Leadership and Emotion: A Multilevel Perspective
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter presents a model of five levels of leadership and emotional organizing. At Level 1, leaders generate and manage “affective events” that result in emotional states leading to positive or negative attitudes and behaviors. At Level 2, leaders exhibit individual differences in their ability to perceive and manage emotions, usually referred to as “emotional intelligence.” At Level 3, leadership effectiveness is associated with “leading with emotional labor,” in which a leader’s ability to manage followers is determined by modeling the right type and amount of emotion, as reflected in authentic leadership. At Level 4, group leadership and the processes of emotional contagion are important, as in charismatic leadership. At Level 5, emotions and leadership are viewed as organization-wide processes. As such, leaders create positive outcomes for the organization by promoting a positive work environment and organizational culture. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future research directions.
The year 1995 marks a watershed year for both popular and scholarly interest in the role that emotions play in leadership. From a popular perspective, a book by Daniel Goleman (1995) titled Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, was a NY Times best seller and even featured as a Time Magazine cover story. On the scholarly side, Ashforth and Humphrey (1995), in a seminal article, questioned why leadership scholars seemed to have ignored the emotional dimension.
Following these publications, mainstream leadership scholars began to take a closer look at emotions. For example, Gary Yukl, at the time the leading textbook author in leadership, called in 1999 for a reexamination of the prevailing theories of leadership, with a view to including the effects and consequences of emotions. Yukl (1999) noted in particular that contemporary theories of charismatic and transformational leadership at the time needed to focus more on understanding the role of emotion in interpersonal processes underlying leader–member relationships.
In response to these calls, leadership scholarship by the end of the 1990s started to regard emotions as an inherent component of effective leadership. For example, Shamir and Howell (1999) posited that emotion is a central component of charismatic leadership, and Ashkanasy and Tse (2000) outlined a model of transformational leadership based on individual, interpersonal, and group theories of emotion. Other models of leadership to incorporate emotions around this time included Barbuto and Burbach (2006); Caruso, Mayer, and Salovey (2002), and George (2000). Empirical studies followed (e.g., Gardner & Stough 2002; Wolff, Pescosolido, & Druskat, 2002; Wong & Law, 2002), although these tended to emphasize emotional intelligence. In introducing a Special Issue of (p. 784) The Leadership Quarterly devoted to the topic, for example, Humphrey (2002) commented that there was already a sea-change in scholarly attitudes about the role played by emotions in leadership.
The lack of attention paid to emotions in leadership up until the end of the twentieth century, as noted by Ashforth and Humphrey (1995), appeared to be a strange anomaly, possibly a symptom of a pervasive view at the time that organizational management must be largely governed by the laws of rational thinking. By the latter part of the century, however, this view had begun to break down. Even economists had begun to acknowledge that rational theories were too limiting to understand human behavior at work (Mumby & Putnam, 1992; Simon, 1976) and that, after all, emotions might play a key role in management and leadership.
Of course, it is axiomatic that organizational leadership had always been underpinned by emotions. Leadership is, like any form of behavior, based on the decisions the leader makes and, as Damasio (1994) conclusively demonstrated, all human decision making is underpinned by emotional states. In this respect, Damasio coined the term “somatic marker” to describe the bodily feelings that are an integral component of human decision making. In one memorable passage in his book, Damasio outlined how “Patient Elliott,” who had a high IQ but suffered from a brain injury that prevented him from accessing his bodily emotional states, was unable to make even a simple decision.
More recently, Niedenthal and her colleagues (Niedenthal, Barsalou, Winkielman, Krauth- Gruber, & Ric, 2005; Niedenthal, Winkielman, Mondillon, & Vermeulen, 2009) found experimental support for the role of bodily feelings (which they refer to as “the embodiment of emotions,” Niedenthal et al., 2009, p. 1120) in everyday thinking. In their research, Niedenthal et al. measured facial muscle movements in subjects who were asked to evaluate the emotional connotations of different words and found that people who evaluated words with emotional meanings actually activated facial muscles associated with emotion display. Niedenthal and her associates concluded that common higher level cognitive activities—like reading words—involves partial reactivations of sensory motor states. In other words, whether we like it or not, emotions are an integral part of human thought processes.
Referring specifically to the role of emotions in leadership, Mastenbroek (2000) outlined the detailed history of emotion in organizational management since Aristotle and described the pervasive effect of emotions in work and organizational settings for more than 2,000 years. Interestingly, early leadership scholars seemed to have no problem grasping this idea. For example, Redl (1942) described how the emotional makeup of workgroups was conditioned by leaders. And pioneering management theorists such as Fayol (1916/1949) seemed to understand that effective leadership relied on an ability to understand psychology and to manage followers’ emotional states. Weiss and Brief (2001), in a historical review of emotions in organizational behavior scholarship, noted that the early studies of leadership invariably included full consideration of the role played by emotions. As we noted earlier, however, and rather surprisingly in view of this early recognition, scholars of leadership and organizational behavior more generally appeared for many years to have forgotten all about emotions.
In the years following Ashforth and Humphrey’s (1995) call, however, leadership scholars still seemed to be reluctant to incorporate emotions fully into their models. Ashkanasy and Jordan (2008) commented, for example, that incorporation of emotional dimensions into leadership theories tended to take a “tack on” approach, such as incorporating aspects of emotional intelligence into existing theories of leadership. Citing the Five-Level Model of emotion in organizations proposed by Ashkanasy (2003a), Ashkanasy and Jordan urged scholars to take a broader view of emotions and to consider the influence of emotion in leadership across all levels of organizational analysis (see also Ashkanasy & Humphrey, 2011).
In this chapter, therefore, we follow suit and adopt Ashkanasy’s (2003a) Five-Level Model as our overarching framework. Moreover, in this chapter, we address some of the more recent work that has supported the multilevel framework, including the nexus of emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and leadership. We also expand on some of the more recent work that has identified the role leaders play in establishing a positive work environment (Härtel & Ashkanasy, 2011).
Five Levels of Organizational Analysis
In Figure 35.1, we depict the five levels of organizational analysis proposed by Ashkanasy (2003a). These are (1) within person (temporal variations), (2) between persons (individual differences), (3) interpersonal interactions (dyadic relationships), (4) group dynamics and leadership, and (p. 785) (5) emotional climate at the organization level. In a rejoinder to commentary on this article, Ashkanasy (2003b) noted that the biological basis of emotional neurobiology serves to integrate the various theories across all five levels. For example, temporal variations in emotional states (Level 1) are associated with changes in electroencephalographic brain activity, which in turn are associated with the neural processes behind emotion recognition (Level 3, see Ekman, 1999) and emotional contagion (Level 4, see Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993).
At the most fundamental level of analysis (Level 1), emotion and emotional experiences, or “feelings,” vary within an individual moment by moment. Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) noted that this variation is an essential consideration in our understanding of the role of emotion in organizations. Organizational members experience changing mood in the longer term, for example, on returning from a vacation (Kuehnel & Sonnentag, 2011) and also during the day (Clark, Watson, & Leeka, 1989). Fritz and Sonnentag (2009) found, in particular, that hassles and uplifts throughout the working day cause emotional states to vary rapidly on a moment-by-moment basis. Although one might think that the intensity of emotional experiences would have the largest effects, Weiss and Cropanzano note especially that emotional states are most affected by the accumulation of frequent “affective events and that it is these emotional states that drive attitudes and behavior in the workplace” (see also Fisher, 2000).
