Faculty » Thomas Sy

My research is devoted to understanding how the leadership process contributes to high functioning at the individual and group levels. One stream of my research examines the role of leaders as managers of affect in groups, and subsequently, how affect influences group processes and performance. Findings from my research have demonstrated that groups "catch" the mood of their leaders. Once caught, groups' affective tone impacts group outcomes. I am currently examining factors that influence groups' susceptibility to leaders' moods, and developing a theoretical model of how leaders generate, change, and regulate affect in the workplace.

A second stream of my research examines leadership within cultural contexts. I am interested in how culture shapes perceptions of leadership prototypes and its consequences for individuals leading in multicultural contexts. Each culture has its own ideal prototype that defines and represents leadership, and these prototypes differ across cultures, and even across companies within a national culture. The broader aim of this stream of research is to develop global leaders capable of leading in multicultural contexts.

A third stream of my research examines implicit followership theories. The concept of implicit followership theories is a burgeoning field of research. My research is the first to develop and validate an instrument identifying the content and structure of implicit followership theories. Implicit followership theories are represented by a first-order structure (Industry, Enthusiasm, Good Citizen, Conformity, Insubordination, and Incompetence), and a second-order structure (Followership Prototype and Antiprototype). I am currently examining the antecedents and consequences of leaders' implicit followership theories (LIFTs).

Selected Publications

Sy, T. (in press). What Do You Think of Followers? Examining the Content, Structure, and Consequences of Implicit Followership Theories. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Sy, T., Shore, L., Strauss, J., Shore, T., Tram, S., Whiteley, P., & Muromachi, K.  (in press). Leadership Perceptions as a Function of Race-Occupation Fit: The Case of Asian Americans. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Choi, J. N., & Sy, T. (in press). Group-level organizational citizenship behavior: Effects of demographic faultlines and conflict in small work groups. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Sy, T., Tram, S. & O'Hara, L. A. (2006). Relation of employee and manager emotional intelligence to job satisfaction and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 461-473.

Sy, T., Cote, S. & Saavedra, R. (2005). The contagious leader:  Impact of leader's affect on group member affect and group processes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 295-305.