Emotion and Leadership Part 2

Why are leaders followed?

Fineman (2003) raises the question of why do we follow leaders?  The concept of emotionality and leadership is particularly relevant in addressing this question, by making emotional connections with their followers leaders can be seen as charismatic and inspire a following.

The notion of charisma is closely linked to emotion as charismatic leaders are generally those who people feel an emotional connection with. Bono and Ilies (2006) suggest that charismatic leaders express positive emotions that are transferred to followers resulting in followers experiencing positive moods.

They found that leaders who were rated high on charisma by their workmates used more positive emotion words in their vision statements and in their prepared speeches, providing support for the role of positive emotion expression in the perception of charisma.

The findings were further strengthened by ruling out other factors such as vision content, emphasizing the importance of work, or leader attractiveness as mood influencers. This study provides empirical support to prior research by Sy et al (2005) that proposed leaders’ experienced mood could be transferred to followers.

Bono and Ilies (2006) also found that a link between leaders positive emotion and follower mood to perceptions of leadership effectiveness. As follower perceptions of effectiveness are a crucial element of successful leadership this reinforces the importance of emotion in attracting and keeping followers. Indeed meta analytic work by Lowe et al (1996) supports the link between charismatic leadership and positive outcomes.

Amber Hanna is an Organisational Psychologist at DavittCorporatePartners – Corporate Psychologists


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