Between-person individual differences in predispositions and attitudes are considered at Level 2 in the Five-Level Model. Trait effects include emotional intelligence (Mayer & Salovey, 1997) and positive-negative trait affectivity (Watson & Tellegen, 1985). Also included at Level 2 are relatively stable attitudes such as job satisfaction and affective attitudes to work (as a between-person variable, see Fisher, 2000), as well as job and organizational commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1997). (p. 786)
The focus at Level 3 shifts to consideration of dyadic interactions. This encompasses all facets of recognizing emotional states in others, including facial emotion displays (Ekman, 1984; 1999), emotional labor (Hochschild, 1983), and emotional regulation (Gross, 2006). Especially pertinent at Level 2 is the idea of emotional labor, usually applied in the context of service provision (e.g., see Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987) and where employees are remunerated for displaying particular emotional states, which can have health consequences for the “emotional laborer” (e.g., see Grandey, 2003; Mann, 1997; 1999).
At Level 4 of the model, attention broadens to address emotions in teams and groups, reflected for example in group affective tone (George, 1990). A key mechanism at this level is emotional contagion (Hatfield et al., 1993), in which the emotional state of one individual in a group is “caught” by other members. Barsade (2002; see also Kelly & Barsade, 2001), for example, found that contagion processes ultimately affect group mood and performance. From a leadership perspective, Sy, Côté, & Saavedra (2005) found that emotional contagion can flow from the leader to subordinates. Dasborough, Ashkanasy, Tee, and Tse (2009) argue further that contagion can flow both ways: from followers to the leader, as well as from leader to followers (see also Tee, Ashkanasy, & Paulsen, 2013). This idea is supported by Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995), who posited that one of the central roles played by group leaders is communication of emotional states.
Finally, at Level 5, we are concerned with emotion reflected in organizational culture and climate (e.g., see Härtel & Ashkanasy, 2011). Ashkanasy (2003a) in particular quoted from De Rivera (1992), who defined emotional climate as “an objective group phenomenon that can be palpably sensed—as when one enters a party or a city and feels an attitude of gaiety or depression, openness or fear” (p. 197).
In the following section of this chapter, therefore, we provide an outline of Ashkanasy and Jordan’s (2008) model of leadership effectiveness and its relationship to emotion at each of the five levels we have outlined. Table 35.1 illustrates the characteristics of effective leaders at each of the levels in the Ashkanasy and Jordan model as further developed here. This table will be explained in more detail in the following sections. (p. 787)
Table 35.1. Characteristics of Effective Leaders at the Five Levels of Emotions in Organizations
Level 1: Within-Person
Effective Leaders: Long periods of peak positive moods; peak moods timed with work and leadership activities; greater resilience helps them overcome the mood-dampening effects of negative events; takes responsibility for creating positive affective events for followers; helps subordinates interpret workplace events and change feelings of frustration to optimism
Level 2: Between-Persons (Individual Differences)
Effective Leaders: More likely to have average emotional baselines in the positive range; generally higher activity levels for positive emotions and less extreme or intense for negative emotions; more likely to access “gut feelings” when making decisions; higher emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy
Level 3: Interpersonal
Effective Leaders: Take initiative in expressing emotions; accurately recognize followers’ emotions; use emotional labor and regulation to express appropriate and genuine emotions; develop authentic relationships based on trust
Level 4: Groups and Teams
Effective Leaders: Focus on the management of group members’ moods and affective climate; express appropriate (usually positive) emotions and create emotional contagion among team members; they form groups with high average group emotional intelligence
Level 5: Organization-Wide
Effective Leaders: Create appropriate emotional display rules; create organizational cultures with positive emotional climates
Level 1: Within-Person
Located at the base of the Five Level Model is within-person temporal variation in emotion. Natural biorhythms influence the moods that people feel throughout the day; for example, some people feel their best in the mornings, whereas others feel their best in the afternoons or evenings (Clark et al., 1989). Most people have some up-and-down patterns in their moods throughout the day. Effective leaders may have their peak energy levels and positive moods timed to when they most need to feel their best in order to carry out their leadership duties. In addition, effective leaders may have longer periods of peak positive moods and overall stamina.
In a seminal article, Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) introduced the concept of the “affective event,” in which occurrences (i.e., “events”) in the organizational environment are perceived by organizational members who experience an “affective reaction” leading to an emotional response. In this respect, emotions are relatively short-lived, acute, and event-orientated. In other words, people experience emotions in relation to an object in their environment. For example, anger at an injustice or sadness following a loss. This concept has come to be known as affective events theory (AET).
According to Weiss and Cropanzano (1996), the resulting moods and emotions have two behavioral effects. The first is proximal and comprises of immediate behavioral responses such as violent outbursts or spontaneous helping. The second is distal and is mediated by the formation of affect-driven attitudes such as job satisfaction and commitment; these in turn lead to what Weiss and Cropanzano refer to as “judgment-driven behavior” and include deciding either to remain with or to quit the organization or to engage in either productive or counterproductive work behavior.
Ashkanasy and Tse (2000) noted that leaders form a key part of the organizational environment and, as such, form an important source of affective events for organizational members. Moreover, and despite the implicit assumption in traditional theories of leadership that leaders are somehow more emotionally stable than their subordinates, leaders themselves are also subject to affective events. For example, Tee and his colleagues (2013) recently demonstrated that leaders can be subject to “upward” emotional contagion from their subordinates and that this is then reflected in the leader’s performance. Moreover, leaders can become a conduit for internal and external affective events (Ashton-James & Ashkanasy, 2008), such as organizational change events; external economic, legal, and political events; and negotiation with the environment, including other organizations and organizational units. Ashton-James and Ashkanasy argue that leaders’ affective states are especially pertinent because their decision making is strongly shaped by their affective state at the time (Forgas, 1995), which can have both micro- and macroimpacts on the organization and its members. Thus, because leaders are buffeted by the same negative affective events that influence the moods of their subordinates, effective leaders need to be higher on emotional resiliency (a level 2 personality trait) in order to help both themselves and their subordinates cope with these negative events.
In this chapter, we apply AET to leadership on the basis that leaders have the capacity to influence employees’ moods at work (e.g., see Humphrey, 2002; Pescosolido, 2002). Indeed, research into AET has confirmed that employees experience workplace events (hassles and uplifts) throughout the day that impact their positive and negative mood states (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996; Weiss, Nichols, & Daus, 1999). Thus, leaders might have a special role to buffer these effects. This effect was demonstrated in a study by Pirola-Merlo, Härtel, Mann, and Hirst (2002) who found that leaders with facilitative and transformational styles were able to improve both their subordinates’ moods and performance. Pirola-Merlo and his colleagues demonstrated in particular that these leaders were effective because they were able to help their subordinates overcome the damaging effects of workplace aggravations. The authors concluded that a key role of leaders therefore is to help followers to cope with the frustrations they experience in everyday work.
In another study, this time focusing in particular on transformational leadership, McColl-Kennedy and Anderson (2002) found that effective transformational leaders boosted their followers’ optimistic moods. In effect, these leaders helped their followers to transform their feelings of frustration into an optimistic outlook on the challenging goals facing them, leading to more effective follower performance. Similar effects have been demonstrated in studies by Bono, Foldes, Vinson, and Muros (2007). Moreover, the results of these studies confirmed that subordinates’ improved mood states persisted long after the leader’s intervention, resulting in an improved performance throughout the day (see also Ashkanasy & Daus, 2002), especially (p. 788) reflected in more positive moods when interacting with customers and each other.
