We provide an integrative review of the empirical literature on leadership and affect (emotion, mood, and affective dispositions),
which is first and foremost a literature on leader displays of affect. We conclude that the influence of leader affective
displays can be understood through the mediation paths of emotional contagion and cognitive interpretation of affect in combination
with the first- and second-stage moderators of these paths. We also conclude that the common yet overly simplistic notion
that leader displays of positive affect are more effective than leader displays of negative affect can in important part be
attributed to an overreliance on subjective ratings as indicators of leadership effectiveness, whereas behavioral indicators
of leadership effectiveness suggest a more contingent view of the effectiveness of positive and negative affective displays.
We propose that to bolster and further develop these conclusions, we need (a) more research focusing on moderation in dual-path
mediation; (b) development of theory about cognitive interpretations following leader affective displays; and (c) more sophisticated
models of the difference amongst different affective states to better capture the complexity of their effects. We also outline
how evidence regarding the role of follower affect in response to leadership more generally points to the potential for integration
of affective and non-affective models of leadership.
Like research in management more generally, the study of leadership has traditionally focused on cognition much more than
on affect. As part of a bigger movement towards the study of affect—moods and emotions, as well as affective dispositions
(Brief & Weiss, 2002 Brief, A. P., & Weiss, H. M. (2002). Organizational behavior: Affect in the workplace. Annual
Review of Psychology, 53, 279–307. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135156[CrossRef], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [CSA];
Van Kleef, Homan, & Cheshin, 2012 Van Kleef, G. A., Homan, A. C., & Cheshin, A. (2012). Emotional influence at work:
Take it EASI. Organizational Psychology Review, 2, 311–339. doi: 10.1177/2041386612454911[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®])—there
has been a sharp increase in attention to the role of affect in leadership. Moods and emotions are primary drivers of human
motivation, cognition, and behavior, and a distinct influence in social interaction (Keltner & Haidt, 1999 Keltner, D.,
& Haidt, J. (1999). Social function of emotions at four levels of analysis. Cognition and Emotion, 13, 505–521. doi: 10.1080/026999399379168[Taylor
& Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]; Van Kleef, 2009 Van Kleef, G. A. (2009). How emotions regulate social life:
The emotions as social information (EASI) model. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 184–188. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01633.x[CrossRef],
[Web of Science ®]). For leadership, with its focus on social influence of leaders on followers, this puts the question center-stage
of how leaders’ and followers’ affective states and traits shape leadership effectiveness. From 2000 onwards we have seen
a steep rise in the number of studies focusing on this question.
What is dearly missing, however, is an integrative understanding of the insights derived from all these different investigations.
There currently is no integrative account of leadership and affect to synthesize the variety of results found in empirical
research, and previous reviews of the literature have documented what is out there without much integration or a clear vision
of the way forward. This lack of an integrative understanding of the role of affect in leadership may in part be due to the
fact that earlier reviews were primarily restricted to work covering main effects—an approach that has produced inconsistent
results and an incomplete picture of the role of affect in leadership (cf. Gooty, Connelly, Griffith, & Gupta, 2010 Gooty,
J., Connelly, S., Griffith, J., & Gupta, A. (2010). Leadership, affect and emotions: A state of the science review. Leadership
Quarterly, 21, 979–1004. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.10.005[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; van Knippenberg, van Knippenberg,
van Kleef, & Damen, 2008 van Knippenberg, D., van Knippenberg, B., van Kleef, G. A., & Damen, F. (2008). Leadership,
affect, and emotions. In N. Ashkanasy & C. Cooper (Eds.), Research companion to emotions in organizations (pp. 465–475).
Cheltenham: Edgar Eldar.[CrossRef]; Rajah, Song, & Arvey, 2011 Rajah, R., Song, Z., & Arvey, R. D. (2011). Emotionality
and leadership: Taking stock of the past decade of research. Leadership Quarterly, 22, 1107–1119. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.09.006[CrossRef],
[Web of Science ®]). The last few years, however, have increasingly yielded studies capturing more complex moderated and mediated
relationships, providing better building blocks for integration of the literature and theory building—especially when we also
draw from research on the social functions of emotions outside of the leadership domain (e.g. Keltner & Haidt, 1999 Keltner,
D., & Haidt, J. (1999). Social function of emotions at four levels of analysis. Cognition and Emotion, 13, 505–521. doi:
10.1080/026999399379168[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]; Van Kleef, 2016 Van Kleef, G. A. (2016).
