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Please accept my sincerest apologies: Examining follower reactions to leader apology Open Access

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Recognizing gaps in our present understanding of leaders' apologies, this investigation informs research and practice by studying follower reactions to leader apology. In particular, this dissertation examines how followers appraise leaders' apologies and how these perceptions impact their attributions of leadership and important work-related outcomes. Results indicate that followers' evaluations of leader apology sincerity are influenced by their prior perceptions of leader trustworthiness. Followers who viewed their leader as a trustworthy source before their leader's wrongdoing were more likely to appraise their leader's apology as sincere, compared to followers who had previously considered their leader untrustworthy. These attributions of apology sincerity matter. When followers perceived their leader's apology as sincere, they experienced greater trust in their leader, satisfaction with supervision, leader-member exchange relationship quality, affective organizational commitment, and forgiveness than when they viewed their leader's apology as insincere or did not receive an apology. Providing explanatory insight into the mechanisms underlying these relationships, humility and transformational leadership were found to be important mediators. Followers who appraised their leader's apology as sincere perceived their leader as more humble, which in turn fostered perceptions of transformational leadership and, consequently, generated positive follower reactions. These findings offer practical value for leaders seeking to present themselves in ways that will promote favorable follower attributions and reactions following a wrongdoing.

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