Absence Makes the Errors Go Longer: How Leaders Inhibit Learning from Errors

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU), Drucker School of Management (CGU)

Publication Date



Leadership Studies


Learning and innovation are increasingly important for companies to compete in a global marketplace. Leaders are often in a position to exert significant influence on employees’ learning behaviors, and may also be able to foster learning from workplace errors. This cross-sectional research investigates the relationship between employee perceptions of leadership style, mindset (fixed vs. growth), and orientation to error learning. We examine five leadership styles – authentic, transformational, transactional, laissez-faire, and aversive leadership – and view them on an extended range, from more positive (authentic, transformational, and transactional) to more negative and destructive (laissez-faire and aversive). A sample of 268 participants completed an on-line survey of their leaders’ styles, as well as their own mindsets, and their reactions to workplace errors. Results suggest that authentic and transformational leadership styles foster more employee error learning than transactional leadership, while laissez-faire and aversive leadership styles are destructive in that they actively inhibit employee error learning. Somewhat surprisingly, laissez-faire leadership showed the strongest and most negative effect on a follower’s error learning orientation, although followers with fixed mindsets reported being less likely to learn from errors than followers with growth mindsets, regardless of leadership style. Our findings shed light on the relationship between leadership style and employee error learning, and suggest that negligent leadership may be particularly destructive for organizations that seek to foster a learning environment.

Rights Information

© 2014 Hogrefe Verlag