More support for the proposition that effective leadership involves mood repair comes from a study by Pescosolido (2002) involving jazz musicians and sports teams. In line with the tenets of AET, Pescosolido reasoned that a key role of leaders is to model positive responses to an ambiguous workplace. For example, a sporting team that suffers a setback on the field when the opposition scores a goal can be inspired by a coach who reframes the event as an incentive for the team to redouble their effort.
The foregoing examples demonstrate that the process of managing mood and emotion is not straightforward, however. Although considerable research demonstrates that positive moods usually increase performance (e.g., see Judge & Kammeyer-Muellar, 2008; Wagner & Ilies, 2008), there are times when negative moods might be useful. Indeed, Jordan, Lawrence, and Troth (2006) demonstrated that, depending on circumstances, negative moods can serve to promote performance. This idea is consistent with research by George and Zhou (2007), who found that group effectiveness was most likely to be maximized when members experience a combination of positive and negative mood. Thus, a high-performing team working on an important project may experience a combination of exhilaration coupled with an anticipatory fear that a deadline is looming. In this situation, consistent with Pescosolido’s (2002) findings, leaders have a particular responsibility to model appropriate emotional responses and moods.
In summary of Level 1, we have argued that a leader’s ability to model emotional responses that are appropriate to complex work situations involves considerable skill and judgment. In particular, the leader needs to be able to perceive the emotional states of her or his followers and then take the requisite actions to manage followers’ mood states in a way most consistent with high performance. In this respect, some leaders are likely to be more skilled than others; which brings us to the next level in our model: between-person effects.
Level 2: Between-Persons
At Level 2, the focus shifts to between-person phenomena such as personality, trait affect, and cognitive and emotional intelligence. This level also includes relatively stable attitudinal variables such as job satisfaction and job commitment. From the perspective of research into leadership effectiveness, we have long known that assertiveness, decisiveness, and dependability play a role, although the role of individual differences in emotional competency has only recently been recognized (e.g., see Bass & Bass, 2008).
The role played by individual differences in leadership effectiveness, however, was for many years downplayed in subsequent movements that were based in behavioral, contingency, and transformational theories of leadership (Bass, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1990; Bass & Bass, 2008). For example, Bass (1990) proposed a model of transformational leadership that focuses on behavior and its cognitive antecedents, including the “Four I’s:” (1) individualized consideration, (2) idealized influence, (3) intellectual stimulation, and (4) inspirational motivation. With the notable exception of House and Howell (1992), leadership scholars of this period tended to ignore individual differences and to portray charisma in terms of transactional/transformational behaviors. It was not until House, Shane, and Harold (1996) declared that “Rumors of the death of dispositional research are vastly exaggerated” (p. 203) that individual differences returned to center stage in leadership research.
Affective event theorists have emphasized the importance of individual differences in average emotional baselines (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). For instance, some people typically feel positive emotions most of the time and thus are high on positive affectivity and have an average emotional baseline in the positive range. In contrast, others are high in negative affectivity and have an average emotional baseline in the negative range. In addition, people also differ in how intensely and actively they feel emotions; some people typically feel active and energetic and feel intense emotions such as excitement and enthusiasm, whereas others might feel less active positive emotions like contentment. Likewise, some might feel mild negative emotions, whereas others might often feel intense emotions like anger. Effective leaders should be more likely to have positive average emotional baselines and to experience active positive emotions while at the same time experiencing negative, unproductive emotions less intensely.
Unsurprisingly, the individual difference variable that has recently attracted the most intention in respect of emotions and leadership is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence may in particular help leaders make better decisions, and leaders are, if nothing else, decision makers. As mentioned earlier, Damasio (1994) argued that effective thinkers rely on their “somatic markers,” or bodily reactions (p. 789) and gut instincts, to help them make crucial decisions. By listening to their gut instincts, leaders are able to access important feelings and emotions to help them make decisions consistent with their values. Indeed, on the basis that emotional intelligence involves the ability to access emotional information and to incorporate this information in thinking (Mayer & Salovey, 1997), it follows logically that emotional intelligence should be associated with leadership.
It is also not surprising that authors have connected emotional intelligence and transformational leadership (e.g., see Ashkanasy & Tse, 2000; Gardner & Stough, 2002; George, 2000), a link that has subsequently been supported in empirical research (e.g., see Barling, Slater, & Kelloway, 2000; Daus & Ashkanasy, 2005; Rosete & Ciarrochi, 2005). More recently, meta-analyses by Joseph and Newman (2010) and O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver, and Story (2011) have demonstrated more conclusively the link between emotional intelligence and work performance. Nonetheless, this idea has attracted considerable and trenchant criticism (e.g., see Antonakis, 2004; Antonakis, Ashkanasy, & Dasborough, 2009; Locke, 2005), largely on the basis of exaggerated claims for the emotional construct literature that have been made in the popular literature. Goleman (1995), for example, initially claimed that emotional intelligence accounted for the majority of the variance in personal life success.
In fact, the construct of emotional intelligence has been with us for 20 years now, since Salovey and Mayer’s (1990) published the seminal article and defined emotional intelligence as perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions in self and others.1 Mayer and Salovey (1997) subsequently added a fourth component, emotional assimilation. They referred to this as the “four-branch” model and, together with Caruso, developed an IQ-style ability measure, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; see Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2002). The current version of this scale is a 141-item measure (MSCEIT V2.0; Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003) and is designed to rate each of the four “branches”: (1) perception, (2) assimilation, (3) understanding, and (4) management of emotions. Because it is an ability measure, the MSCEIT rates the correctness of responses. In this case, the authors used two different ways of determining the “right” answers. The first is a consensus sample of 5,000 English-speaking lay people; the second was a group of 80 experts who were members at the time of the International Society for Research on Emotions (ISRE). With regard to the first dimension, the ability to perceive emotions, there are a number of other specific scales that measure this ability. A recent meta-analysis found that objective measures of the ability to perceive emotions (as portrayed by videotapes, still photos, or vocal recordings) is positively correlated with workplace effectiveness (Elfenbein, Foo, White, Tan, & Aik, 2007). As we discuss later, the ability to perceive others’ emotions plays a major role at Level 3 of the model because it helps leaders develop positive interpersonal relationships.
In addition to the MSCEIT, other measures have been developed that use self- or peer ratings of emotional intelligence. Ashkanasy and Daus (2005) categorized the emotional intelligence measures into three “streams.” Stream 1 is represented by the MSCEIT. Stream 2 measures are self- or peer-report measures based on the Mayer and Salovey four-branch definition. Examples include the Emotional Intelligence Scale (EIS; Schutte et al., 1998), the Workgroup Emotional Intelligence Profile (WEIP; Jordan, Ashkanasy, Härtel, & Hooper, 2002), and the Wong and Law Emotional Intelligence Scale (WLEIS; Wong & Law, 2002). Stream 3 measures are based on other definitions of the construct and include the Bar-On EQ-I (Bar-On, 1997) and the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue; Petrides, 2009). Ashkanasy and Daus refer to the MSCEIT as the “gold standard” of emotional intelligence measures and state that Stream 2 measures are acceptable in some circumstances. With respect to Stream 3 measures, Ashkanasy and Daus recommend against their use. Recent meta-analyses of emotional intelligence and performance (Joseph & Newman, 2010; O’Boyle et al., 2011) indicate, however, that although Stream 3 measures tend to overlap existing measures of personality, they can still exhibit predictive validity.
