Transformational Leadership is More Effective for Employees with Bad Moods

One of the major areas of recent leadership research has been on the impact of transformational leaders. Transformational leaders exhibit behaviors that go above and beyond basic job requirements, including behaving in a manner that helps employees focus on group needs rather than individual needs, showing high levels of optimism and positive feelings, creating an intellectually stimulating work environment, and helping employees feel personally cared for at work. The behaviors of transformational leaders have positive outcomes within an organization, increasing creativity as well as helping behaviors.

The current study (Gilmore, Hu, Wei, Tetrick, & Zaccaro, 2012) suggests that a transformational leadership style may be less influential when employees have a naturally more positive demeanor, looking specifically at both employee creativity and helping behaviors.


In order to study this, surveys were collected from 212 pairs of supervisors and employees in China. Supervisor surveys measured the employee’s creativity and helping behaviors, while employee surveys measured their own general demeanor (known as positive affectivity) and their supervisor’s leadership style. The researchers found that transformational leadership was not as impactful for predicting helping behaviors or creativity in employees who had more positive general demeanor.


This study suggests that organizations may be able to look at employee personality traits when pairing employees with supervisors in order to improve the work environment. If a group of employees tends to have a more negative attitude, pairing them with a supervisor who exhibits traits of a transformational leader may be more effective. On the other hand, employees who are generally in a positive mood do not need this specific leadership style in order to be effective. By paying attention to specific personality traits that may impact job performance, organizations may be able to increase levels of employee creativity and helping behaviors.


Gilmore, P. L., Hu, X., Wei, F., Tetrick, L. E., & Zaccaro, S. J. (2013). Positive affectivity neutralizes transformational leadership’s influence on creative performance and organizational citizenship behaviors. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(8).