Leaders influence followers in many ways; one way is by eliciting positive emotions. In three studies we demonstrate that the nearly unstudied moral emotion of ‘elevation’ (a reaction to moral excellence) mediates the relations between leaders’ and their followers’ ethical behavior. Study 1 used scenarios manipulated experimentally; study 2 examined employees’ emotional responses to their leaders in a natural work setting; study 3 compared the effects of elevation to those of happiness, serenity, and positive affect. We found that leaders’ interpersonal fairness and self-sacrifice are powerful elicitors of elevation, and that this emotion fully mediates leaders’ influence on followers’ organizational citizenship behavior and affective organizational commitment. In the first study, we also observed a moderation effect of interpersonal fairness on self-sacrifice. Results underline the importance of positive moral emotions in organizations and shed light on the emotional process by which ethical leaders can foster positive organizational outcomes.
Vianello, M., Galliani, E. M., & Haidt, J. (2010). Elevation at work: The effects of leaders’ moral excellence. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(5), 390-411.