Motivational or dispositional? The type of inference shapes the effectiveness of leader anger expressions

Bo Shao, Lu Wang, Herman H.M. Tse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Existing leadership research has presented conflicting views on the effects of leader anger expressions. The present research aims to reconcile these findings by proposing that the type of inferences followers make (i.e., motivation-focused inference or trait-focused inference) is a key factor determining the outcomes of leader anger expressions. Through one survey study (Study 1) and two experimental studies (Studies 2 and 3), the present research indicates that the effectiveness of leader anger expressions is associated with the type of inferences followers draw from the anger. In general, we found support for the negative relationship between trait-focused inferences and leader effectiveness, but were unable to properly test the positive relationship between motivation-focused inferences and leader effectiveness due to the lack of appropriate instrumental variables. We also investigated whether followers’ implicit theories of personality (i.e., entity versus incremental theory) would moderate the effect of leader anger expressions on the type of inferences made by followers, which in turn shapes leader effectiveness. The results of Study 3 provide evidence of the moderating role of implicit theories of personality. Theoretical contributions and practical implications of the present research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-723
Number of pages15
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Anger expression
  • Implicit theory of personality
  • Leader effectiveness
  • Motivation-focused inference
  • Trait-focused inference

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