Positive Leaders Have Productive Employees

Topic(s): Climate, leadership, performance
Publication: Personnel Psychology (2010)
Article: An investigation of the relationships among leader and follower psychological capital, service climate, and job performance
Authors: F. O. Walumbwa, S. J., Peterson, B. J. Avolio, C. A. Hartnell
Reviewed by: Lauren Wood

Researchers over the past decade have gained much knowledge pertaining to the effects of positivity in the workplace. One variable central in this research is psychological capital (described as an individual’s degree of efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience). In general, employees with high psychological capital cultivate positive organizational outcomes (such as work performance) as well as decrease negative work outcomes (such as counterproductive work behavior). So, what circumstances exist to promote employee psychological capital in organizations?


The current study addresses this question by examining the effects of leader psychological capital on follower psychological capital and follower performance, specifically within the service sector. The results reveal a spill-over effect with leader psychological capital promoting higher levels of follower psychological capital, which in turn resulted in an increase in follower performance. 

Aside from the influences of positive leadership and due to the increasing importance of the service industry, the effects of service climate (or degree to which an organization promotes customer service and customer satisfaction) were also examined. This additional analysis revealed that when organizations have a strong service orientation, psychological capital has an even stronger bearing on performance compared to organizations with weak service climate.


The results of this study suggest that behind a happy, productive worker is a positive leader. So what can organizations do to increase positivity in the workplace? First, encourage leaders to model positive actions and behaviors when in contact with their direct reports. Additionally, organizations can utilize talent development programs, which teach leaders as well as employees to think positively in the midst of challenging situations. If in a position to hire, selecting positive candidates for leadership positions may be beneficial. Finally, organizations within the service industry should foster a strong service climate in order to quicken the effects of psychological capital. Service climate can be promoted by rewarding employees who exhibit excellent customer service.


Walumbwa, F. O., Peterson, S. J., Avolio, B. J., & Hartnell, C. A. (2010). An investigation of the relationships among leader and follower psychological capital, service climate, and job performance. Personnel Psychology, 63, 937-963.