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The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

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The Leadership Quarterly

j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / l e a q u a

Will you trust your new boss? The role of affective reactions to
leadership succession ☆
Gary A. Ballinger a,⁎, F. David Schoorman b,1, David W. Lehman c,2
University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce, PO Box 400173, Charlottesville, VA 22904, United States
GISMA Business School and Krannert Graduate School of Management, Purdue University, 425 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2056, United States
School of Business, National University of Singapore, 1 Business Link, 117592, Singapore

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: Affective reactions to the departure of work group leaders are proposed as an important
Trust determinant of members' trust-related judgments regarding new leaders. A field test of
Leader–member exchange veterinary hospital employees evaluating new leaders revealed that the affective reaction to the
Leadership succession
departure of the prior group leader predicted trust when there was no history between the
individuals. When there was history between the two individuals, the group member's
evaluation of the new leader's ability on their prior job was a significant predictor of trust over
and above their affective reaction to the succession. The relationships between affective
reactions to succession and trust formation were replicated in a longitudinal simulation of trust
formation in student groups. The implications of these findings for the study of trust in
organizations and leadership succession processes in work groups are discussed.
© 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

For work group members, the process of leadership succession involves the breaking of a relationship with an old leader and
the formation of a new relationship with the successor. The formation of trust relationships between new leaders and members of
a work group after a leadership change are critical in determining the future quality of leader–member exchange (LMX)
relationships formed in the group (Bauer & Green, 1996) and in determining the performance of the group (Davis, Schoorman,
Mayer, & Tan, 2000; Dirks, 2000). Organizational researchers have long proposed that factors that existed in the work group prior
to the departure of the old leader have an impact on the group's performance and group members' ability to form subsequent
relationships with the new leader (Ballinger & Schoorman, 2007; Gilmore & Ronchi, 1995; Gordon & Rosen, 1981; Gouldner, 1954;
Grusky, 1960; Pitcher, Chriem, & Kisfalvi, 2000). Leader–member exchange (LMX) and trust relationships in organizations have
been proposed to be based on individuals' expectations for the quality of the relationship with their supervisor (Liden, Wayne, &
Stilwell, 1993), aspects of the target individual and predispositions within the trustor (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995; McKnight,
Cummings, & Chervany, 1998) and affective states that are associated with the categorization of the target individual (Williams,
2001). We believe that the strength of the LMX relationship with the prior leader of the work group is a critical driver of the
affective state of the work group member when they meet their new leader, and, (consistent with Williams, 2001), this affective
state is a determinant of their trust-related judgments of this individual.
Gordon & Rosen (1981) defined leadership succession as “the planned or unplanned change of the formal leader of a group or
organization” (p. 227). The fact that succession research covers changes that may either be planned or unplanned means that it
covers circumstances such as retirement, voluntary resignation, firing, demotion, promotion within the organization, or death

☆ This work was supported in part by a grant from the Purdue Research Foundation. The authors would like to thank Dr. Robert Featherston for his help in
collecting the data for study 1.
⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 434 243 2273.
E-mail addresses: (G.A. Ballinger), (F.D. Schoorman), (D.W. Lehman).
Tel.: +1 765 494 4391.
Tel.: +65 6516 5002.

1048-9843/$ – see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
220 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

(Gephart, 1978; Friedman & Singh, 1989). The unit of analysis in this research is the individual work group member and their
affective reaction to the departure of the prior leader and their evaluation of the new formal leader of the work group. This model is
applicable to many different types of standing work teams and project teams (McGrath, 1986). What is required is that group
members are able to form a perception of the quality of the LMX relationship they have with the departing formal group leader. The
phases of the succession event tested in this study are the individual's affective reactions to the discovery that the leader has been
replaced and their evaluation of the new leader's trustworthiness when that person is introduced into the group.
This research contributes to literature on leadership succession and trust development between leaders and work group
members by linking the relationship with the outgoing leader to trust-related judgments of the new leader through the affective
reaction to the departure of the outgoing leader. Prior researchers have undertaken efforts to demonstrate a group-level
“succession effect” in terms of either performance or changes in morale by proposing that the event has a uniform impact on
members of the work group (Friedman & Saul, 1991; Rowe, Cannella, Rankin, & Gorman, 2005). We believe that this oversimplifies
the impact of the event on the individual constituents of the work group. Indeed, the search for such a succession effect has
produced a contradictory pattern of results where performance and morale outcomes differ based on contextual and
environmental factors; under some conditions succession results in improved group performance and under others it results in
reduced group performance (Kesner & Sebora, 1994). It is hoped that this research will spark further investigations aimed at
understanding how the reactions of individuals to succession events can be combined to improve our ability to predict group-level
changes after succession events.

