Comparing the impact of authentic leadership on Italian and UK police officers' discretionary power, well-being and commitment
Policing: An International Journal
School of Business and Law
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: This paper compares the impact of leadership behaviours on the discretionary power, and well-being, and affective commitment of police officers from Italy and the United Kingdom (UK). In contrast to Italy, UK is an example of a core-New Public Management (NPM) country that has implemented reforms, in turn, changing the management and administration of public organizations. Consequently, it is expected that there will be significant differences in the behaviour of police officers. In particular, the paper examines the antecedents and outcomes of police officers' well-being. Design/methodology/approach: The study involves collecting and analysing survey data using Structural Equation Modelling from 220 Italian and 238 UK police officers. Findings: There was a significant path from Leadership to Discretionary Power to Employee Well-being to Affective Commitment – at least for the Italian sample. The UK sample does not have a significant link between leadership and discretionary power. Discretionary power was similarly low for both groups as was affective commitment. Authentic leadership and discretionary power explained approximately a third of their well-being, particularly discretionary power. Together, directly and indirectly (mediated by well-being), they explained at least a third of police officers' commitment to their organization. Well-being appears to be the key to ensuring effective police officers. Research limitations/implications: The limitation of this paper includes the use of cross-sectional data (Podsakoff et al., 2003). However, a common latent factor (CLF) was included, and several items that were explained by common method variance were controlled, as per George and Pandey's recommendations (2017). Additionally, a Harmon's single factor test was applied to the data. Practical implications: The UK police officers have significantly lower commitment compared with the Italian police officers (non-commitment), and both Italian and UK police officers have less discretionary power and well-being compared with police from the United States of America (USA) police officers and other street-level bureaucrats (SLBs). The findings suggest that the present police leadership behaviours erode rather than supports police officers' discretionary power and well-being, leading to a low organizational commitment. Leadership training will better prepare managers to ensure the well-being of police officers working under conditions of work intensification. Originality/value: The UK police officers have significantly lower commitment compared with the Italian police officers (non-commitment), and both Italian and UK police officers have less discretionary power and well-being compared with US police officers and other SLBs. The findings show that the police leadership erodes rather than supports police officers' discretionary power and well-being, leading to low organizational commitment. Leadership models that enhance employee well-being rather than efficiency targets must be a priority if police are to be prepared to cope effectively with emergencies and pandemics.