By Christopher Salvatore

Or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:8 KJV

From experience I can attest that being in a position of leadership is fraught with emotional pitfalls. Our emotions as social beings are multiplied tenfold when one is a leader.

There have been studies conducted on the effect of emotions in the workplace. These studies have shown that there are three levels in which emotions affect either the performance level or the general attitudes of subordinates.

Level 1

Emotional Contagion

Emotional Contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. It has been shown that group members with leaders who have a positive emotional outlook experience a more positive mood than those with leaders who have a negative emotional outlook. Emotional contagion may be one of the mechanisms that allow charismatic leaders to influence their followers; for good or ill.

Level 2

Group affective tone

Group affective tone represents the consistent homogenous affective reactions within a group. Basically it is an aggregate of the moods of the individual members and refers to the mood at the group level. If, for example, members of a group tend to be excited, energetic and enthusiastic, then the group itself can be described as being excited, energetic and enthusiastic. If the group members tend to be distressed, mistrustful and nervous, then the group can also be described in these terms. Not all groups possess an affective tone; members of some groups do not experience similar moods.

Level 3

Task Strategy

Task Strategy deals with group processes, such as coordination and expenditure of effort. Public expressions of emotion impact how group members think and act. When people express and experience emotion they send signals to others. Leaders can signal such things as their goals and intentions through their emotions. For example positive emotions expressed by a leader about a certain project can signal to his subordinates that any progress on said project is good.

In research about client service it was found that positive emotions expressed by a leader can improve the performance of the group; although not all of these findings were conclusive. Beyond this it was shown that the emotions, mood or behavior of a leader can either positively or negatively affect the attitudes of those that are led. In essence leadership is about responsibility.

Assignment Questions:

1) For each level, give a biblical example where these dynamics are shown; for example, Level 2 was shown through the mob mentality that ensued during the crucifixion of Christ.

2) Describe a situation in which a leaders attitude can turn a groups mentality from negative to positive.

3) Describe how a leader can monitor the tone and emotion of his group to prevent possible negative impact.

Source Articles:

Schofer, Klaus, Ennew Christine. (2004) Emotional Repsonses to Service Complaint Expereinces

Journal of Management. (2004) Service with a Smile: Emotional Contagion at the Service Counter

Further information