1. Affective reactions to leadership succession

One factor that that should distinguish one person's affective reaction to the leader's departure from those of other group
members is the quality of the LMX relationship they had with the departing leader. This occurs because group members'
perceptions of the quality of the exchange relationship between leaders and members of work groups provide information about
that person's evaluation of the resources and services exchanged. Some group members enjoy relationships with the leader
marked by high levels of exchange of valued resources such as latitude on working on unstructured tasks, delegation of critical
tasks and access to the leader's internal communication networks (Bauer & Green, 1996; Sparrowe & Liden, 1997). Other members
of the work group experience relationships that are more formal in quality, and never exceed the basic terms of economic exchange
between supervisors and supervised (Sparrowe & Liden, 1997). LMX researchers have also shown that the relationship
encompasses an expectation of access to future benefits that implies a continuing dependency relationship (Dienesch & Liden,
1986; Graen & Scandura, 1987; Sparrowe & Liden, 1997) that group members with high quality exchange relationships would want
to perpetuate.
The proposition that individuals' interpretation of succession events differ within the work group based on the quality of the
relationship with the predecessor has been supported in research on these processes. For example, Gouldner (1954) found that
group members reactions to a new plant manager's actions differed based on their evaluation of what they had lost when the work
rules and procedures changed under the new leader; this led them to engage in different levels of adherence to these new rules and
procedures. Pitcher et al. (2000) found that senior management turnover following the succession events they examined took
place more frequently among those managers who felt psychologically closer to the departed senior manager; these managers
indicated in interviews with the researchers that they left voluntarily because they were not comfortable with changes that they
We focus first on how an individual's affective reaction to the end of the LMX relationship is driven by their evaluation of the
strength of that relationship because affective reactions to events frequently inform cognitive judgments in the workplace (Forgas
& George, 2001; Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Affect can be felt toward something or some event and can be reinforced or enhanced
based on memories of an experience that previously instigated a change in one's affective state (Russell & Feldman Barrett, 1999;
Smith & Kirby, 2000). This affect is distinct from personality measures of affectivity (e.g. Tellegen, 1985; Watson & Clark, 1984) in
that the former are measures of states while the latter are measures of traits. A person's current affective state can be changed by
reaction to an event based on their cognitive evaluation of how these events impact their ability to reach critical goals (Ortony,
Clore, & Collins, 1988; Smith & Ellsworth, 1985). For purposes of this research, we define an affective reaction to succession as the
direction (positive or negative) and intensity of the individual's affective state that occurs as a result of the departure of the leader.
Individuals with low quality relationships with the predecessor should experience positive affective reactions (e.g., happiness,
elation) because the event holds the potential of a newer, better relationship that would provide an improved chance to reach their
career and workplace goals. The existence of such an opportunity is likely to increase the individual's enthusiasm and
concentration. For those with low quality relationships, a succession event may also decrease levels of negative affective reactions
(e.g., fear, anxiety) because the ascendance of a new leader will reduce the stress associated with working through a poor
relationship with the predecessor. Individuals with high quality relationships should experience decreased instances of positive
affective reactions and increased levels of negative affective reactions after the event because they have experienced an event
which reduces their probability of reaching critical personal goals (Ortony et al., 1988). The intensity of these affective reactions can
be impacted by secondary appraisal of conditions surrounding the event (Smith & Ellsworth, 1985), such that a longer time
between the succession announcement and the departure of the leader will produce a lower level of surprise surrounding the
event. Ballinger & Schoorman (2007) have also argued that the destination of the leader will moderate the effect such that the
leader staying inside the organization will serve to reduce the intensity of this reaction. After the departure, subordinates can
reasonably be expected to feel anxiety and nervousness that the new leader will be different, and that their relationship with this
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 221

individual will not bring the benefits that the old relationship delivered (Ballinger & Schoorman, 2007; Lubatkin, Schweiger, &
Weber, 1999).

Hypothesis 1. Leader–member exchange (LMX) with the prior leader of a work group is related to the affective reaction to the
departure of that individual. Individuals with high-quality LMX relationships with the predecessor experience negative affective
reactions to the event and individuals with low quality relationships experience positive affective reactions.

