Study Relates Self-Leadership Behavior to Self-Serving Bias | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

September 14, 2020by Noah Shaw

Summary of:

Cristofaro, M. and Giardino, P. L., “Core self-evaluations, self-leadership, and the self-serving bias in managerial decision making: A laboratory experiment” (2020). Administrative Sciences, 1-23.

Background & Theory:

The Core-Self Evaluation (CSE) trait is a complex mix of the interrelated elements of self-efficacy, self-esteem, locus of control, and emotional stability. The CSE trait is responsible for the means in which one makes judgments about their own self. On the other hand, past studies have defined self-leadership as the means by which people control their behavior in ways that influence and lead themselves. Self-leadership, therefore, allows individuals to achieve effectiveness in their lives through the use of behavioral and cognitive strategies like positive self-talk. This study focuses on the relationship between CSE and self-leadership, as well as the role of self-serving bias in self-leadership.


Research was conducted by Matteo Cristofaro and Pier Luigi Giardino to answer the following questions:

    1. What is the relationship between self-leadership and the Core-Self Evaluation (CSE) trait?
    2. How does self-leadership affect a leader’s attribution of successes and failures?


Data were collected from 93 executives contacted at random through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Various questionnaires on CSE, self-leadership, and self-serving bias were sent to and completed by these executives. Additionally, they were asked to complete two tasks that stimulated their own performance evaluation based on self-serving bias. Questionnaire data were analyzed through the one-way ANOVA method.


Past studies have indicated that high levels of Core-Self Evaluation (CSE) traits show up in people with extreme confidence in their skills, which leads to the determination of reaching their goals and often impressive results. This means that people with high CSE are confident in their abilities such as career performance, competences, and decision-making skills, regardless if they objectively perform well in these areas. This study found related results, indicating that higher levels of CSE traits are related to higher levels of self-leadership. This is not all too surprising, considering that CSE traits are antecedent to self-leadership.

Additionally, this study suggests that high levels of self-leadership in individuals can lead to cognitive errors in decision-making. Results indicated that higher levels of self-leadership were related to the internal attribution of successes and external attribution of failures. Stated generally, this means that individuals were more likely to attribute successes as products of their own effort. However, these same individuals attribute failures not because of their efforts, but due to external factors. These results suggest that in some circumstances, a high level of CSE and self-leadership is not appropriate for decision-making processes in management.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this research, we can take away the following key insight:

  • High Core Self-Evaluation (CSE) and self-leadership can lead to greater instances of self-serving bias. This suggests that individuals with high CSE and self-leadership should have their decision-making processes checked frequently because they may misinterpret feedback not aligned with their desired results.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: Leaders who portray high self-leadership behavior may need accountability in their decision-making processes. As a consultant, be aware of how self-serving bias may influence a leader’s decisions and relationship to workplace conflict.

For Everyone: There are many positive elements to embodying self-leadership behavior, such as self-observation, self-goal setting, and self-rewarding processes. If you notice this behavior in yourself, pay attention to some of the potential negative aspects of this behavior as well. Work on taking responsibility for both positive and negative results in the workplace when applicable.

Noah Shaw

Noah is the Peace Operations Coordinator at Pollack Peacebuilding Systems. His writing on the latest workplace conflict resolution research has been featured on

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