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Drawing from self-concept and implicit leadership theories, we propose a multilevel model to examine whether, why, and when self-sacrificial leadership motivates followers’ affiliative and challenging citizenship behaviors in China. Data from 329 full-time employees in 83 work groups provide support for the hypothesized model. Specifically, we demonstrated that self-sacrificial leadership was positively related to followers’ relational self-concept constructs of leader identification and leader-based self-esteem, which had differential, downstream implications for followers’ two types of citizenship behavior. Whereas leader identification was found to mediate the positive relationship between self-sacrificial leadership and affiliative citizenship behavior only, leader-based self-esteem mediated the positive relationships of self-sacrificial leadership with both affiliative and challenging citizenship behaviors. We further demonstrated individual power distance orientation as a significant cultural contingency in the above mediation relationships, which were found to exist among followers with low rather than high power distance orientations. We conclude by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
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