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Leader pride and gratitude differentially impact follower trust

Lisa Ritzenhöfer (TUM School of Management, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany)
Prisca Brosi (TUM School of Management, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany)
Matthias Spörrle (Private University Seeburg Castle, Seekirchen am Wallersee, Austria)
Isabell M. Welpe (TUM School of Management, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 5 September 2017

Issue publication date: 17 October 2017




Current research suggests a positive link between followers’ perceptions of their leaders’ expression of positive emotions and followers’ trust in their leaders. Based on the theories about the social function of emotions, the authors aim to qualify this generalized assumption. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that followers’ perceptions of leaders’ expressions of specific positive emotions – namely, pride and gratitude – differentially influence follower ratings of leaders’ trustworthiness (benevolence, integrity, and ability), and, ultimately, trust in the leader.


The hypotheses were tested using a multimethod approach combining experimental evidence (n=271) with longitudinal field data (n=120).


Both when experimentally manipulating leaders’ emotion expressions and when measuring followers’ perceptions of leaders’ emotion expressions, this research found leaders’ expressions of pride to be consistently associated with lower perceived benevolence, while leaders’ expressions of gratitude were associated with higher perceptions of benevolence and integrity.


This paper theoretically and empirically establishes that leaders’ expressions of discrete positive emotions differentially influence followers’ trust in the leader via trustworthiness perceptions.



There are no known conflicts of interest associated with this publication. This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the European Social Fund of the European Union in the research project “Selection and Assessment of Leaders in Academia and Business” under Grant FKZ 01FP1072/73. The first and second authors contributed equally to this paper.


Ritzenhöfer, L., Brosi, P., Spörrle, M. and Welpe, I.M. (2017), "Leader pride and gratitude differentially impact follower trust", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 445-459.



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