The Impact of an Admired Leader on Employees’ Achievement

Elisa Maria Galliani Michelangelo Vianello

University of Padova

Keywords: Admiration; Positive Emotions; Leader Competence; Goal Orientation; Task Performance; Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Address correspondence to Michelangelo Vianello, [email protected] via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova. Tel. +39 049 8276696 Fax: +39 049 8276600

Acknowledgment: The authors would like to thank Jonathan Haidt for his helpful comments on a previous version of this paper.

Abstract Admiration is the other-praising emotion elicited by the display of outstanding skills, talents, or achievements. In this paper, we hypothesized and demonstrated that leader competence elicits admiration in followers and that this emotional state increases employees’ achievement goals, task performance, and contextual performance. In a first experimental study we showed that admiration improves participants’ performance on a problem solving task, and that trait proving goal orientation moderates this effect. In a subsequent field experiment we found that admiration fully mediates the relationship between leader’s perceived competence and followers’ state goal orientation. Lastly, in a cross-sectional study we compared the effects of admiration to those of happiness and gratitude, and observed that admiration is the only significant predictor of state goal orientation and Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Implications and limits are then discussed.

The Impact of an Admired Leader on Employees’ Achievement A leader’s display of competence is deservedly at the centre of most leadership theory and research, from the early “pre-contingency theory” studies to the latest transformational approach. Hollander’s seminal research (Hollander, 1964; Hollander & Julian, 1970) pointed out that leaders’ legitimacy is rooted in their perceived competence and trustworthiness. A decade later, cognitive models of leadership stressed the centrality of leader legitimacy –which directly depends on followers’ perceptions of leader competence– in understanding the bases of leadership effectiveness (see Calder, 1977; Lord, 1985; Staw, 1975). Even the application of social identity theory to leadership perception (see Hogg, Hains, & Mason, 1998) confirms the tendency of followers to value leaders who show task-relevant competence and embody group values. Lastly, research on transformational leadership and specifically on the Idealized Influence dimension considers leader competence and trustworthiness to be at the root of the influential power of leaders (see Avolio & Bass, 1990, 1993). In his functional integration of current knowledge on leadership effectiveness, Chemers (2000, p. 40) argues that “leaders must first establish the legitimacy of their authority by appearing competent and trustworthy to their followers”. Yet, even though the competence of leaders has been a central topic in the leadership literature for many years, its motivational effects on followers still represent an unresolved issue. Which underlying psychological processes explain the influence that competent leaders exert on their followers? We propose that leaders who display great technical and managerial competences motivate employees by means of the positive emotion of admiration they elicit. Leadership and positive emotions Over recent decades, organizational research has experienced an “affective revolution” (Barsade & Gibson, 2007), in which much attention is devoted to the affective implications of leadership. Since Positive Organizational Behavior (Luthans, 2000, 2002; Nelson & Cooper, 2007) and Positive Organizational Scholarship (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003) were formalized, it has been argued that positive emotions strongly influence multiple levels of organizational functioning (cf. Ashkanasy & Ashton-James, 2007; Barsade & Gibson, 2007; Fredrickson, 2003). Positive affect was definitely shown to significantly impact employment, performance, quality of work, income, and organizational citizenship behavior (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). According to Affective Events Theory (AET, Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996), people react emotionally to job events and such emotional responses directly influence their attitudes and behavior. The leader-follower interaction represents a typical class of those situations in which affective events occur (see Dasborough, 2006). As George (2000) argued, “leadership is an emotion-laden process, both from a leader and a follower perspective” (p. 1046). Research interest in leadership and positive emotions has increased substantially in recent times (see e.g. Damen, van Knippenberg, & van Knippenberg, 2008; Dasborough, 2006; Johnson, 2008; Pescosolido, 2002). Most studies, however, focus on leaders’ affect. It has been shown that displays of positive emotions by leaders impact the perception, behavior, and performance of followers (Bono & Ilies, 2006; Damen et al., 2008; Lewis, 2000), and that positive affectivity in leaders contributes to leadership effectiveness (Fox & Spector, 2000; Staw & Barsade, 1993; Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005). Much less work has focused on followers’ positive emotions in response to leaders’ behaviors and skills. Notably, even when the positive affect of followers is considered, researchers deal with it as a moderating variable (e.g. Damen et al., 2008), or as a direct outcome of leaders’ affect (i.e. through emotional contagion, see e.g. Johnson, 2008). Bono, Foldes, Vinson, and Muros (2007) provided the only evidence presently available of a direct effect of supervisors’ transformational leadership behaviors on followers’ positive emotions, such as happiness, enthusiasm, and optimism. Furthermore, it should be noted that organizational research typically tends to privilege the study of positive self-directed affect and emotions like happiness, global measures of positive affect (i.e. PANAS), and positive affectivity (see Barsade & Gibson, 2007; Cropanzano & Wright, 2001; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005; Wright, Cropanzano, & Meyer, 2004). Research on the role of positive other-directed emotions in organizations has been undeservedly neglected. Some exceptions are related to the study of gratitude (Baron, 1984; Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007), moral elevation (Vianello, Galliani, & Haidt, 2009), and, to a larger extent, empathy (e.g. Fox & Spector, 2000; Joireman, Kamdar, Daniels, & Duell, 2006; McNeely & Meglino, 1994; Silvester, Patterson, Koczwara, & Ferguson, 2007). Admiration Admiration is the other-directed positive emotion which derives from the perception of others’