The interpersonal dynamics of emotion: Toward an integrative theory of emotions as social information. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.[CrossRef]). In recognition of these developments, we provide a review of empirical research in leadership
and affect to advance the field both by integrating the existing knowledge base to a substantially greater degree and by suggesting
a research agenda to address key questions that currently are not in the center of attention yet could help move the field
towards more integrative theory.
Leadership research revolves around the issue of leadership effectiveness—what makes leaders influential in mobilizing and
motivating followers to pursue collective goals? Delineating the field of leadership and affect in relationship to this broader
brief, we take research in leadership and affect to refer to the influence of leader affect and/or follower affect in the
leadership process. Whereas this could include a wide variety of issues, as a review of empirical research our discussion
is shaped by the available evidence. This means that by and large the current review revolves around the issue that has so
far dominated the leadership and affect field: the influence of leader affective displays—expressions of leader mood or emotion
observable to followers—on leadership effectiveness as indicated by a range of attitudinal and behavioral indicators (“leader”
is simply understood as the position taken by a hierarchically higher person in relationship to a hierarchically lower person
within the same hierarchy—the “follower”, again a term simply referring to the position in the hierarchical relationship).
The issue here is not that affect displayed by leaders is necessarily qualitatively different in its effects than affect displayed
by non-leaders. In fact, we do not know whether this is the case or not, because there is little empirical evidence speaking
to this issue (but note that the hierarchical relationship typical of leadership likely brings about asymmetries in the degree
to which leaders and followers are influenced by each other's affective displays). Rather, research in leadership and affect
concerns outcomes that are either unique to leadership (e.g. perceptions of leadership effectiveness) or typically not studied
in relationship to non-leader affective displays (e.g. performance). In that sense, the field of leadership and affect is
not so much defined by the notion that there is something unique about affect in the leadership process (even when there could
be). Rather, it is defined by the context of leader–follower relationships and by indicators of leadership effectiveness as
dependent variables that invite research questions that tend to be specific to the leadership field and that cannot, or only
indirectly, be addressed by evidence from non-leadership studies.
In the following sections, we first set the stage for our review by briefly introducing the study of leadership effectiveness
and the concept of affect as captured by moods, emotions, and affective dispositions. We then review the evidence for the
main effects of different leader affective displays and their influence on indicators of leadership effectiveness, followed
by a review of evidence speaking to moderation in the relationship between leader affective displays and leadership effectiveness.
Throughout, we also review the evidence for the proposed mediating processes. We integrate insights from these studies into
a conceptual framework, and we end with a research agenda highlighting key questions for future research to further develop
this emerging conceptual model.
Foreshadowing things to come, a first key conclusion from our integrative review is that the influence of leader affective
displays can be understood through the mediation paths of emotional contagion and cognitive interpretation of affect. Both
mediation paths are moderated in the first stage (i.e. determining the extent to which leader affective displays result in
emotional contagion and/or cognitive interpretation) as well as in the second stage (i.e. determining the influence of contagion
and/or interpretation on leadership effectiveness). To manage expectations, we should note that the current state of the science
does not allow us to draw conclusions about all elements of this contagion-interpretation model with equal confidence. Indeed,
part of what the contagion-interpretation model allows us to do is to identify key areas for future research to develop.
A second key conclusion we advance is that the tendency in the literature to see leader displays of positive affect as more
effective than leader displays of negative affect is likely biased by the greater availability of evidence concerning subjective
evaluations of leadership effectiveness that tend to favor leader positive affect, whereas evidence concerning behavioral
indicators of leadership effectiveness yields a more nuanced picture.
We also propose that to further develop the field of leadership and affect, we need (a) research focusing on moderation in
dual-path mediation; (b) development of theory about cognitive interpretations following leader affective displays; and (c)
more sophisticated models of the difference amongst different affective states to better capture the complexity of their effects.
In addition, we argue that the leadership and affect field needs to develop theory that connects affective displays to other
aspects of leadership that may influence follower affect or invite cognitive interpretations of leadership to work towards
an integration of affective approaches to leadership with other perspectives on leadership.