New CLEAR Publication

Antecedents, mediators, and outcomes of authentic leadership in healthcare: A systematic review

15 April 2018

Antecedents, mediators, and outcomes of authentic leadership in healthcare: A systematic review



Leaders are essential in every organization to achieve patient safety and healthy work environments. Authentic leadership is a relational leadership style purported to promote healthy work environments that influence staff performance and organizational outcomes. Given recent growth in authentic leadership research in healthcare and the importance of new knowledge to inform leadership development, there is an obligation to determine what is known about the antecedents and outcomes of authentic leadership in healthcare settings and clarify mechanisms by which authentic leadership affects healthcare staff and patient outcomes.


The aim of this systematic review was to examine the antecedents, mediators and outcomes associated with authentic leadership in healthcare.


Systematic review.

Data sources

The search strategy included 11 electronic databases: ABI Inform Dateline, Academic Search Complete, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, ERIC, PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science, and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. The search was conducted in January 2017. Published English-only quantitative researchthat examined the antecedents, mediators and outcomes of authentic leadership practices of leaders in healthcare settings was included.

Review methods

Quality assessment, data extractions, and analysis were completed on all included studies. Data extracted from included studies were analyzed through descriptive and narrative syntheses. Content analysis was used to group antecedents, outcomes and mediators into categories which were then compared to authentic leadership theory.


1036 titles and abstracts were screened yielding 136 manuscripts for full-text review which resulted in 21 included studies reported in 38 manuscripts. Significant associations between authentic leadership and 43 outcomes were grouped into two major themes: healthcare staff outcomes with 5 subthemes (personal psychological states, satisfaction with work, work environment factors, health & well-being, and performance) and patient outcomes. There were 23 mediators between authentic leadership and 35 different outcomes in the included studies and one antecedent of authentic leadership.


Findings of this review provide support for authentic leadership theory and suggest need for additional testing in future studies using longitudinal and interventional designs in more varied healthcare settings with diverse and interprofessional healthcare samples. Knowledge generated through this systematic review provides a more comprehensive understanding of authentic leadership, which can be used to educate future leaders and has the potential to improve leadership development strategies and positive outcomes in healthcare workplaces.