excellence. Ortony, Clore and Collins (1988) define admiration as one of the appreciation emotions, together with appreciation, awe, esteem, and respect. According to attribution theory, admiration is distinguished from envy on the basis of the other-ascription of success to effort vs. ability: When success is ascribed to high effort, it is considered to be deserved and leads to admiration (Hareli & Weiner, 2000; 2002). On the contrary, several authors (e.g. Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2007; Tesser, 1988; Smith, 2000) have argued that people feel positive about the success of a close other, regardless of whether it is ascribed to effort or to ability, because they assimilate themselves to the other. Indeed, upward assimilative social comparisons elicit admiration and inspiration (although upward comparisons to strangers can be demotivating too; Lockwood & Kunda, 1997). Haidt and colleagues (Haidt & Keltner, 2004; Keltner & Haidt, 2003; Algoe & Haidt, 2009) conceived admiration as the peculiar emotion elicited by the extraordinary display of any skill, talent or achievement by others that motivates people to improve and become skilled. This definition is built on the concept of freely-conferred prestige and sees its phylogenetic evolution as a part of human capacity for culture (see Heinrich & Gil-White, 2001): “Once humans began to do most of their learning by copying others, it became important to find the best role models to copy. Individuals who excel in any culturally valued skill therefore draw attention and draw followers. […] Followers feel admiration and a desire for proximity towards prestigious people, not fear and a desire for avoidance, as is typical in dominance relationships” (Algoe & Haidt, 2009, p.5). Admiration is thus meant as the emotional basis which gives rise to the motivational state of inspiration (see Thrash & Elliot, 2003; 2004). Individuals displaying outstanding achievements or abilities act as role models that inspire those who admire them to increase their own skills and accomplish higher goals. In Haidt’s conceptualization, admiration belongs to the family of other-praising emotions, which are positive emotions elicited by other persons’ excellence that typically give rise to self-enhancing and prosocial behaviors (Haidt, 2003; Ortony et al., 1988). The family also includes gratitude, which is the emotional response to other people’s acts that benefit the self, and elevation, which is the emotional response to the display of moral virtue (see also Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Tangney, Stuewig, & Mashek, 2007a; 2007b). In contrast, admiration is elicited by any display of non-moral excellence (i.e. academic, professional or sport-related skills, talents or achievements) that doesn’t directly benefit the observer. Admiration motivates people to emulate the admired person, improve themselves, and work harder on their own goals (Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Haidt & Keltner, 2004). Leader competence and admiration There is a nearly complete lack of research concerning leadership and admiration. Some theoretical work on authentic leadership (Michie & Gooty, 2005) emphasized the moderating role of other-praising emotions, with admiration among them, in the leadership process, but it only referred to leaders’ feelings of admiration and failed to consider leaders as elicitors of admiration in followers. McCann, Langford, and Rawlings (2006) provided a demonstration (the only one at present) of the mediational role played in the leadership process by two feelings of follower appreciation (inspiration and awe), but the authors operationalized them as cognitive rather than affective variables, i.e. follower’s beliefs about leader’s competence and charisma. Considering the centrality of leader competence in most of the literature on leadership, the fact that followers’ appreciation feelings presently lack attention might appear quite odd. Following AET (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) and drawing on Haidt’s conceptual view on admiration, we believe that leader competence elicits the specific affective response of admiration in followers. Hypothesis 1. Leader competence elicits admiration in followers. Admiration and task performance The relationship between positive emotions and job performance has been widely observed. Happiness, positive affect, and positive affectivity have been found to impact supervisory evaluations (Cropanzano & Wright, 1999; Staw, Sutton, & Pelled, 1994; Wright & Staw, 1999), task performance (Estrada, Isen, & Young, 1994; 1997), and direct measures of job performance (De Luga & Mason, 2000; Wright & Cropanzano, 2000). As a positive emotion, admiration should influence performance as well, and it should especially do that because of its peculiar motivational consequences: Emulation of the outstanding model, self improving, strength and persistence in pursuing one’s own goals. Hence, we hypothesize that the more employees feel admiration for their leaders, the better they perform in job-

related tasks. Hypothesis 2: Admiration improves task performance. Admiration and goal orientation If a direct relationship between admiration and task performance is identified, it may be necessary to consider the potential moderating effect of the dispositional goal orientation that characterizes each employee. The construct of goal orientation (GO) refers to an individual’s dispositional or situational goal preference in achievement settings. Originally developed in educational psychology (e.g. Dweck, 1986), it was later introduced into organizational psychology (Farr, Hoffman, & Ringenbach, 1993) and it is currently one of the dominant approaches in the field of achievement motivation (see DeShon & Gillespie, 2005; Payne, Youngcourt, & Beaubien, 2007). GO appears to play an important role in many work-related topics such as selection (e.g. Roberson & Alsua, 2002), training (e.g. Brown, 2001), performance appraisal (e.g. VandeWalle & Cummings, 1997), goal setting (e.g. Phillips & Gully, 1997), organizational change (e.g. Gully & Phillips, 2005), and organizational climate and culture (e.g. Potosky & Ramakrishna, 2002). GO was initially conceptualized as a bipolar construct that distinguished individuals with a preference for learning or mastery goals over performance goals (Dweck, 1986; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). More recently, it has been suggested that learning and performance GOs are independent factors (e.g. Button, Mathieu, & Zajac, 1996), and performance GO turned out to be multidimensional and constituted by ‘prove’ and ‘avoid’ dimensions (Elliott, 1994). Then, a three-factor model of GO was suggested (VandeWalle, 1997). A Learning GO focuses on the development of competence by acquiring new skills and mastering new situations, a Proving-Performance GO focuses on the demonstration of one’s competence by seeking favorable judgments from others, and an Avoiding-Performance GO focuses on the fear of displaying lack of ability in order to avoid negative judgments from others (Dweck, 1999; VandeWalle, 1997). The avoiding dimension of performance GO negatively affects self-regulation, learning strategies, task performance, and intrinsic motivation (see Cron, Slocum, VandeWalle, & Fu, 2005). In contrast, both Learning GO and Proving-Performance GO positively impact learning strategies and job performance, with a significant incremental validity over and above cognitive ability and the Big Five (cf. Payne et al., 2007 for a meta-analysis). Some authors have proposed that Learning GO should be distinguished into approach and avoidance components as well (Elliot & McGregor, 2001; Pintrich, 2000), but little empirical research has been conducted on this topic, and the roles of these components in work-related settings have not yet been clearly demonstrated. A fundamental issue about the GO construct is its conceptual definition in terms of temporal stability. Despite a certain inconsistency in defining GO as a disposition/trait, mental framework, belief, or goal (cf. DeShon & Gillespie, 2005), most authors agree in conceptualizing GO at both trait-level and state-level, with the trait GO having a direct effect on the state GO, but with a number of other psychological and situational variables operating concurrently. Payne et al. (2007) found evidence of strong positive relationships between corresponding trait and state GO dimensions (with ρ ranging from .55 to .58) and good stability of all three trait GO dimensions over time. Referring to GO at a trait-level, for both proving-oriented and learning-oriented individuals competence is an extremely salient domain and an important sources of self-evaluation. Indeed, high (vs. low) learning and proving oriented individuals base the evaluation of their successes on the performance they achieve at the task at hand and on the competence they are developing (Learning GO) or demonstrating (Proving-Performance GO). Hence, people who are high (vs. low) in Learning GO or in Proving-Performance GO will be more sensitive to the perception of competence, just because it is more important to them. In a sense, these individuals have their mental representation of competence chronically activated and competence-related goals are more susceptible to triggering stimuli. As a consequence, we predict that both trait Learning GO and Proving-Performance GO will interact with admiration, such that they will boost the effect of admiration on task performance. Individuals who are high (vs. low) in Avoiding-Performance GO base their self-evaluations on competence as well, but they are mostly driven by the fear of failing. This mechanism is at the basis of Avoiding-Performance GO’s well-known detrimental effects on self-regulation and on performance itself. Hence, we predict that Avoiding-Performance GO will interact with admiration, such that the effect of admiration on task performance will be weaker for avoiding-oriented individuals. Hypothesis 3. Admiration and employees’ trait GO interact, such that the predicted effect of

