Everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed from time-to-time, and leaders are certainly no exception. In this study, the author (Johnson, 2009) shows that follower moods are directly impacted by the expressed moods of leaders. This phenomenon is known as mood contagion, which in this case refers to the automatic transfer of moods from leaders to followers. Mood contagion occurs unconsciously and thus employees have little control over it.
EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH ON LEADER MOODS
First, the author demonstrated the mood contagion effect, such that when participants (university students) saw a video of a leader expressing a positive mood, they tended to report positive moods as well. Similarly, when participants saw a video of a leader expressing a negative mood, they too tended to report negative moods.
More importantly, participants reporting positive moods outperformed those reporting negative moods on a relevant task (a mock hiring task which related to the content of the videos shown to participants). The author demonstrated that mood contagion was partially responsible for the performance outcomes. Additionally, leaders who exhibited positive moods in the videos were rated as more charismatic, which was also found to affect follower performance on the task.
BOTTOM LINE FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Because we are all subject to mood changes, leaders must be aware of how their moods can affect the performance of their followers. This study shows that moods can be highly contagious and can either enhance or damage employee performance.
Johnson, S.K. (2009). Do you feel what I feel? Mood contagion and leadership outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(5), 814-827.