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J Appl Psychol. 2012 Nov;97(6):1171-85. doi: 10.1037/a0030074. Epub 2012 Oct 1.

Looking down: the influence of contempt and compassion on emergent leadership categorizations.

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Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campus Box 3490, McColl Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3490, USA.


By integrating the literatures on implicit leadership and the social functions of discrete emotions, we develop and test a theoretical model of emotion expression and leadership categorizations. Specifically, we examine the influence of 2 socio-comparative emotions-compassion and contempt-on assessments of leadership made both in 1st impression contexts and over time. To demonstrate both internal and external validity, Studies 1a and 1b provide laboratory and field evidence to show that expressing the discrete emotions of contempt and compassion positively relates to perceptions that an individual is a leader. Study 2 tests the mechanism explaining these associations. Specifically, we show that in a leadership emergence context, contempt and compassion both positively relate to perceptions that the expresser is a leader because each provides cues matching the implicit theory that leaders have higher intelligence. Our findings add to a growing body of literature focused on identifying the processes through which leaders emerge in groups, showing that emotions are an important input to this process. We discuss the implications of our findings and how they might guide future research efforts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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