Transformational Leadership and Susceptibility to Emotional Contagion in Sports Teams

  • Beth Clarkson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Within existing literature, researchers have acknowledged the need for greater
examination of leadership and susceptibility to emotional contagion. The primary purpose of this programme of research was to merge leadership and emotion theory by reviewing the literature that examines leadership and the contagion of affective phenomena (viz. emotion, mood and affect). The secondary purpose was to investigate the relationship between transformational leadership (i.e., a style of leadership that uses emotional appeals to inspire followers) and susceptibility to emotional contagion in a new domain with sports teams. This PhD thesis reports research investigating transformational leadership and susceptibility to emotional contagion in sports teams. Specifically, it addresses conceptual and methodological issues relating to the advancement of susceptibility to emotional
contagion research prior to investigating susceptibility to emotional contagion as an individual difference variable influencing the transformational leadership – group outcome relationship in sports teams. The significant contribution of this thesis emanates from addressing some of the knowledge gaps in the current literature examining susceptibility to emotional contagion. Specifically, this is achieved via a meta-analytical review of the literature across a broad range of domains, by developing a multi-dimensional measure of susceptibility to emotional contagion, and, by providing a multi-study in-depth examination of transformational leadership and susceptibility to emotional contagion in
sports teams.
This thesis is comprised of five chapters, which present nine empirical studies.
Chapter 1 presents an introduction to the research purpose and aims, the theoretical grounding, research design, and the significance, originality and contribution of the programme of research. Chapter 2 details a systematic review and mini meta-analysis of the leadership and emotional contagion literature and draws attention to prevalent themes within this body of work. One observation identified in this review by the author was a lack of conceptual clarity and measurement consensus in the study of susceptibility to emotional contagion. Therefore, a total of five studies were completed that psychometrically developed and initially validated two complementary measures of susceptibility to emotional contagion. In Chapter 4, the new measures were used in a multi-study quantitative examination of leadership and susceptibility to emotional contagion in a sports context. General individual susceptibility to emotional contagion was
reported to be a moderator of the leadership – positive group outcomes relationship, yet the results of the first study revealed this relationship to be complex in nature. That is, general susceptibility to emotional contagion did not moderate this relationship in isolation: transformational leadership positively predicted collective efficacy in individuals with moderate and high levels of susceptibility to emotional contagion. Therefore, a second study explored the intricate effects of individual susceptibility to discrete emotions in the contagion process. The findings indicated that susceptibility to the contagion of excitement
and happiness increased the strength of the relationship between transformational leadership and positive group outcomes relationship, and susceptibility to the contagion of anger, fear, and anxiety reduced the strength of the relationship between transformational leadership and positive group outcomes. In a final study, an examination of the emotional contagion process took place using a multi-level study of transformational leadership, individual susceptibility to contagion, and the development of group affective tone in
sports teams. The findings from this final study revealed susceptibility to emotional contagion moderated the relationship between transformational leadership and group affective tone. These findings speak to the complex role of susceptibility to emotional contagion and group affective tone in the relationship between transformational leadership and group outcomes in sport.
The empirical data presented in this thesis significantly contributes to a widening evidence base of susceptibility to emotional contagion as an important individual difference variable influencing the leadership and positive group outcomes relationship, and addresses conceptual and methodological issues in the susceptibility to emotional contagion literature. Using structural equation modelling and multi-level analysis, the current body of work points to the importance of athlete susceptibility to emotional contagion to leader effectiveness within a sporting context. In addition to significantly contributing to the theory and measurement in the field of emotional contagion, this thesis reports recommendations for coaches and managers in sports teams to pay greater attention to the emotional abilities of their athletes. Moreover, future research could benefit from greater scrutiny of the interactions that occur between susceptibility to emotional contagion and traits such as emotional intelligence in sport, and qualitative examination of leaders’ emotional contagion ability in a sporting context.
Date of Award29 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorChris Wagstaff (Supervisor)

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