Regulatory focus trickle-down: How leader regulatory focus and behavior shape follower regulatory focus
Author(s): Russell E. Johnson, Danielle D. King, Szu-Han (Joanna) Lin, Brent A. Scott, Erin M. Jackson Walker, Mo Wang
Abstract: Regulatory focus is critical at work and is shaped by cues in the environment. We examine how supervisor regulatory foci can activate analogous foci in subordinates. We test this idea across five studies. In Study 1 we find that supervisor regulatory focus predicted change in new hires’ regulatory focus in the first three months after organizational entry. In Studies 2 and 3 we find that leaders’ regulatory foci had unique effects on leadership behaviors, and that these behaviors primed subordinates’ regulatory foci. Specifically, transformational behavior is linked to promotion focus, management by exception behavior to prevention focus, and contingent reward behavior to both foci. In Study 4 we find that leader regulatory focus relates to follower regulatory focus via the mediating effects of the aforementioned leader behaviors. Finally, in Study 5 we additionally find that contingent punishment mediates the relationship between leader and follower prevention focus and that weak regulatory foci increase the likelihood of laissez-faire leadership. Taken together, these results reveal how leader regulatory focus and behavior can be leveraged to shape the motivation of followers.
Publication Title: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 140
Pub Year: 2017
Pages: 29 – 45
URL: http://doi.org.ezproxy.stanford.edu/10.1016/j.obhdp.2017.03.002
Keywords: leadership, regulatory focus, transformational leadership, transactional leadership, influence

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