admiration on task performance will be stronger when trait Learning GO and ProvingPerformance GO are high rather than low, and when trait Avoiding-Performance GO is low rather than high. Study 1 –The impact of the admiration elicited by a competent leader on task performance This study investigates the relationships between leader competence, admiration, task performance, and trait GO. Method Participants, materials and design 40 employees (19 females) of three different banks participated in this study on a voluntary basis. Participants’ mean age was 39.45 (SD=9.8). We induced the emotion of admiration by manipulating leaders’ perceived competence (see Gerrard-Hesse, Spies, & Hesse, 1994 for a review on emotional induction procedures). Thus, 2 experimental between-subject conditions inducing admiration were created by means of scenarios. Participants were provided with an In-Basket task (adapted from Harley & Edenborough, 2002) and were asked to imagine that they were employees of Max Castle, a fictitious leader presented in the simulation. All groups were provided with a description of a fictitious bank, their role in the bank, their boss (Max Castle), and six exercises (documents, mails and phone calls). They were given a one-hour time limit to set priorities, organize their working schedule accordingly, and respond to notes, mails, and phone calls. In the experimental condition (High Admiration) Max Castle was depicted as a very skilled leader, both technically and managerially, and it was described how he overcame obstacles in the past. In this group, Max Castle clearly exceeded normal standards of competence. In the control condition (Low Admiration), Max Castle was depicted as a normal leader, whose best quality was to be in the right place at the right time. Measures As manipulation checks, just before the exercises, participants were asked to rate on a Likert scale ranging from 0 to 7 how skilled they think Max Castle was. Then they were provided with a scale of admiration derived from Algoe and Haidt (2009). Admiration. Admiration has been measured according to three basic dimensions (physical sensations, affective reactions, behavioral intentions). Respectively, 3, 4, and 4 items were employed. Measured physical sensations were Energy, Increased Heart Rate, and Chills. Affective reactions included ratings of Admiration, Respect, Moved, and Inspired. Behavioral intentions were measured as participants’ willingness to Know Max Castle, Work with Max Castle (strengthening relationship), Be like Max Castle (emulation), and Achieve success (achievement and self-improvement). Responses were given on Likert scales ranging from 0 to 7 and were summed to form an overall scale (α=.97). Task Performance. Responses to the six In-Basket exercises were collected in open format. Participants were asked to provide, for each exercise, a solution/decision and a logical justification for it. Responses were then rated by two independent judges using the competencies defined and operationalized by Harley and Edenborough (2002) specifically for this In-Basket test: Analytical Thinking, Strategic View, Organization and Planning, and Leading and Motivating. Two raters classified participants’ responses on a 3-point scale. Judges reached exact agreement in 570 ratings out of 600 (Cohen’s K=.92). Complete agreement was reached after a short discussion. Ratings were then summed to form an overall score of performance for each participant on each exercise (.59<α<.73). Trait Goal Orientation. VandeWalle’s 12 items scale (VandeWalle, 1997; VandeWalle, Cron, & Slocum, 2001) was used to assess trait Learning GO (α=.87), trait Proving-Performance GO (α=.85), and trait Avoiding-Performance GO (α=.83). Responses were given on a Likert scale ranging from 0 to 7. Results The High Admiration and Low Admiration groups reported a very different level of perceived leader skill (t(38)=16.93, p<.001, d =5.35). The two groups also felt the emotion of admiration at very different levels (t(38)=26.58, p<.001, d =8.41). While the group with a competent leader reported having felt a high level of admiration towards him (mean=5.21), the control group felt little or any admiration at all (mean=1.06). Hence, we can state that manipulating leader’s competence we experimentally induced admiration. In addition, we interpret this result as the first piece of supporting evidence for H1.

