Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


Despite the promotion of various leadership styles based on leader-follower relationship, individual competencies, competition and goals, calls have been made for a leadership approach that is embedded in the often implicit notion of responsibility. Responsible Leadership (RL) highlights two fields of study: social responsibility and stakeholder leadership to achieve mutually beneficial business goals. RL presents an attractive and important integration of research on leadership and corporate social responsibility and offers the opportunity to provide significant advances in organisational studies. While much has been studied about social responsibility, less is known about the influence of RL on employee outcomes, such as presenteeism, organisational commitment and turnover intentions.

Presenteeism is defined as attending work while being ill and unable to work, at least not at full capacity. Presenteeism costed the Australian economy $A34.1 billion (2.7% of the Gross Domestic Product) for 2009-2010 (Medibank, 2011). It is well recognised in both psychological and occupational-hazard studies but needs further exploration in the context of organisational leadership. Presenteeism indicates a substantial impact on employees’ productivity and imposes a significant economic burden both on businesses and national economies. This thesis proposes a structural model and examines the direct influence of RL on employee outcomes, including presenteeism, organisational commitment and turnover intentions. It also examines the mediating roles of both organisational commitment and employee turnover intentions on the relationship between RL and presenteeism.

The proposed model was tested using a heterogeneous sample of employees from various Australian industry sectors. A web-based survey was mailed to 3500 employees and 323 responses were collected to confirm 200 complete responses. A total of 123 responses were incomplete and were therefore excluded from the findings, resulting in an overall response rate of 9.2%. Participants responded to scales measuring responsible leadership, presenteeism, organisational commitment and turnover intentions.

Eight hypotheses were developed to examine the thesis aims. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to test the proposed hypotheses. The results of SEM provided support for eight hypotheses. The significant findings of the study were threefold. First, RL behaviours were negatively and significantly related to both presenteeism and employee turnover intentions in workplaces among Australian employees. The results suggest that when employees perceive their leaders to be responsible, there is greater likelihood that employees will exhibit lower presenteeism and turnover intentions at work. Second, RL was also positively and significantly related to organisational commitment. This result suggest that RL has a significant and positive influence on employees’ emotional attachments to their organisations (affective commitment) and the individual personal values (normative commitment) than their costs of resigning, such as losing attractive benefits or seniority (continuance commitment). Third, the results support the hypotheses that organisational commitment and employee turnover intentions partially mediate the relationship between RL and presenteeism. The results suggest that both organisational commitment and employees’ turnover intentions reduce the total influence of RL on presenteeism.

The findings of this thesis provide valuable insights by corroborating and extending theory and research in several ways. First, the study is one of the first reported studies to test the direct and indirect relationship between RL and presenteeism with an Australian sample. Second, it empirically tests an underexplored assumption of RL theory by examining the influence of RL on employee outcomes including organisational commitment, employee turnover intentions and presenteeism. Third, the proposed model in this thesis is one of the first to examine how and why RL influences presenteeism by integrating two mediators, organisational commitment and employee turnover intentions. Fourth, several implications for practice can be highlighted including designing employee training programs to promote RL skills among managers, recognising presenteeism, incorporating organisational strategies to recover losses from presenteeism, and encouraging managers to enhance organisational commitment and reduce employee turnover intentions in organisations. In conclusion, limitations of the study are presented along with recommendations for future research.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.