Corporate social advocacy (CSA) has become a focal topic for public relations scholars and practitioners. It refers to organizations taking stances on divisive socio-political issues. CSA tends to attract much greater attention and visibility from the media and the publics due to its controversial nature than the more common corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. Meanwhile, employees increasingly expect the top leaders of their organizations to take a stance on socio-political issues, such as climate change, gun control, and abortion rights. The current study examined leadership in CSA, which is defined as the extent of effective leadership in providing organizational support and motivating employees to facilitate social advocacy among organizational members. The study specifically focused on CEOs of organizations.

The purpose of the current study was to explain if and how leadership in CSA can facilitate employees’ identification with the leaders, as well as employee-organization relationship quality, and employee advocacy. Specifically, the authors argued that employees’ personal identification with leaders is stronger when leaders provide individualized support to employees on top of motivating employees with a strong vision for betterment in facilitating CSA. Furthermore, the authors believed that leadership in CSA can improve employees’ perceived relationship quality with their employers.


The authors administered an online survey and recruited 633 full-time employees who work for various organizations and industries in the U.S. The final sample included 51% females, and the average age was 50. A majority of participants were Caucasian/White (80.3%), followed by African American (6.5%). Most participants (73.1%) worked for large corporations with 1,000 or more employees.

Key Findings

1.     Leadership in CSA was positively related to employees’ personal identification with the leader.

2.     Leadership in CSA was positively related to employee-organization quality.

3.     Employee-organization quality was related to employee advocacy.

4.     Leadership in CSA increased employees’ personal identification with the leader, which in turn, enhances employee-organization quality, and ultimately, leads to employee advocacy.

Implications for Practice

Organizations and CEOs need to 1) realize the importance of effective leadership in facilitating CSA, and 2) communicate a compelling vision to clarify goals and actions in advocating social causes.


Yang, S. U., Kang, M., Kim, Y., & Lee, E. (2022). The effects of leadership in corporate social advocacy on positive employee outcomes. Journal of Public Relations Research, 1-21.


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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