Why do powerful leaders feel less lonely? The mediating role of upward self-disclosure

Hodar LAM, Meir SHEMLA

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Leaders who are healthy and experience positive well-being are better at handling high demands in leadership roles. Practitioner-oriented and scientific literature indicate that, however, leaders may often feel lonely, which can harm their in-role functioning. Until now, it is still unclear how loneliness, as a subjective feeling of disconnectedness, emerges among leaders. Drawing on the power literature and social penetration theory, we hypothesized that leader self-disclosure to superiors and followers would mediate the negative relationship between subjective power and leader loneliness. Using surveys with 200 mid-level managers across three waves, we found that leaders with higher sense of power reported feeling less lonely at work. Moreover, we found support for the mediating role of upward self-disclosure, but not downwards. Specifically, leaders who felt powerful were more likely to share personal, sensitive information to their superiors. Higher levels of upward self-disclosure then predicted lower levels of leader loneliness. Finally, our results suggest that leader loneliness is positively related to leader emotional exhaustion, ego depletion, and sleep problems. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2019 - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019


  • AOM Annual Meeting Proceedings 2019
  • AOM Boston 2019


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