Women seen as more effective leaders when their emotional expression is limited

Women leaders often face sexist stereotypes that label them "too emotional" for leadership. A new study found that when women express specific emotions, it influences how effective they are seen as leaders compared to men. 

Conducted by psychology professor Thomas Sy, PhD, at UC Riverside and management professor Daan van Knippenberg, PhD, at Drexel University, the study is the first to examine prototypes for the types of emotions displayed by leaders. 

The professors found six emotional schemas associated with leadership. Three of them — cheer, calm, pride — were associated with effective leadership. The other three — anger, fear, remorse — were associated with ineffective leadership.

Drs. Sy and van Knippenberg found that when women display cheer, calm and pride and repress negative emotions, they are seen as more effective than men. 

"Every role has emotions that must be expressed, including leaders. To be effective, leaders must perform emotional labor," Dr. Sy said. "What was surprising in our research is that women were rated more effective, and this could be explained by implicit theories of leadership emotions."

The effect is most pronounced for leaders in top positions in an organization. The expression of negative emotions did not undermine the effectiveness of top leaders to the same extent they did for low-ranking leaders. Low-ranking leaders, both men and women, were penalized for expressing anger.

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