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Why does leader self-efficacy matter – and how do you boost it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 21:29

By AIM Business School Faculty Dr Richard Carter, PhD

This year’s landmark Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) was unequivocal in its findings - leadership and management matter for workplace performance, innovation, employee engagement and talent management.[1] Unfortunately, many Australian organisations simply lack both the quality and quantity of skilled leaders and competent managers needed to build a culture of innovation and improve workplace performance. Indeed a 2012 study showed Australia’s average score on a 18 management practices representing purpose, people and potential was well  below that of top countries such as the US, Japan, Germany and Canada, below second tier countries such as France, Italy and the UK and only slightly above Mexico, Poland and Ireland.[2]

As AIM Business School alumni, you have taken a crucial first step towards improving Austrlia’s workplace performance through obtaining your formal leadership qualification. However, the SAL study also found that it was the combination of formal leadership qualifications AND immersive experiences that built “leader self-efficacy” – the key mechanism to boosting workplace performance.[3] Self-efficacy refers to your confidence in your competence to undertake challenging tasks, your sense of personal agency and control to complete the task and finally your belief that effort will lead to success.

My own PhD research found that self-efficacy and work-related performance are correlated[4] while self-efficacy was just as important as employee engagement in explaining future performance[5]. Leader self-efficacy refers to tasks such as: developing trusting relationships with your employees; gaining your employees’ commitment to new goals; and obtaining the genuine support of your employees for new initiatives[6]. Successful leaders have both the disciplinary knowledge they need from formal leadership qualifications and the confidence in their ability to build strong interpersonal relationships with employees.

How do you build your own leader self-efficacy? First, you need to develop self-awareness using a leadership 360 tool. Student’s enrolled in the AIM Business School’s Corporate Strategy and Responsibility (CSR) unit do exactly that using the ‘LMAP 360’, the same tool that’s used at Harvard in their Advanced Management Program. Second, you need to undergo ‘immersive experiences’ where you have the opportunity to practice and refine those essential teamwork behaviours that are the hallmark of effective leaders. I particularly recommend using ‘Organisation Theatre’ techniques such as Forum Theatre and Intensive Role Play to boost self-awareness and self-efficacy but leadership seminars, special developmental assignments and mentoring are all positively related to increasing self- perceived leadership capability.

Australia needs more and better workplace leaders. By completing formal qualifications and boosting your leader self-efficacy, you’ll be doing your part to raise Australia’s management and economic performance.

*Dr Richard Carter is the former Design and Research Director at AIM Business School and is currently the Unit Convenor and one of the facilitators for the CSR unit.


[1] Gahan et al, 2016, Leadership at Work:  Do Australian leaders have what it takes? Centre for Workplace Leadership, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

[2] Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, 2012, Leadership & Management in the UK – The Key to Sustainable Growth, BIS, London, U.K.

[3] Gahan et al.

[4] Badham et al, 2016, Beyond Hope and Fear: The Effects of Organizational Theatre on Empowerment and Control, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 52, No. 1. pp 124-151.

[5] Carter et al, forthcoming, The effect of self-efficacy and employee engagement on job performance: A longitudinal field study, International Journal of HRM.

[6] Paglis & Green, 2002, Leadership self-efficacy and managers' motivation for leading change. Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 23, pp. 215-235.