To test H2 and H3, we computed a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) with a twolevel between subject factor (High Admiration vs. Low Admiration) and six dependent variables (participants’ performance on each in-basket exercise). We also added covariates in order to adjust for participants’ age and gender and to test a moderation effect of our three measures of trait goal orientation (Learning GO, Proving-Performance GO and Avoiding-Performance GO). Using Wilks’ criterion, we found a strong main effect of the Group factor on our combined measure of performance (λ=.6; F(6,28)=3.1; p=.019; partial η2=.40). Proving-Performance GO was the only covariate to be significantly related to dependent variables (λ=.57; F(6,28)=4.0; p=.005; partial η2=.46). Best performance was achieved by the High Admiration group and by people high in ProvingPerformance GO (see Figure 1). Hence, we can accept hypothesis H2 but we must partially reject hypothesis H3, since only trait Proving-Performance GO turned out to moderate the relationship between admiration and task performance. Univariate analyses revealed that the strongest effects of admiration on performance were those that involved the first and the fourth exercise (respectively, F1(1,33)=18.2; p<.001; partial η2=.35; F4(1,33)=3.8; p=.06; partial η2=.10), the former involving participants’ Organization-andPlanning and Leading-and-Motivating competencies and the latter involving participants’ AnalyticalThinking and Strategic-View competencies. The first exercise provided participants with a note from their secretary including a kind welcome message and her availabilities. Higher performance scores were given to participants who thanked the secretary, reciprocated her kindness, and planned their activities according to her availabilities. The fourth exercise provided participants with a letter from a colleague to their common boss, and gave participants the occasion to express their own opinion regarding an important privacy-related issue raised in a previous exercise. Higher scores were given to those who noticed the link between the two exercises and suggested an adequate and practical solution to the privacy-related issue. Insert Figure 1 about here Discussion The theory on admiration states that it is typically elicited by the display of outstanding (i.e. exceeding normal standards) skills, talents or achievements and that it motivates people to emulate the admired person, improve themselves, and work harder on their own goals (Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Haidt & Keltner, 2004). While some specific elicitors of admiration have been isolated and its affective and motivational components have been demonstrated, no previous work has examined how it relates to performance. Results of study 1 suggest that leader competence is an organizational elicitor of admiration, which in turn improves employees’ task performance. Further, it was observed that trait Proving-Performance GO moderates the relationship between admiration and performance. The more participants were motivated by a proving goal, the more admiration improved their performance. No moderating effects were found for trait Learning GO and Avoiding-Performance GO. The individual disposition to set improving or avoiding goals does not affect the impact of admiration on task performance. Although preliminary, results of this study set a solid background to an in-depth analysis of admiration in work settings. The next study will be aimed at confirming the role of leader competence in eliciting admiration by manipulating it in a natural work setting. It will also examine the effects of admiration on followers’ actual achievement motivation and test for a fully mediated emotional link between the perception of leader competence and employees’ achievement motivation. Study 2 – Admiration fully mediates the effects of leader competence on followers’ achievement motivation Admiration and achievement motivation Emotions give rise to specific motivations or action tendencies, that in turn activate behaviors (Frijda, 1986). Referring to goal orientation at a state level, Learning GO, Proving-Performance GO, and Avoiding-Performance GO are three different kinds of situational goal preference in achievement settings, i.e. three forms of actual achievement motivation. We predict that the emotional state elicited in followers by the perception of their leader’s outstanding competence will enhance their actual motivation to both develop and demonstrate competence. It has been shown that admiration motivates people to improve and become more skilled (Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Haidt & Keltner, 2004). Thus, it is reasonable to hypothesize that it will boost followers’ state Learning GO, increasing their actual preference for

acquiring new skills and improving themselves. Admiration also motivates people to emulate the role model and strengthen the relationship with her (Algoe & Haidt, 2009). This leads us to expect that admiration elicited by a competent leader will also boost followers’ state Proving-Performance GO, increasing their desire to show their value and gain favorable judgments from the leader. As regards state Avoiding-Performance GO, the perception of an outstandingly competent leader might produce a potential defensive effect in followers, who might be worried about displaying a lack of ability. Lockwood and Kunda (1997) showed that relevant outstanding role models provoke self-enhancement and inspiration when their success seems attainable, but might eventually provoke self-deflation when their success seems unattainable. Since admiration motivates people to strengthen the relationship with the role model, it is likely that followers’ perception of great competence in the leader will increase their desire to avoid negative judgments, and thus their state Avoiding-Performance GO, in order to preserve the relationship with the leader. Hypothesis 4. Admiration for a competent leader increases followers’ state Learning GO , Proving-Performance GO, and Avoiding-Performance GO. Admiration as a mediator between leader competence and followers’ state GO It has been suggested that both leaders’ and followers’ GOs play an important role in leadership. Janssen and VanYperen (2004) found that followers’ trait GO impacts job performance and job satisfaction insofar as it influences the quality of the leader-member exchange. VandeWalle, Ganeson, Challagalla, and Brown (2000) provided a demonstration of the moderating effect of leadership styles between followers’ trait GO and their perception concerning the cost and value of feedback seeking. Sosik, Godshalk, and Yammarino (2004) showed that in a mentor-protégé relationship both leader and follower trait GOs influence leader’s expectations on follower’s career success. Furthermore, as regards state GO, Dragoni (2005) argued that leader trait GO affects follower state GO through the mediation of climate perceptions. This theoretical paper represents the only contribution on the effects of leadermember interaction on followers state goal orientation. So far, no demonstration has been provided that leaders impact followers’ state GO. Although several authors have claimed that motivation plays a fundamental role in leadership, very limited attention has been given to the underlying psychological processes through which leaders motivate followers (cf. Kark & Van Dijk, 2007). Shamir, House, and Arthur (1993) have defined role modeling as one of the two classes of leader behavior that leads to the motivational processes entailed in transformational leadership: The leader provides a point of reference and focus to followers’ emulation. Admiration has been proven to be the unique emotional response to any upward assimilative social comparison to a warm and competent role model and the mediator between competence judgments and the consequent motivation to contact, cooperation, and positive approach behaviors (Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2007, 2008). Considering admiration as a source of achievement motivation, and conceptualizing actual achievement motivation in terms of state goal orientation, we predict that admiration fully mediates the relationship between followers’ perception of their leader as a competent inspiring role model and their state GO. Hypothesis 5. Admiration fully mediates the effects of leader perceived competence on followers’ state GO. Method Participants, Design and Materials 140 sales representatives of a leading European direct selling organization active in the automotive sector participated in the study for no reward. Participants were all men. Their mean age was 36.42 years (SD=7.14). We conducted a field experiment manipulating leader competence by means of 2 scenarios: High Competence and Low Competence. Participants were asked to identify themselves with an employee of Max Castle, a fictitious leader presented in the scenarios. Measures After participants had read the scenarios, which took them on average three minutes, the first question asked: Do you think Max Castle exceeds normal standards of competence and skills? Responses to this question were considered as a manipulation check as well as a proxy for our independent variable in the analysis (see Vianello, Galliani, & Haidt, 2009 for a similar analysis strategy). Admiration was