As we mentioned earlier, evidence from meta- analytic studies (e.g., Joseph & Newman, 2010; O’Boyle et al., 2011; Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004) has consistently confirmed that emotional intelligence is associated with work performance. The rapid growth in the field is shown by the increase in studies in the 2011 meta-analysis done by O’Boyle and his colleagues compared to the meta-analysis published in 2010 by Joseph and Newman (based on data they had gathered for a 2007 conference paper). Compared to the earlier study, the O’Boyle et al. (2011) article examined the relationship between emotional intelligence and job (p. 790) performance for 65 percent more studies with twice the sample size (43 studies with a total sample size of 5,795). In particular, O’Boyle and his colleagues found support for incremental validity of emotional intelligence over and above IQ and Big Five personality. By using a technique called dominance analysis (aka “relative importance analysis”) these researchers determined that emotional intelligence and competency measures were either the second or third most important predictors of job performance (depending on the emotional intelligence/competency measure used). The three most important predictors were cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence/competency, and conscientiousness.
In terms of specific studies, Law, Wong, and Song (2004) found in a field study involving Chinese participants that, after controlling for Big Five personality, coworker ratings of an employee’s emotional intelligence predicted supervisors’ ratings of the employees’ performance. In another telling study, Brackett, Mayer, and Warner (2004) found that emotional intelligence was positively associated with college grade point average (GPA). Brackett and his colleagues also reported that low emotional intelligence was associated with deviant behavior, including drug taking.
The link between emotional intelligence and effective leadership has been and continues to be controversial (e.g., see Antonakis et al., 2009). Nonetheless, the weight of recently emerging empirical evidence seems to be tipping the balance toward recognition that the link between emotional intelligence and leadership is both credible and substantial. Walter, Cole, and Humphrey (2011) summarized the research on leadership and emotional intelligence/competency with regard to leadership emergence, leadership behaviors, and leadership effectiveness. They found that 100 percent of the studies supported the role of emotional intelligence and related competencies in leadership emergence. Moreover, 81 percent of the studies fully or partially supported the belief that emotionally intelligent/competent leaders were more likely to use transformational leadership or other effective leadership behaviors. Finally, 87.5 percent of the studies fully or partially supported the hypothesis that emotionally intelligent/competent leaders had higher overall leadership effectiveness.
Moreover, we are beginning to gain a better understanding of how the association between emotional intelligence and leadership works, and especially the nexus of emotional and cognitive intelligence in leadership. For example, although Kellett and her colleagues (2002; 2006) confirmed that emotional intelligence predicted emergent leadership, they also reported some interesting individual differences. For example, whereas some leaders relied more on empathetic (i.e., emotional) skills, others relied on cognitive skills, especially in high task complexity situations. A similar finding was reported by Côté and Miners (2006). These studies seem to imply a contingency relationship whereby leaders use cognitive versus emotional skills, depending on the task being undertaken. As a general rule, emotional intelligence skills are needed for work requiring more group interaction, whereas cognitive skills are required for work that does not require social interaction.
In a similar vein, Jordan and Troth (2004) and Offermann, Bailey, Vasilopoulos, Seal, and Sass (2004), in separate but similar studies of team performance, found that cognitive intelligence predicted individual work performance whereas emotional intelligence predicted team performance and ratings of leadership. Aydin, Leblebici, Arslan, Kilic, and Oktem (2005) found that the highest levels of leader performance tend to be associated with high scores on both cognitive and emotional intelligence.
A question remains, however, as to whether there is evidence that emotional intelligence is directly associated with better supervisory performance. In fact, results of empirical research have also consistently supported this idea. Wong and Law (2002), for example, reported in a study of Chinese workers that leaders with high emotional intelligence engender job satisfaction and extra-role performance. Moreover, Sy, Tram, and O’Hara (2006) found in a field study of food-processing workers that managers’ emotional intelligence was associated with greater follower job satisfaction, especially when the followers themselves were low on emotional intelligence. Rosete and Ciarrochi (2005) studied a sample of senior executives in Australia and found that executives with higher emotional intelligence tended to be given higher performance appraisal ratings by both superiors and subordinates and achieved higher business productivity. These findings held up over and above the effect of IQ and the Big Five personality traits.
It is also worthwhile for us to consider the role of empathy in leadership. Distinct from emotional intelligence, empathetic skill is an emotion-related construct defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990, pp. 194–195) as “the ability to comprehend another’s feelings and to re-experience them oneself.” (p. 791) Salovey and Mayer included empathy in their initial definition of emotional intelligence. Subsequently, however, they came to see empathy as a differentiated construct (see Mayer & Salovey, 1997; although it is included in some Stream 3 models of emotional intelligence, e.g., see Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002; Wolff et al., 2002). Although many definitions of empathy describe a passive type in which perceivers re-experience others’ emotions, Kellett et al. (2006) argued that leaders need to take the initiative in creating a two-way emotional bond in which leaders not only feel others’ emotions but also influence others’ emotions. Based on this distinction, Kellett et al. (2006) developed a measure of interactive empathy and found in an assessment center study that interactive empathy predicted leadership emergence. Interestingly, they found that interactive empathy was the best predictor of leadership emergence in the study (even better than cognitive intelligence) and that it mediated the ability to perceive others’ emotions and partially mediated the ability to express one’s emotions.
Finally, we note that relevant individual personality factors may help leaders regulate both their own moods and the moods of their followers. Leader self-awareness would seem to be important in this respect. For example, Sosik and Megerian (1999) found that leader self-awareness is associated with the leader’s performance and subordinate positive regard so that leaders who under- or overestimate their own abilities tend to be poorly regarded as leaders by their subordinates (Dasborough et al., 2009; Yammarino & Atwater, 1997). Based on this evidence, Ashkanasy and Jordan (2008) concluded that leadership effectiveness is critically dependent on the leader’s recognition of her or his capabilities and limitations. In particular, leaders who lack self-awareness are likely to be prone to react inappropriately to affective events. For example, a leader who laughs at a subordinate who has failed to accomplish a particular task when other team members feel that the member deserves sympathy, possibly because the failure was externally caused, would be seen by other members to be out of touch.
In summary of Level 2, the evidence seems to suggest that effective leaders differ from ineffective ones and from followers in several affect-related ways. First, effective leaders are likely to be high on positive affectivity and to have average emotional baselines in the positive range. This helps them overcome the effects of negative affective events and negative emotional contagion that may influence followers and less effective managers. The effective leaders are also likely to experience more active, high-arousal positive emotions and less active, lower arousal negative emotions. The more effective leaders should also be better at accessing their gut feelings when making decisions. People high on emotional intelligence should also be more likely to emerge as leaders, to use effective leadership behaviors such as transformational leadership behaviors, and to have overall higher leadership effectiveness. Effective leaders should also be high on self-awareness and empathy.
Level 3: Interpersonal Relationships
Yukl (2001) defined organizational leadership as a process of managing interpersonal relationships at work. A similar perspective is reflected in the leader–member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership (see Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). In this instance, leadership has a place at Level 3 of the multilevel model, where the central focus is on communication of emotion in interpersonal exchanges. Moreover, as Ashkanasy and Jordan (2008) point out, leadership involves much more than just managing others. Citing Mumby and Putnam (1992), Ashkanasy and Jordan argue that organizational life is intrinsically reflected in the expression and control of emotions. Mumby and Putnam refer to this as “bounded emotionality.” In other words, just as human decision making is subject to “bounded rationality” (Simon, 1976), human relationships at work are constrained in terms of the way people express and deal with their emotions. As a corollary of this, effective leaders regulate relationships with their followers as a means to develop and enhance their relationships with them. In effect, and as Martin, Knopoff, and Beckman (1998) have noted, this means that managing emotional states and emotional expression is a key aspect of effective leadership.
