PurposeCurrent research suggests a positive link between followers’ perceptions of their leaders’ expression of positive emotions and followers’ trust in their leaders. Based on the theories about the social function of emotions, the authors aim to qualify this generalized assumption. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that followers’ perceptions of leaders’ expressions of specific positive emotions – namely, pride and gratitude – differentially influence follower ratings of leaders’ trustworthiness (benevolence, integrity, and ability), and, ultimately, trust in the leader.Design/methodology/approachThe hypotheses were tested using a multimethod approach combining experimental evidence (n=271) with longitudinal field data (n=120).FindingsBoth when experimentally manipulating leaders’ emotion expressions and when measuring followers’ perceptions of leaders’ emotion expressions, this research found leaders’ expressions of pride to be consistently associated with lower perceived benevolence, while leaders’ expressions of gratitude were associated with higher perceptions of benevolence and integrity.Originality/valueThis paper theoretically and empirically establishes that leaders’ expressions of discrete positive emotions differentially influence followers’ trust in the leader via trustworthiness perceptions.
Journal of Managerial Psychology – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 14, 2017
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