measured with the same scale used in study 1 (α=.85). Lastly, participants were asked to report their state goal orientations toward their actual job. VandeWalle’s scale (VandeWalle, 1997; VandeWalle, Cron, & Slocum, 2001) used in study 1 was adapted to measure state Learning GO (α=.84), state ProvingPerformance GO (α=.74), and state Avoiding-Performance GO (α=.76). Participants were asked to think about the present time and report how well each of the 12 items describes their current state with regards to own job. Insert Table 1 about here Results To test our hypotheses, we specified and estimated a structural equation model for observed variables and followed recent recommendations by James, Mulaik, and Brett (2006)1 to test the total mediation we predicted. Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among study variables are presented in Table 1. The estimated model (graphically represented in Figure 2) fits the data extremely well (χ²(3) = 4.30, p =.23, SRMR=.029, CFI=.99, .04 < R2< .14), and shows that the more participants perceived competence in their leader (Max Castle), the more they felt admiration for him (R2=.14). Thus, hypothesis H1 can be accepted. The model also highlights that the more participants felt admiration, the more they declared themselves to be driven in their job in the current moment by state learning (R2=.09), proving (R2=.11), and avoiding (R2=.04) GOs. Hypothesis H4 can be accepted, as admiration significantly increases all types of state GO. Insert Figure 2 about here According to James et al. (2006), in such an SEM a full mediation hypothesis is tested using the following strategy: 1. fix all direct paths to zero, 2. estimate all indirect paths, 3. test the adequacy of the hypothesized model against the saturated model (which includes all direct paths from admiration to state GOs). If the model fits, the hypotheses that direct paths are different from zero have to be rejected and therefore the full mediation model can be accepted. This is a very conservative test in comparison with a strategy involving multiple tests comparing nested models, since the probability of rejecting the hypothesized model is much higher. In addition, this test is not affected by capitalization by chance, which on the contrary heavily influences multiple tests. In this case, our hypothesized model fits the data very well so we can state that admiration fully mediates the relationships between leader competence and followers’ state GOs. Results of the Sobel (1982) tests show that indirect effects are all significant (ZLearning GO=2.66, p=0.01; ZProving-Performance GO=3.86 p=0.01; ZAvoiding-Performance GO=2.20, p=.03). The strongest indirect effect is that between leader competence to followers’ state Proving-Performance GO. Discussion While study 1 provided initial support for our first hypothesis (leader competence elicits admiration), demonstrated that admiration actually improves task performance, and that trait ProvingPerformance GO moderates the admiration-performance relationship, study 2 was conceived to identify the effects of admiration on actual motivation in natural work settings and to test a hypothesized full mediation. We observed that the emotion of admiration elicited by a competent leader increases followers’ state Learning GO, Proving-Performance GO and, to a smaller extent, Avoiding-Performance GO, and that it fully mediates the relations between leader competence and followers’ state GO. We also confirmed previous findings linking leader’s perceived competence and followers’ admiration. The more followers perceive their leader as competent, the more they feel admiration for him. In addition, we confirmed previous literature showing that Learning GO and Avoiding-Performance GO are not correlated, while Learning GO and Proving-Performance GO are moderately and positively correlated, and Proving-Performance GO and Avoiding-Performance GO are slightly and negatively correlated (see Payne et al., 2007). Taken together, studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that admiration is felt in the workplace as a response to leader competence, and that it improves followers’ task performance and actual achievement motivation. Study 3 will investigate the incremental validity of admiration in work settings. Its impact on GO and contextual performance will be compared to those of two other discrete positive emotions: Happiness and gratitude. Study 3 –The predictive power of admiration over happiness and gratitude