Consistent with this idea, Humphrey (2006) posited the idea of “leading with emotional labor” (see also Humphrey, 2005; 2008; Humphrey, Pollack, & Hawver, 2008; Ashkanasy & Humphrey, 2011). Hochschild (1983) defined emotional labor as “management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display” (p. 7). Although Hochschild originally cast this idea in the context of service work, where service employees are remunerated in part for managing their emotional displays in the presence of customers, the idea can apply equally well to leadership in the sense that leaders “serve” their subordinates (e.g., as reflected in the idea of “servant leadership,” see Greenleaf, 1977). (p. 792)
The basis of emotional labor according to Hochschild (1983) is that service employees, as a component of their employment contract, are required to express particular emotions as part of their job duties. Usually, the emotion expressed by employees toward customers needs to be positive (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Pugh, 2001; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987; Van Dijk & Kirk-Brown, 2006), but not necessarily. Sutton (1991), for example, studied the need for bill collectors to display a range of emotions, including irritation, anger, and even sadness. Pugh (2001), in a study of bank tellers, concluded moreover that emotional labor serves to improve task effectiveness in that the customer sees the emotional expression he or she expects. As a result, the server–customer relationship is not distracted from the task at hand. Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) stress this aspect of emotional labor. Thus, when people interacting at work do not have to deal with out-of-character emotional expressions (e.g., laughter when something goes wrong), things tend to run more smoothly.
Unsurprisingly, given Hochschild’s (1983) original focus, early work in emotional labor tended to focus on service settings. Notable exceptions, however, were studies by Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) and Mann (1997). Brotheridge and Grandey examined emotional labor in five occupations, focusing on managers’ regulation of their emotional displays, and confirmed that the managers performed emotional labor just as frequently as sales/service and human services workers. The same phenomenon was reported by Mann, who studied managers in the British nuclear industry. Similar to Brotheridge and Grandey, Mann found that emotional labor effects could be found at all levels of organizational communication and especially in manager–subordinate relationships.
The notion that emotional labor can be important in nonservice situations obtained further support in research by Lewis (2000), who examined emotional expression in a field setting and reported that, when leaders’ displays of negative emotions were inappropriate (i.e., situationally incongruent) subordinate ratings of their effectiveness were lowered. Newcombe and Ashkanasy (2002) found the same effect in a laboratory study. Based on these data, Humphrey (2005) proposed that emotional labor may be a critical ingredient of transformational leadership. In effect, leaders who employ emotional labor would be more likely to be perceived as transformational leaders. This idea has since been supported in a study by Epitropaki (2006), who reported higher subordinate ratings on transformational leadership for leaders who employed emotional labor when interacting with their followers.
To understand this phenomenon in more detail, Humphrey et al. (2008) proposed that emotional labor can be categorized into three types: (1) customer service, (2) caring professions, and (3) social control situations. Thus, consistent with Hochschild’s (1983) original conceptualization, service employees typically are expected to express pleasant emotions, demonstrated through smiling and behaving in an open, friendly manner. Interestingly, and as Grandey (2003) subsequently demonstrated empirically, employees who are required to exhibit such positive emotions, irrespective of the pace and affective tone of their work surroundings, suffer a good deal of stress. This stress in turn makes it harder for them to display (incongruent) emotional expressions, thus further deepening their stress (Grandey, 2000).
Employees in the caring professions, such as nurses, health care workers, social workers, and childcare workers, also have to deal with their displays of emotional expression under sometimes trying circumstances. For example, they have to convey sympathy for sick patients or clients who might have deep personal problems that are difficult to deal with. This has been associated with the high rate of burnout in the caring professions (Maslach, 1982).
Finally, we note that social control agents, such as bouncers, policemen, and bill collectors, also have to display emotions, but this time the emotions that they need to display are negative. As we noted earlier, for example, Sutton (1991) found that bill collectors need to express just the right amount of irritation and that this can be a source of further work stress for these employees.
Humphrey et al. (2008) argue that, because of the complexity of what they do, leaders need to employ all three types of emotional labor when interacting with their subordinates. Moreover, leaders need also to consider carefully which type of emotional labor is appropriate in a given situation. For example, in a service setting, the leader might have to set an example by acting cheerful and enthusiastic when employees are feeling bored. On the other hand, when s/he needs to deal with a difficult situation, the leader might need to express sympathy and support to frustrated subordinates. Or, in situations in which employees need to be disciplined, (p. 793) the leader might need to display stern disapproval. Moreover, and in view of the complexity of everyday work situations, a leader might need to deal with a mixture of these situations. For example, there may be a need to display sympathy for the personal problems that might have resulted in an employee arriving late, but, at the same time, make it clear that on-time arrival is critical, especially for a job that entails interactions with customers who expect agents to be there at the opening bell.
Iszatt-White’s (2009) study of college leaders demonstrates that even positive, supportive leaders still have to use emotional labor tactics to display a range of emotions. Although the leaders in her sample preferred to use genuine and natural emotional labor, at times, they had to use either surface acting or deep acting to express more positive emotions than they were feeling at the time or to express tougher emotions than what they usually preferred to feel and express. In the course of their interviews with Iszatt-White, the leaders made clear that they had to exercise judgment about the best possible emotions to display for each situation they encountered. This would seem to further underline the need for researchers to understand emotional intelligence as a potential and important determining factor in effective leadership.
A key distinction in the emotional labor literature is between surface acting, in which the actors change their outward emotional expressions without changing their actual feelings (“felt emotions”), and deep acting, in which the actors recall their feelings toward a past object or person and then use these inner feelings as a means to govern their outward displays of emotion (Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983). Although the latter is usually construed as more “authentic” than the former, both types of emotional labor can create feelings of inauthenticity, often referred to as “emotional dissonance.” Subsequent research (e.g., see Bono & Vey, 2005; Bryant & Cox, 2006; Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Van Dijk & Kirk-Brown, 2006) has found that, although the strength of the effect is less in the instance of deep acting, both forms can have negative psychological consequences, including stress and burnout.
In addition to these types of emotional labor, Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) identified a third mode, namely naturally expressed emotion. According to Ashforth and Humphrey (1993), these are the emotional expressions that employees express as a result of feeling genuine emotions. For example, a service employee who really enjoys dealing with a particular customer has no need to engage in either surface or deep acting. Subsequent research by Glomb and Tews (2004) and Diefendorff, Croyle, and Gosserand (2005) has supported the existence of this form of emotional display. The question, however, arises as to whether this can be described as “labor” per se. In this respect, Hennig-Thurau, Groth, Paul, and Gremler (2006) found support for the idea that it can be so regarded, so long as it is consistent with the organization’s display rules. In particular, Hennig-Thurau and his colleagues found that customers respond more positively to this kind of natural emotional labor so long as it is consistent with the organization’s emotional display rules.
Turning now to consider how leaders may engage in the three types of emotional labor, we note that leader authenticity is a major issue here. Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, and May (2004), for example, suggest that a critical element of “authentic leadership” involves not masking the leader’s true intensions through overuse of impression management (see also Newcombe & Ashkanasy, 2002). More recently, Hunt, Gardner, and Fischer (2008) developed a typology based on the three types of emotional labor as they relate to authentic leadership. Hunt and his associates reasoned that two factors determine the effectiveness or otherwise of a leader’s emotional labor. The first is whether the leader’s emotional display is consistent with the organization’s display rules. The second is the physical and/or psychological distance between a leader and her or his followers. For example, a leader who displays genuine anger contrary to a close employee’s social expectations may be perceived as authentic but yet generate unfavorable impressions. Dasborough and Ashkanasy (2005) refer to this as “emotional ambivalence.” Thus, although it is probably true that, in comparison to, say, service workers, leaders have more freedom to choose the valance and intensity of their emotional expressions, this is going to be constrained by the nature of the leader’s position in the organization and also by her or his relationship with followers (Humphrey et al., 2008).
