Orientation: The orientation of this study is towards authentic leadership (AL) and its influence on optimism, trust in the organisation and work engagement of employees in the public health care sector.
Research purpose: The objectives of this study were to determine whether the leadership style of AL could predict optimism, trust in the organisation and work engagement amongst a large sample of employees from various functions in public hospitals and clinics in Gauteng and to establish whether optimism and trust in the organisation could mediate the relationship between AL and work engagement.
Research approach, design and method: A convenience sample of 633 public health employees from various functions within 27 public hospitals and clinics in the province was used in this research. A cross-sectional research design was implemented. Structural equation modelling was utilised to investigate the Authentic Leadership Inventory (ALI), and the validity and fit of the measurement model, to position AL as a job resource within the nomological net and to test its mediating effects.
Main findings: The statistical analysis revealed that AL was a significant predictor of optimism and trust in the organisation and that optimism and trust in the organisation mediated the relationship between AL and work engagement.
Practical/managerial implications: The research results suggested that organisations in the public health care sector should encourage their managers to adopt a more authentic leadership style. This will lead to higher levels of optimism, trust in the organisation and eventually work engagement. This will greatly assist employees in the domain of public health care to manage their demanding working environment.
Contribution: This study provides evidence that the ALI can be used reliably within the South African context and specifically within the public health care sector. It further substantiates for the implementation of AL as a leadership style in the South African public health care sector, supporting work that has been done internationally in health care where AL has been associated with a number of positive outcomes. Finally, the study puts forward two practical suggestions, on both an individual and an organisational level, to facilitate a culture in which AL can be translated more effectively into an engaged workforce.