Happiness is undoubtedly the most studied discrete positive emotion in the organizational literature. It has been shown that it improves workers’ productivity (cf. Zelenski, Murphy, & Jenkins, 2008), and evidence has also been provided that income (Graham, Eggers, & Sukhtankar, 2004; Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2004), organizational citizenship (Thoits & Hewitt, 2001), and prosocial behavior (George, 1991) are positively affected by happiness. As an other-praising emotion, a close test of the incremental validity of admiration at work would be given by a direct comparison with an other-praising emotion whose role in organizations has already been studied. “Gratitude prototypically stems from the perception of a positive personal outcome, not necessarily deserved or earned, that is due to the actions of another person” (Emmons, 2004, p.5). The typical action tendency associated with gratitude is to reciprocate the benefactor in the future (McCullough, Kilpatrik, Emmons, & Larson, 2001), but its impact extends to prosocial behaviors (Mc-Cullough & Tsang, 2004; Peterson & Stewart, 1996). Algoe and Haidt (2009) demonstrated that admiration produces different action tendencies in comparison to both happiness and gratitude. Three categories of motivational consequences were isolated: Positive social relationships (including enhancement, acknowledgement, reciprocation, and affiliation), emulation (including prosocial behavior and self-improvement), and expend energy. Enhancement, emulation and self-improvement help differentiate admiration from both happiness and gratitude, while expending energy further differentiating it from gratitude. Emulation and self-improvement are closely related to an individual’s achievement motivation. We therefore expect that the effects of admiration on state goal orientations will be stronger than those of happiness and gratitude. Hypothesis 6. Admiration predicts state GO over and above happiness and gratitude. Admiration primarily differs from happiness because it is a social (Buck, 1985, 1989; Weiner, 2005), other-directed (Ortony et al., 1988) emotion which gives rise to specific action tendencies that are social in nature as well. On the other hand, both admiration and gratitude are social, other-directed emotions, but gratitude mainly gives rise to reciprocity intentions, while the motivational effects of admiration easily extend to groups and social systems. Within organizations, the desire to improve, achieve goals, and strengthen social relationships elicited by admiration could easily extend to colleagues, supervisors and collaborators. Indeed, when individual are moved by an inspiring role model they will be motivated to emulate them. If admiration is elicited by a leader who demonstrates a great competence in performing their job, it will influence the amount of effort, care, and commitment an employee decides to invest in the general functioning of her organization. Hence, we hypothesize that the effects of admiration in work contexts will directly affect contextual performance. Contextual performance refers to the construct of Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB), and concerns any discretionary “contribution to the maintenance and enhancement of the social and psychological context that supports task performance” (Organ, 1997, p. 91). The three most widely accepted and studied components of OCB are altruism, courtesy, and compliance. Altruism concerns helping colleagues or others in order to solve or prevent problems; courtesy refers to behaviors aiming at avoiding or preventing problems for colleagues or others; compliance is concerned with working beyond organizational expectations (see Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000). We expect that admiration will impact altruism, courtesy, and compliance over and above happiness and gratitude. Hypothesis 7. Admiration predicts OCB over and above happiness and gratitude. Method Participants, design and materials Participants were 146 full-time school and pre-school teachers (6 men) who participated in the study for no reward. Their mean age was 44.45 (SD=9.1), and they had been in service, on average, for 19.63 years before their participation in the study (SD=9.8). Three well-trained interviewers provided them with a brief introduction to the study and a questionnaire. All responses were collected by means of Likert scales ranging from 1 to 6. The first part of the questionnaire measured independent variables. Participants were asked to think back over the last year and to rate how frequently, in their working days, they felt happiness, gratitude, and admiration for their school principal. The second part of the questionnaire collected responses on how frequently in the last year participants have been driven towards their daily work activities by a proving, learning or avoiding GO. Lastly, participants were asked to think back over the last year and rate how frequently they adopted a series of behaviors relating to altruism, courtesy, and compliance.