Hunt at al. (2008) argue further that the type of emotional labor a leader uses to influence followers’ perceptions of leader authenticity and trustworthiness is also is a function of the leader’s closeness to her or his subordinate, suggesting a deeper issue of ethical leadership. More recently, Gardner, Fischer, and Hunt (2009) developed this idea further and concluded that genuine emotional expression (as a form of emotional labor) is a prerequisite (p. 794) for authentic leadership (see also Dasborough & Ashkanasy, 2005).
In this respect, leaders also need to balance the power relationships that they have with their followers. Thus, leaders need simultaneously to balance their (downward) displays of relationship leadership with their need to display appropriate (upward) demeanors to their own superiors (Cowsill & Grint, 2008). This represents yet a further complication in the process of leading with emotional labor that we discussed in the previous section. It is little wonder then that research (e.g., see Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Brotheridge & Lee, 2008; Hochschild,1983; Pugh, 2001; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987; Van Dijk & Kirk-Brown, 2006) has consistently found that leaders suffer from a range of stress-related issues that ultimately affect their ability to lead and, ultimately, their own well-being. Moreover, the emotional labor literature, as well as the related literature on emotion regulation, has categorized a number of techniques that people can use to help them both feel and express appropriate emotions. Thus, applying the concepts from research on emotional labor may prove beneficial to leadership researchers (Humphrey, 2005; 2008).
Considering further the specific effect of emotional labor on leader stress, the emotional labor literature (e.g., see Grandey, 1999; 2000) tells us that surface acting is likely to be more stressful for leaders than deep acting or genuine emotional expression. In this respect, Humphrey et al. (2008) argued that it is important for leaders to portray a positive outlook (e.g., optimism, hope, confidence) in the face of morale-defeating events that might lead their subordinates to lose confidence. In this instance, it is incumbent on the leader to employ surface or deep emotional labor strategies as a means to portray confidence, in the hope that this will be picked up by followers through a processes of emotional contagion (see also Dasborough et al., 2009; Tee et al., 2013).
This idea is also consistent with the emerging concepts of positive leadership and psychological capital (Hannah & Luthans, 2008). Moreover, recent research by Jones, Visio, Wilberding, and King (2008) appears to indicate that leaders’ emotive awareness may influence whether they find performing emotional labor to be stressful. In sum, although the extant research suggests that deep acting and genuine emotional expression are the preferred modes for effective leadership, the effect of emotional labor on leaders appears to be more complex than originally envisaged. Clearly, this is a field that needs to be investigated further.
Another issue to be considered here concerns the broader issue of emotion regulation strategies (Grandey, 2000). In this instance, emotional regulation encompasses a broad spectrum of behaviors in addition to emotional labor (Gross, 1998; 2006). Mikolajczak, Tran, and Brotheridge (2008) recently classified a range of emotional regulation in work settings in addition to the three emotional labor strategies we have outlined in this chapter. This work suggests that leaders might employ a broader range of emotional regulation strategies in their interactions with others in the organization, including superiors, peers, and subordinates. These also imply that emotional regulation can play an expanded role in controlling the leader’s own emotion, as well as influencing the moods, emotions, and performance of followers.
Finally, we note that there is an inevitable overlap between Level 2 and Level 3. In particular, a leader’s individual differences, such as emotional intelligence and trait affect, might affect which of the three types of emotional labor a leader might apply, as well as how skillfully the leader can use each approach (Salovey, Hsee, & Mayer, 1993). In support of this idea, Brotheridge (2006) found that emotional intelligence predicted undergraduate students’ use of emotional labor strategies. More recently, Jordan, Soutar, and Kiffin-Petersen (2008) found in a field study that, although only 4 percent of employees could be categorized as “chameleons,” able to display three types of emotional labor depending on circumstances, another 28 percent could be categorized as “empathists,” possessing an ability to employ deep acting and genuine emotional expression in interactions with others. Clearly, this is an area ripe for additional research.
In summary of Level 3, we have argued that, in order to establish effective interpersonal relationships, leaders need to be able to perceive others’ true emotions and also be able to effectively communicate their own feelings. Leaders also have to make sure that their expressed emotions match organizational and societal expectations and norms. To express appropriate emotions, leaders may have to use emotional labor and regulation tactics to manage both their own emotions and their expressed emotions. Leaders high on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and positive affectivity should be better at establishing authentic, trusting relationships with followers.
Level 4: Groups
In the original five-level model, based on the tenets of LMX theory, Ashkanasy (2003a) envisaged that leadership is a Level 4 phenomenon. In (p. 795) other words, leaders’ interactions with group members ultimately determine the affective tone of the group (see also George, 2000; Pescosolido, 2002; Pirola-Merlo et al., 2002). As we outline here, however, there is also a good deal of overlap between leadership at Levels 3 and 4.
An intriguing additional ingredient in leadership at the group level is emotional contagion. Ashkanasy and Jordan (2008), for example, cited Barsade’s (2002) research on emotional contagion processes in groups to illustrate how a leader can set the emotional tone in the group he or she is leading (see also Bono & Ilies, 2006; Cherulnik, Donley, Wiewel, & Miller, 2001; Kelly & Barsade, 2001; Sy et al., 2005). Thus, and consistent with the tenets of bounded emotionality, a key leader’s role is to be a facilitator of group emotions. This effect was demonstrated in a field study by Tse, Dasborough, and Ashkanasy (2008), who found that LMX contributes to the quality of team members’ exchanges only in a positive affective team climate. In another field study, Sy, Côté, and Saavedra (2005) demonstrated that group positive group affect is a direct outcome of leader positive display (i.e., an example of leading with emotions labor, as discussed earlier). These authors reported further that the group’s positive affect was associated with team coordination task effectiveness. On the other hand, Fitness (2000) reported that, if the leader engages in unwarranted displays of negative emotion, such as anger, the group affective tone can easily turn negative.
Humphrey and his colleagues (see Ashkanasy & Humphrey, 2011; Humphrey, 2005; 2006; 2008; Humphrey et al., 2008) posit further that this process is intrinsically tied to emotional labor. In effect, leaders can both gain control of their own emotions and use emotional contagion to influence the emotions and moods of their coworkers and subordinates through appropriate use of emotional labor. In support of this idea, Jones, Kane, Russo, and Walmsley (2008) found in a field study that emotional contagion processes depended on the subordinates’ perceptions of the leaders and concluded that this is an instance of leading with emotional labor.
The key issue here is that a leader needs to display the right emotion at the right intensity to be effective. In this respect, Dasborough and Ashkanasy (2002; 2005) developed a model in which follower attributions to a leader’s influence attempts results in positive or negative emotional responses. Thus, the manner in which followers attribute sincere versus manipulative intentions to their leader is critical in that followers’ subsequent emotional responses serve to drive followers’ perceptions of leader trustworthiness and their behavioral and attitudinal reactions to the leader’s influence attempt. As we noted earlier, this is critically dependent on the leader’s appropriate use of emotional labor. For example, in Newcombe and Ashkanasy’s (2002) experiential study, followers in a performance appraisal situation were asked to rate the LMX of their appraiser. Lowest ratings were given to leaders who attempted to convey a positive appraisal message while at the same time displaying negative facial affect.
