The emotional leader: Implicit theories of leadership emotions and leadership perceptions

Thomas Sy*, Daan van Knippenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Implicit theories of leadership emotions (ITLEs) are individuals' schemas about emotional traits and behaviors characterizing leaders. We investigate the specific emotional content and structure of ITLEs. Five studies involving 1286 participants provide evidence for content, convergent, discriminant, criterion, and incremental validity, and internal consistency of the ITLEs instrument. ITLEs are represented by a first-order structure (Cheer, Calm, Pride, Anger, Fear, and Remorse), and a second-order structure (Positive and Negative ITLEs). Results revealed that female leaders elicited lower ratings on the Anger, Fear, and Remorse prototypes and higher ratings on the Cheer (but not Pride and Calm) prototype. Moreover, the relationship between ITLEs prototypes and leadership perceptions were moderated by management level, such that the relationship was significant only for high level leaders but not low level leaders. Moderated mediation results indicated that leadership perceptions of high level (but not low level) women leaders, as compared with men leaders, are more positive because they elicited lower ratings on the ITLEs prototypes of Anger and Fear and higher ratings on the ITLEs prototype of Cheer. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of ITLEs and offer future directions for this budding construct that is often implicated in leadership discourse but rarely studied explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-912
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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