Measures The on-line measure of admiration used in studies 1 and 2 was converted in a retrospective measure. The items were the same, but the frequency rather than the intensity of the emotion felt was asked. Happiness was measured by the corresponding 5 items of the PANAS-X (Watson & Clark, 1994). Gratitude was measured using the 2-items version of the Gratitude Adjective Checklist (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). State GOs were measured with the same scale used in study 2. As regards OCB, we measured altruism using 3 items developed by Konovsky and Organ (1996), courtesy using 3 items developed by Smith, Organ, and Near (1983) and compliance using 3 items by Pond, Nacoste, Mohr, and Rodriguez (1997). Insert Table 2 about here Results As can be seen in Table 2, the correlations between admiration and happiness (r=.30) and between admiration and gratitude (r=.42), are lower than the correlation between happiness and gratitude (r=.58; .21<Δz’<.35; p<.05). This result confirms previous evidences that admiration is different and relatively independent from other positive emotions (Algoe & Haidt, 2009). To test our hypotheses, we estimated a saturated SEM for observed variables using positive emotions (happiness, gratitude and admiration) as predictors and our dependent variables (state Learning GO, state Proving-Performance GO, state Avoiding-Performance GO, altruism, courtesy, and compliance) as criteria. In contrast with a series of zero-order Pearson correlations, which might express an undefined amount of redundant relations, in such a model each regression path represents the unique contribution of a predictor (or a moderator) to a dependent variable, controlling for measurement error and for all other relevant relations in the model, such as correlations between predictors. Our analysis highlights the unique predictive power of admiration on state GOs and OCB. Specifically, as can be seen in Table 3, admiration significantly predicts all GOs with γ ranging from .19 to .22 and OCB with γ ranging from .18 to .30. Happiness turned out to have some incremental validity only in predicting Proving-Performance GO (γ=.27). Insert Table 3 about here This model has then been compared to six other nested models in which regression paths of the three different predictors (and those of their combinations) were sequentially fixed at zero. Results, which are provided in Table 4, show that the impact of happiness and gratitude on our criteria is not significantly different from zero. On the contrary, any time admiration paths are fixed at zero the model does not fit the data. Remarkably, when paths of admiration and gratitude are fixed at zero, happiness significantly predicts learning and proving GOs (R2=.04), and when the effects of admiration and happiness are instead suppressed, gratitude predicts OCB (.04
significant. This leads us to suspect that some previous studies on happiness in organizational contexts might have severely suffered from the absence of any social, other-directed discrete positive emotions. General Discussion While it is generally accepted that individual skills, talents and achievements form the foundation of all organizational success, the effects of the perceived competence of leaders on employees represent a topic that has been rather neglected in the literature. The results of our studies showed that a skilled, talented and successful leader elicits a specific and intense discrete emotion in followers – admiration – which in turn motivates them to strengthen the relationship with their leader, to improve their own skills, and to perform better. Admiration was observed to directly impact employees’ task and contextual performance (OCB), and to fully mediate the influence of leaders’ perceived competence on followers’ state goal orientation in achievement situations. In addition, the motivational and behavioral effects of admiration in organizational settings were compared to those of happiness and gratitude, with admiration proving to be the strongest predictor of employees’ state goal orientation and organizational citizenship behavior. Theoretical and practical implications This paper first introduced the study of admiration as a discrete emotion in organizations. Not only was admiration elicited by the experimental manipulation of leader competence, but it was also observed that admiration is commonly felt by employees during their work. Our last study, in particular, was designed to determine the importance of the incremental utility of admiration in the organizational research. Results of this study were extremely clear. Notably, we showed that if we had failed to consider admiration, our results would have been dramatically different. We would have ascribed some important effects concerning motivation and organizational citizenship to happiness or gratitude, and this would have seriously biased our conclusions. As a consequence, we suspect that the cost of disregarding discrete emotions –and admiration in particular– in studying organizational behavior is very high. Furthermore, the significant impact of admiration on both tasks and contextual performance advocates the study of the other-directed emotions in work settings, and, especially, a deep examination of their effects at the organizational level. Admiration is a social emotion, the motivational consequences of which extend to the social context. More than happiness and even more than gratitude, admiration promotes citizenship behaviors such as compliance, altruism, and courtesy directed towards colleagues and towards the whole organization. This finding demonstrates the necessity of carefully considering admiration and positive other-directed emotions in order to explain and promote virtuous organizational behavior. Second, our results offer an original contribution to the flourishing research literature regarding leadership and positive emotions. They support and extend those of Bono et al. (2007), providing clear evidence that leaders directly influence followers’ emotions by their acts and behaviors, and not only by the contagion of their own affect. A particular elicitor of positive emotion was studied in this paper: Leader competence. Our finding that outstanding skills and successes displayed by a leader enhance followers’ task and contextual performance, and significantly impact their state goal orientations through the elicitation of a precise emotional response, should cause us to seriously reconsider leader competence as a critical and powerful motivator. The display of competence not only represents the basis of a leader’s legitimacy, but also the root of the influential capability of a leader. Competent leaders are role models who inspire their followers. The motivational state of inspiration originates from admiration, which therefore represents the emotional link between leaders’ technical, as well as managerial, skills and followers’ achievements. Finally, this paper contributes to the debate regarding the influence of leaders on followers’ goal orientation. This effect has already been theorized, but has never been actually tested. Dragoni (2005) hypothesized that a leader’s achievement pattern orientation shapes followers’ state GO through the mediation of team climate. Specifically, the author argues that when leaders display an ability-oriented achievement pattern orientation, followers feel encouraged to develop their proving goal orientation. In contrast, we found that the leader’s display of competence increases proving goals as well as improving and avoiding goals. These effects can be explained by the mediation of admiration, whose major motivational consequence is self-improvement. Any time individuals feel admiration, both their improving and proving goals are likely to increase, as the emotional response to the perception of outstanding talents cause them to emulate the admired role-model. Leader competence, through the complete mediation of admiration, also had a smaller effect on avoiding goals. We believe that leader’s success attainability is a key factor in determining the amount of avoiding goals that are activated. The

more followers perceive successes or skills that are extremely different from theirs and therefore look largely unattainable, the more they will seek to preserve the relationship with their leader trying to avoid challenging tasks that could reveal a lack of ability. Results concerning trait GO as a moderator between admiration and task performance deserve special comment. A clearer differentiation between learning, proving and avoiding goal orientations emerged in study 1, where they have been conceptualized as individual dispositions. It was observed that proving rather than improving GO moderates the performance-related consequences of perceiving outstanding achievements. Indeed, individuals who prefer proving goals are ego-involved (Nicholls, 1975), and compare their performance with others. So, they are more sensitive to others’ judgments, which their self-evaluation of success depends upon. In high proving-oriented individuals the perception of outstanding skills will activate upward assimilative social comparison processes and consequently the need of increasing their performance to bridge the gap with the external referent. The opposite for individuals who are low in proving goal orientation. On the other hand, learning-oriented individuals are task-centered and define their success by comparing themselves with their past performance (selfreferent). They find their source of self-improvement in their perceived mastery while completing the task at hand, thus they do not rely on others’ judgments. A learning goal disposition just indicates how much the individuals prefer tasks that challenge their mastery and provide them with a chance to improve their skills. Hence, whether an individual is high or low in learning goal orientation, the impact of admiration on performance will not be affected, just because social comparisons are not important to the selfevaluation of success. Altogether, these studies have organizational practical implications on middle managers and team leader selection, training, and role/task assignments. They indicate that leaders should be selected and trained not only on their technical and managerial skills, but also on their ability to display them and to convey an attainable image of competence. According to our studies, these abilities increase followers’ performance. This is especially true for proving-oriented followers, such that admirable leaders probably find their best effectiveness in proving-oriented teams. At the same time, we recommend carefully considering the amount of discrepancy that followers perceive between their leader’s competence and their own potential. A condition in which leader’s talents, skills, or achievements are perceived as being highly unattainable would indeed reduce the beneficial effects of admiration, pushing followers toward avoiding goals. Limits and directions for future research As regards methodological limitations, study 1 adopted a set of In-basket exercises as an index of task performance. This measure satisfactorily served the aims of an initial test, but future research might consider the use of direct measures of job performance. In addition, the risk of a common-source bias might have affected some results of study 2 and 3, so we recommend that future research extends these initial findings by using multiple sources of data (e.g. using supervisor’s evaluations as a measure of leader competence). However, study 3 is much less exposed to such a bias because if we assume that a common source biased our data, we also have to assume that it equally biased all the relationships among our variables (typically inflating them). Hence, a direct comparison such as one that investigates incremental validity (based on differences between strengths of associations) would not have been affected. A further limitation is theoretical and regards the positive relationship between admiration and state avoiding goal orientation. We interpreted this effect as a result of the discrepancy between leader’s attainments and follower’s perceived probability of achieving a similar success. However, we did not test this hypothesis, which is in need of future investigation. According to such a perspective, the construct of self-efficacy may be an important moderator of the relationship between admiration and state avoiding goal orientation. The relationship between a leader’s achievement pattern orientation and followers’ state goal orientations is definitely an area in which many questions remain unanswered, such as the mediating role of team climate. Our results suggest that admiration may be a mediator of this relationship as well. In such a perspective, admiration would be an individual-level mediator while team climate a group-level mediator. These hypotheses necessitate that multilevel research be conducted in the future. Also of great interest are the relationships between these two different levels of mediation. For instance, a diffuse and common feeling of admiration for the leader might facilitate the development of a shared team climate, but many other individual differences, such as followers’ trait GO, might be involved in this process.