Of special relevance at Level 4 is the notion of leader charisma. We discussed this earlier as a Level 2 (individual difference) phenomenon, but the effects of charisma are also felt at the group level. In this respect, scholars of leadership charisma seem to understand that emotion is a critical ingredient in leader–follower relationships (for a review, see Bratton, Grint, & Nelson, 2005), and early charisma theorists such as Conger and Kanungo (1987) and Gardner and Avolio (1998) recognized that charismatic leaders influence their followers’ emotions. These authors, however, viewed this as a mainly attributional process and an example of (cognitive) impression management.
More recently, however, scholars have begun to recognize that the emotional component of charisma can be important in its own right. In particular, the emergence of contagion processes in the literature has provided a new lens on charismatic leadership. Cherulnik, Donley, Wiewel, and Miller (2001), for example, found that videotapes of a leader displaying positive nonverbal emotional expressions such as smiling was reproduced in observers’ facial expressions. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2002) developed a theory of “emotional resonance” to explain this kind of effect. In their model, an effective leader serves to create an emotional resonance that “synchronizes” the emotions of both leaders and followers.
Leaders’ use of emotionally arousing language has also been shown to play a role here. For example, Mio, Riggio, Levin, and Reese (2005) demonstrated that charismatic leaders use more emotionally engaging metaphors than do their less charismatic peers. Bono and Ilies (2006) also found in an extensive field investigation of charisma and emotional contagion that followers gave higher ratings to more emotionally expressive leaders and rated their intention to be influenced by expressive leaders more highly than less expressive leaders. Bono and Ilies reported further that these effects held even after controlling (p. 796) for vision statements and other nonaffective characteristics of charismatic leaders. In another study, Waples and Connelly (2008) found followers’ “vision-related performance” was influenced more by leaders who used “active emotions,” irrespective of whether the leaders’ emotional valence was positive or negative. Waples and Connelly reported that subordinates’ ratings of the leader as transformational was higher for the leaders who conveyed active emotions. This effect was particularly evident for low emotional competence followers, suggesting that such followers are more susceptible to leaders who convey active emotions.
In the Sy et al. (2005) study we referred to earlier, the authors examined in particular the extent to which leaders’ moods “infected” group members through emotional contagion and subsequently influenced their performance. Sy and his associates reported that this is exactly what they found: the leaders’ mood did in fact determine to a large extent group members’ positive or negative mood. Moreover, groups led by the positive mood leaders performed better than the negative leader groups, both in terms of coordination and in effort required to achieve task goals. This finding parallels similar results by De Hoogh and colleagues (2005), who reported that the charismatic leaders in their study performed more effectively than noncharismatic leaders through improving their subordinates’ work attitudes.
There is, however, also evidence of a Level 2 cross-over effect on leader charisma and its effects at Level 4. Thus, individuals might differ in their ability to be charismatic because of differences in their ability to display emotions. In demonstration of this effect, Groves (2005) found in a field study that whether the leaders were perceived as charismatic depended on their level of perceived emotional expressiveness. There is also evidence that emotional expressiveness may be required for appointment to leadership roles in the first instance. Thus, Kellett et al. (2006) found that leadership emergence in a group task accomplishment situation was predicated on the leader’s ability to express appropriate emotions.
Results of the Kellett et al. (2006) study suggest further that, while a leader’s ability to express emotions might have a direct effect, for example, through expressing tough, nonempathetic emotions, there might also be an indirect effect through leader empathy on both relations leadership and task leadership. These results imply that leaders need to express situationally congruent emotions. Thus, although the leader needs to, in general, convey positive emotions, expression of negative emotions when the situation calls for it is viewed positively. This is consistent with Newcombe and Ashkanasy’s (2002) finding that negative emotions tend to be viewed as appropriate when situational contingencies are congruent.
Leaders may also improve performance by selecting group members who are high in emotional intelligence. For example, Jordan et al. (2002) found that teams whose members had higher average emotional intelligence were more effective at quickly establishing effective work groups.
To summarize Level 4, we argue that leaders influence the group affective tone by expressing appropriate emotions and by controlling emotional contagion processes. Leaders who express appropriate emotions establish better LMX processes and are also more likely to be seen as charismatic leaders. Leaders can also improve performance by selecting team members who have high emotional intelligence.
Level 5: Organization-Wide
At Level 5, we address the leader’s role in shaping the organization’s culture and the climate of the organization (De Rivera, 1992; Schein, 1992). In this respect, Schein emphasized that the founder of an organization most often sets the tone for its subsequent culture, which then becomes embedded in the organization’s values and basic assumptions and is reflected in observable artifacts and patterns of behavior. Within this framework, Härtel and Ashkanasy (2011) adopted the metaphor of culture as a “fossilification” of human patterns of relating. Thus, like a fossil record, culture contains within it the evolution of an organization, including evolution of the norms of emotional expression and rules governing social interactions between organizational members.
Härtel and Ashkanasy (2011) emphasize in particular the leader’s role in shaping a positive work environments that in turn derives from social environments characterized by a positive emotional climate, social inclusion, and human flourishing (Sekerka & Fredrickson, 2008). They argue further that an understanding of the culture of positive work environments requires consideration not only of the cultural constituents, but how people interpret the organization’s culture (i.e., its organizational climate).
In fact, the idea that organizational culture has an emotional dimension is not all that new. Authors (p. 797) such as Beyer and Niño (2001), Fineman (2001), and Van Maanen and Kunda (1989) have written on this. Others, including Hochschild (1983), Rafaeli and Sutton (1987; 1989) have emphasized how culture is embodied in emotional display rules. Ashkanasy (2003a) argued further, consistent with De Rivera (1992), that organizational culture can determine in the way organizational members experience emotions on a day-to-day basis. In this regard, Härtel (2008) identified emotions as central to a culture being healthy or toxic. For example, individual customers and clients can detect if the climate in the back office of a store or restaurant is healthy and positive or toxic and negative. Similarly, clients in business-to-business settings who deal with organizations operated by effective lean teams come to pick up the “vibes” or indicators of positive/negative climate. Moreover, cultures can go either way: positive or negative. Many of the authors listed above describe such “toxic” cultures.
Härtel and Ashkanasy (2011) used the term “positive work environment” (PWE) to refer to the contextual factors and work conditions associated with well-being and positive organizational behavior. As noted by Härtel (2008), a PWE exists when employees see their workplace as positive, respectful, inclusive, and psychologically safe; leaders and co-workers as trustworthy, fair, and open to diversity; and characterized by just policies and decision making. Moreover, a PWE is also manifested through objective criteria including physical and neurological measures of well-being and safety audits.
A further key characteristic of a PWE is that it provides the set of emotional experiences necessary for human flourishing. According to Fredrickson’s (2001) broaden and build theory, “experiences of positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to psychological resources” (p. 218). In a similar vein, other studies have linked positive emotions to greater sociability, improved social interactions (Burger & Caldwell, 2000; Cunningham, 1988; Isen, 1970), and closer friendships (Berry, Willingham, & Thayer, 2000).
