully demonstrate the role of leadership on HRM (or vice versa) offers promising areas of research.
To fill the gaps discussed above, the special issue would like to encourage theoretical and empirical (both quantitative and qualitative) contributions from a broad range of perspectives directed to any leaders including lower-to-middle leaders, HR managers, top management team, CEOs, the directors of boards and expatriates that address questions around the contents, process, and outcomes of HRM at various levels (firm, department/team, or individual) and in different contexts (domestic or international). We also welcome submissions incorporating a range of methodological approaches and particularly encourage multi-level and multi-country comparative analyses. Relevant research questions for this purpose include, but are not limited to:
- the interactive effects of HRM practices (e.g., high performance, high commitment, high control, high involvement, and international HRM) and leadership (e.g. authentic, ethical, transformative, paternalistic, authoritarian leadership, leader-member exchange, and global leadership) on organizational, team/unit, and individual outcomes;
- the roles of leadership at multiple levels (e.g., lower-to-middle managers, HR director/managers, TMTs, and CEO) in HRM content, process, and outcomes, and the role of HRM in developing or influencing leadership at multiple levels;
- the study of the complex relationships between leadership and HRM at different levels and/or in different contexts;
- the integration of leadership theory and HRM theory in general or in the specific Asia Pacific context;
- the influence of various contextual variables such as culture, institution, cross-border investment, and the COVID-19 pandemic on the complex relationships between leadership and HRM.
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All papers will be reviewed in accordance with the APBR normal review processes. Manuscripts should be formatted in accordance with the APBR publication guidelines. The proposed timeline for the special issue is:
Submission Deadline: July 31, 2021
Revised article deadline (first round): October 1, 2021
Revised article deadline (second round): April 2022
Deadline to the publishers: June 2022
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