Finally, we hope and believe that several other organizational elicitors and consequences of admiration will be identified in the near future. Conclusions This paper increases our knowledge regarding the leader-followers relationship. We found that the perception of outstanding skills, talents or achievements is a key process in this relationship. Leader competence, which has been taken for granted as an expected and obvious base of leadership effectiveness since contingency theory was introduced, has been found to be an elicitor of admiration and an important precursor of followers’ state goal orientations, task performance and contextual performance. The leader competence - followers’ achievement motivation relationship is fully mediated by admiration, which also outperforms happiness and gratitude in predicting both followers’ achievement motivation and contextual performance. Throughout our studies, we have considered many different relationships. Some of them confirm previous literature, some were previously hypothesized and never tested, and some others are completely new. The more original our contributions, the more questions they raised. The role of admiration in organizational behavior is a completely new area of research. If future investigations are able to effectively address it, as we believe they will, our understanding of such a wide and important topic as emotional life at work would be greatly enhanced.

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Notes 1. Common fit indexes such as the Chi-Square test of close fit, the CFI, the SRMR and the RMSEA all compare the specified model to the saturated model. A saturated model perfectly fits and represent the observed data. It has no degrees of freedom and no residuals. Hence, a test comparing the hypothesized model against the saturated model is a comparison of nested models. In our case, a test of fit against the saturated model represents a simultaneous test of the hypotheses that direct (un-mediated) relations are equal to zero. 2. In a saturated model, squared multiple correlations can also be interpreted as fit indices.

Figure 1 Study 1. Effects of Admiration and Proving Goal Orientation on Performance.





------ High Admiration Group Low Admiration Group




0.5 -1

+1 PGO

Notes: The X axis represent participants located at one standard deviation below (-1) and above (+1) the group mean; The Y axis represents performance at the first in-basket exercise. Its range goes from 1 to 3 and was obtained averaging individual scores at two competencies: “Organization and Planning” and “Leading and Motivating”. Error bars represent one standard deviation above and below the mean.

Figure 2 Study 2. Total mediation effect and motivational consequences of Admiration.

State Learning GO 2

R =.09


.30*** .38* Leader Competence

n.s. State Proving GO

Admiration 2

R =.14



R =.11


State Avoiding GO 2

R =.04

Notes: Values provided in the path diagram are standardized and significant; Some labels and parameters have been omitted for clarity; *p<.05; *** p<.001.


Table 1 Study 2. Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations of study variables. Mean (SD) 1 2 3 1 Skills 5.07 (1.59) 2 State Learning GO 6.30 (.96) .17* 3 State Proving GO 5.40 (1.32) .03 .49*** 4 State Avoiding GO 1.60 (1.45) .05 -.06 -.15 5 Admiration 3.18 (1.3) .38*** .30*** .34*** Note: * p<.05; ** p<.01; ***p<.001



Table 2 Study 3: Descriptive statistics, intercorrelations and reliabilities of study variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Happiness Gratitude Admiration State LGO State PPGO State APGO Altruism Courtesy Compliance

Mean 4.02 3.74 2.87 4.25 2.60 2.67 4.50 4.73 4.55

SD .96 1.28 .99 .94 1.12 1.1 .97 1.06 .96

1 .86 .58 .30 .25 .31 .02 .22 .22 .20









.85 .42 .24 .21 -.06 .22 .20 .20

.87 .27 .29 .14 .28 .34 .24

.84 .37 -.29 .41 .36 .53

.88 .38 .14 .16 .27

.80 -.14 -.08 -.20

.84 .61 .61

.76 .50


Notes: The main diagonal provides Cronbach’s alphas; Pearson’s rs greater than .16 are significantly different from zero (p<.05).

Table 3 Study 3: Standardized regression weights estimated by the path analysis. Happiness Gratitude Admiration R2

LGO .15 .07 .19

PPGO .27 -.04 .22

APGO .06 -.18 .20

Altruism .12 .06 .21

Courtesy .12 -.01 .30

Compliance .12 .04 .18







Notes: Significant parameters (p<.05) are provided in bold; The F-test was applied for H0: R2=0; The model is saturated, hence it perfectly fits the data.

Table 4 Study 3: Nested model comparisons. Predictors whose paths were fixed at zero

χ2 (df)


0 (0)


Changes in R2 (% of variance accounted for by the predictor/s whose paths were fixed) Sum LGO PPGO APGO Altruism Courtesy Compliance across criteria


(Saturated model)



3.4 (6)











9.6 (6)











23.3 (6)









33.9 (12)









26.9 (12)









16.9 (12)









M4 M5 M6

Admiration and Happiness Admiration and Gratitude Happiness and Gratitude

ADMIRATION AT WORK The Impact of an Admired ...

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Publications. Button, S.B., Mathieu, J.E. & Zajac, D.M. (1996). Goal orientation in organizational research: A conceptual and empirical ...

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