Followers react emotionally to leadership behaviours in the workplace. A central tenet of this thesis, based on affective events theory, is that these emotional responses have an impact on follower work attitudes and behaviours. Little is known, however, about the cognitive underpinnings of follower emotional responses to leadership. To shed light on this issue, I develop a model of follower responses to leadership based on followers' emotional responses to the leader, and the attributions followers make about their leader's behaviour. The specific focus of this thesis, therefore, is on two types of follower attributions: attributions of leader intentions and attributions of leader charisma.
The relevance of follower emotional responses to their leader is established in Study 1, a qualitative field study. Thematic analysis and content analysis revealed that followers experience positive and negative emotional responses to leader's behaviours, and that they recall the negative experiences in greater detail and with greater emotional intensity than positive experiences. These findings support the asymmetry effect of emotion, which purports that a negativity bias (prominence) exists when employees report emotional incidents they have encountered.
To determine in more detail the role of follower attributions with respect to these emotional responses to leadership, 1 conducted a series of laboratory experiments. These experiments allowed for the manipulation of leader behaviour to induce a range of follower attributions.
The first experimental study (Study 2) focused on follower attributions of sincere and manipulative leader intentions. Results revealed that leader behaviour determined follower attributions of intention, and that follower mood and emotions were related to these attributions. Positive moods and emotions were found to be associated with attributions of sincere intentions, while negative moods and emotions were found to be associated with attributions of manipulative intentions. Further, follower emotional responses were stronger in the case of attributions of manipulative intentions.
Study 3 extended this work by testing the attribution-emotion model in relation to the outcomes of the emotional responses. Path analysis indicated that follower attributions of manipulative intentions increased negative emotional responses, and reduced positive emotional responses to leader behaviour. Positive emotional responses were also found to be associated with increased trust in the leader and the labelling of the leader by followers as a transformational and charismatic leader. Finally, negative emotional responses were found to impact directly on followers' intention to comply with leader requests.
In Study 4, the research model was extended insofar as I assessed initial follower attributions of leader charisma prior to the leader behaviour, in addition to attributions of leader intentions. Findings were that attributions of leader charisma were just as important as attributions of leader intentions in predicting follower emotional responses to leader behaviour. Further, the notion of the negativity bias identified in Study 1 was explored through examining the attribution-emotion association in positive versus negative conditions, based on the valence of the leader behaviour.
In the final study, I found that follower emotional intelligence moderated emotional responses to attributions of leadership. Findings were that followers higher on emotional intelligence had less extreme positive and negative emotional responses to their attributions of leader intentions and attributions of leader charisma. I concluded, therefore, that emotional intelligence has implications for workplace relationships between leaders and followers.
Together, these findings support the model of attributions and emotional responses to leadership proposed in this thesis. To summarize the findings of this research, it appears that followers react emotionally to leadership behaviours as a result of the attributions they make about the leader. These emotional responses are influenced by follower emotional intelligence, and the negativity bias associated with cognitions and emotions. The findings also suggest that leaders can manage the attributions followers make about them, for example by having transparent and sincere intentions, and by developing their charismatic qualities.