Lindred Greer, U of M Business School

Leader Emotional Unpredictability Tears Teams Apart: Effects on Power Struggles and Team Performance
Lindred Greer


Fall 2019
Lecture Time: 
Friday, November 15, 2019 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business
Introduced By: 
Martha Berg


Emotional displays of leaders convey social information to followers that can help bolster their motivation and understanding of the situation, thereby facilitating team performance. An implicit assumption in previous theorizing and research using this social-functional approach to leader emotions has been that leaders’ emotional expressions logically follow from the situation for followers and thus help followers who observe these expressions to better understand the situation. However, leader's emotional expressions are not always predictable to followers. We extend the social-functional approach by investigating what happens when leader emotional displays are perceived as unpredictable by followers. We propose that leader emotional unpredictability sparks uncertainty among followers about how the leader allocates ranks and resources within the team, which triggers intra-team power struggles. Such power struggles—intra-team conflicts over resources among followers—in turn undermine team performance. Using a multi-method approach, we find support for our model in three studies, including two laboratory experiments and a field study of 246 retail teams. The findings inform our understanding of how leaders’ emotional displays influence team performance, extending the social-functional approach to emotion by illuminating how the perceived unpredictability of leaders’ emotional expressions can be dysfunctional for teams.

Recording & Additional Notes

Lindred (Lindy) Greer is an Associate Professor of Management & Organizations at Ross and Faculty Director of the Sanger Leadership Center. Her research focuses on how to lead effective organizational teams, with specific interests in leadership skills in conflict management, diversity and inclusion, vision crafting, and the communication of emotions. Lindy has published in top management and psychology research outlets such as Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, among others. Her work has also been covered in media outlets including the New York Times, Forbes, and Fast Company. She has received awards for her research from the Academy of Management and American Psychological Association, and she was recently named one of the Top 40 under 40 Business School Professors by Poets and Quants.