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that leaders must play a key role in developing and maintaining a PWE. At the same time, the leader cannot ignore the reality of negative emotion. In this respect, and as Van Maanen and Kunda (1989) demonstrate, negative emotion is an inevitable part of organizational life, even in organizations like Disney that set out to show an exclusively positive face to the world. Härtel and Ashkanasy (2011) argue, however, that negative emotions need not automatically equate to subsequent negative outcomes, just as positive emotions do not automatically equate to positive outcomes following the emotional experience. These authors point out that negative emotion often provides important signals about moral dilemmas and areas where learning is required. Thus, the ability to respond constructively to negative emotions depends on other factors, including, for example, how frequently we are exposed to negative emotional experiences.
Positive emotions play an important role in this because they have the capacity to buffer the impact of negative emotions on people, to build psychological resiliency toward negative events (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004), and to promote the adoption of functional coping strategies (Härtel, 2008). In this instance, a leader has responsibility to establish an emotional climate that promotes human flourishing, one where positive emotional experiences outweigh negative emotional experiences.
In summary of Level 5, we have argued here that leaders play a crucial role in determining an organization’s culture and affective climate. In this respect, culture is a kind of fossilized relic of entrenched patterns of behaving, and this is then reflected in the affective tone within the organization. Thus, leaders have a special role to play in organizations, fostering and modeling positive patterns of behavior that result in a PWE, which is then, in turn, related to more effective organizational outcomes.
In the course of this chapter, and based in Ashkanasy’s (2003a) five-level model of emotion in organizations, we have argued that leadership and emotion are intimately connected at all levels of organizing. At Level 1, corresponding to within-personal temporal variability in feelings and behavior, leaders generate and manage “affective events” for their followers that result in emotional states calling forth attitudes and behaviors that can be positive or negative. At Level 2, we address individual differences in leaders’ ability to perceive and manage emotions, both in themselves and in their followers, usually referred to as emotional intelligence, and detail the growing volume of empirical evidence that supports the notion that emotional intelligence is related to both leadership and employee effectiveness. At Level 3, which (p. 798) concerns interpersonal relationships, we identified that leadership effectiveness can be found in “leading with emotional labor,” in which a leader’s ability to manage followers is determined in part by the leader’s ability to model the right type and amount of emotion in the right circumstance. The result is reflected in what has come to be called “authentic leadership.” Emotion as a group phenomenon is the focus of Level 4, and here processes of emotional contagion are important. Charismatic leadership, in particular, is reflected in an ability to “infect” members of a group with an emotional state that is right for the situation. Finally, at Level 5, we address emotions and leadership as an organization-wide process. Culture in particular is seen as a fossilization of patterns of behavior. A particular feature of the model is that many of the effects we discuss operate at the “meso-level” (cf. House, Rousseau, & Thomas-Hunt, 1995). As such, leaders have a responsibility to engender a PWE, resulting in positive outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Before we finish, however, we acknowledge that the leadership style we have advocated can also be misused. Emotion is a powerful motivating force in determining human behavior (Frijda, 1987). Although we have stressed the positive role that leaders can adopt, there is also a potential “dark side.” For example, transformational leaders can manipulate their followers to engage in evil and/or self-destructive behavior (Conger, 1990). Also, Fineman (2004) argues that emotional intelligence can easily become a form of manipulation, in which top management seeks to control employees for their own selfish ends. In this chapter, however, and in line with Bass, Avolio, and Atwater (1996), we have focused on situations in which a leader seeks to engage in genuine emotional expression, with a view to advancing the interests of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the community at large.
We also acknowledge that there are national cultural differences in both leadership and the expression of emotion. In this respect, Elfenbein and Ambady (2002) demonstrated that, although the physical expression of emotion is universal (Ekman, 1984), cultural rules and norms governing the expression and even the experience of emotion are in part culturally determined. Similarly, rules of leadership can vary across cultures (see den Hartog et al., 1999).
In this chapter, we have mentioned several intriguing possibilities for future research; we would like to highlight the following:
Leading with emotional labor. Research by Humphrey and his associates (Humphrey, 2005; 2006; 2008; Humphrey et al., 2008; Ashkanasy & Humphrey, 2011) has drawn attention to the fact that leaders use emotional labor in their interactions with their subordinates. As we discuss earlier in this chapter, however, emotional labor can be stressful, with some individuals more prone to experiencing stress than others. Possibly, emotional intelligence may also hold the key here (e.g., see Waples & Connelly, 2008). Clearly, research is needed to investigate the effects of emotional labor on both the leaders themselves and on leadership effectiveness.
Embodiment of emotions, emotional tagging, and leadership. Research by Damasio (1994) has demonstrated that people access their bodily reactions, or gut feelings, to help them make decisions. Experiments by Niedenthal and her colleagues (Niedenthal et al., 2005; 2009) have shown in particular that we access bodily reactions through partial reactivation of sensory motor states even when evaluating the emotional connotations of words. Judging the emotional connotation of words involves a fairly low level of emotional arousal and intensity. In contrast, leaders often have to make judgments under conditions of considerable stress or emotional arousal. Case studies by Finkelstein, Whitehead, and Campbell (2009) suggest that a related concept, emotional tagging, also influences leaders’ judgments about mergers and acquisitions, responses to crisis situations, and other important decisions. Emotional tagging occurs when memories that are part of our pattern recognition processes are tagged with positive, negative, or neutral emotional associations. As Finkelstein and his associates argue, these emotional tags aid in making most decisions by alerting the decision maker to the importance of an issue. Important issues are tagged with strong positive or negative emotions, whereas trivial issues have largely neutral tags. Problems occur, however, when emotional tags are attached to misleading experiences. Together, these studies suggest that bodily reactions and emotional tagging can have a strong influence on how leaders make decisions; however, more research is needed using both field and experimental simulations to verify this.
Emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, the Big Five, and leadership. Walter, Cole, and Humphrey’s (2011) review found consistent results for the importance of emotional intelligence to leader emergence, leader behaviors, and leadership effectiveness. They argued, however, that more (p. 799) leadership studies are needed to include measures of the three major types of predictors of leadership simultaneously; viz. emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, and the Big Five personality measures. Moreover, we need additional research to uncover the underlying mechanisms of individual differences such as these. Only by including all three types of predictors can we know for sure the relative importance of each one.
Cross-level aspects of leadership. The model we have based this analysis on also emphasizes cross-level (or meso-level) effects (e.g., see Dasborough et al., 2009). In this respect, Ashkanasy (2003a; 2003b) also stressed how processes at each level cross over to other levels. For example, we have argued that leadership, which is essentially a group (Level 4) phenomenon, is strongly influenced by individual differences such as emotional intelligence (Level 2) and notions of emotional labor and leader–member exchange (at Level 3). Leaders also play a central role as shapers of organizational culture and climate (Level 5) and as generators of affective events (Level 1, Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). As Dasborough and her colleague point out, “What goes around, comes around” (p. 571); what leaders do at one level is ultimately reflected in variability at the other four levels. For example, a leader who is perceived as unfair by group members not only engenders negative emotions in the group, but also sets up a dynamic whereby top management becomes aware of the issue and loses confidence in the leader’s abilities to do her or his job. Dasborough et al. framed their model around the idea of emotional contagion, but this has yet to be investigated as a cross-level phenomenon. Clearly, research is needed to identify the nature of this kind of process and its effects.
To conclude, we have presented the view in this chapter that leadership is intrinsically a process of managing emotions. To do this, leaders need to recognize that they are a source of affective events for their followers, and that the resulting affective reactions determine how their followers subsequently form attitudes and behave. As such, it seems leaders may well need to possess the emotional intelligence necessary to execute “leading with emotional labor” resulting in positive work environments and organizational outcomes.
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