2. Succession and trust in new leaders

The affective reaction to the old leader's departure should impact the critical next part of the leadership succession process,
which involves trust-related judgments about the new leader. As group members meet their new leader and prepare to form new
work relationships with this person, they will be engaging in evaluations of their willingness to trust this individual. This is an
important factor in leadership transitions because trust is critical in the formation of LMX relationships between groups and their
new leaders (Bauer & Green, 1996) and because it is directly related to group performance (Davis et al., 2000; Dirks, 2000), the
effectiveness of leadership behaviors (Pillai, Schriesheim, & Williams, 1999; Podsakoff, MacKenzie, & Bommer, 1996; Gabarro,
1987), managerial problem solving (Zand, 1972), and satisfaction with work (Cunningham & MacGregor, 2000; Driscoll, 1978).
We follow Mayer et al. (1995) in defining trust as a “willingness…to be vulnerable” (p. 712) to the actions of another party. This
willingness to be vulnerable is based on a judgment about the ability, benevolence and integrity of the target individual. For new
relationships, this judgment is based in part on an individual's propensity to trust (Mayer et al., 1995). Current theoretical models of
trust development have focused on how individuals' judgments specifically about the target individual impact the decision to place
oneself vulnerable to another party (Mayer et al., 1995; McKnight et al., 1998). Affective influences on trust have also been
identified (Jones & George, 1998; Williams, 2001), but these have been focused on evaluations of the target individual (Williams,
2001) and currently do not incorporate changes in affective state that occur in reaction to an event prior to the introduction of the
target individual. We believe that an individual's affective state at the time the prior leader exits influences these trust judgments
of a new leader.
Changes in affect have been shown to impact our perceptions of the behavior and intentions of other individuals (Forgas &
Bower, 1987) and this research has held true in organizational settings (Forgas & George, 2001; Isen & Baron, 1991; Jones & George,
1998). The individual's changed affective state should persist from the departure of the old leader to the introduction of the new
leader. This is likely because one's affective state leads one to notice more things in the environment that reinforce such feelings
(Smith & Kirby, 2000). Researchers interviewing members of work groups during leadership succession events frequently have
found that memories of the prior leader reinforce affective states and reactions to the actions of the new group leader (e.g.
Gouldner, 1954; Heller, 1989; Pitcher et al., 2000).
An individual's current affective state influences differences in the way individuals process information when making complex
judgments (Forgas & George, 2001). Individuals in more negative affective states engage in a bottom-up processing style, focusing
intently on details that confirm negative evaluations of targets. Individuals experiencing more positive affective states engage in a
top-down processing style, where more general judgments are made that overlook details about the target that might disconfirm
the initial judgment. Negative affective states are associated with avoidance of others in general (Carver & White, 1994; Watson,
Wiese, Vaidya, & Tellegen, 1999), and therefore we expect that group members experiencing these higher levels of negative
affective reactions should be expected to engage in avoidance reactions toward new leaders. Succession events that lead to a group
member's feeling more negative affect should result in a lower willingness to trust the new leader. Conversely, given that positive
affective states are associated with approach behaviors (Carver & White, 1994; Watson et al., 1999), succession events that lead to
more positive feelings should result in an increased willingness to trust the new leader (Williams, 2001).

Hypothesis 2. The affective reaction associated with the departure of the old leader is related to trust in the new leader, such that
higher levels of positive affective reactions are related to higher levels of trust and higher levels of negative affective reactions are
related to lower levels of trust.

3. History with the new leader and trust evaluations

There are common examples within organizations where an individual will have formed a trustworthiness judgment of the
new leader prior to the succession event. In cases where a fellow team member is named as group leader or where the group
member may have worked with the new leader in another organizational unit, we believe that the existence of this previously
formed judgment regarding the work ability of that new group leader on the previous job would drive the initial trustworthiness
evaluations of that individual. This is true in that ability judgments generally precede judgments of other trustworthiness factors
(Schoorman, Mayer, & Davis, 1996, 2007). This follows the stated logic behind the selection of insiders as successors during periods
of good organizational performance; management scholars have found that companies have selected insiders as successors to
minimize the affective disruption surrounding the event (Vancil, 1987).
This principle also holds for group members who had no history as they begin to work with the new leader. Indeed, there are
many possible situations (e.g., poor organizational communication, excessive centralization of information) where information
regarding the new managerial successor may not be communicated to work group members. In these cases, the information
regarding ability comes from early interactions with the new leader. As tasks are performed, group members will begin to perceive
222 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

and interpret information about that new leader's ability that can be used in subsequent judgments of trustworthiness. We believe
that information about the ability of the new leader is the first judgment made of the three trustworthiness factors identified by
Mayer et al. (1995); it takes less time to form judgments about the ability of the new leader as opposed to the benevolence and
integrity. Over time, these ability-based judgments take precedence over the initial affect-based trustworthiness judgment. This is
supported in research on the role of affect in interpersonal judgment processes. Forgas (1995) found evidence that affect does not
drive judgments when individuals have access to previously stored information relevant to the decision or recall previously made
evaluations regarding persons or objects (Srull, 1983, 1984). For group members with access to information about the new group
leader's ability, either from the past or from newly received information, these ability judgments should drive the initial
trustworthiness evaluation over and above the impact of an affective reaction to the succession event.

Hypothesis 3. For individuals who have information about the new leader prior to the succession, prior judgments about aspects
of trustworthiness of the new leader will predict additional variance in the evaluation of trustworthiness of the new leader over
and above the affective reaction to the succession event.

4. Tests of hypotheses

We conducted two studies to test these hypotheses. The first study involved an assessment of affective reactions to leadership
succession events conducted in a field setting. With the cooperation of a veterinary hospital management firm located in 4
metropolitan areas across the western United States, we were able to link LMX evaluations with a prior leader taken on an annual
employee survey to affective reactions to succession events measured by survey within one week after a succession event. We use
this post-event survey to test our hypotheses regarding the relationships between affective reactions to the succession event and
trust judgments in the new leader. We followed this study with a simulation of succession processes within student work groups
that was done to more closely and precisely measure the affective reactions and to better understand individuals' processing of
information during the trust formation process.

5. Study 1: post-succession organizational survey

5.1. Sample and setting

We obtained cooperation from a firm that owns and operates 48 veterinary hospitals located in four metropolitan areas in the
United States. The hospitals are autonomous work groups with separate profit and loss accountability. The work groups report to
both a hospital administrator and a medical director. The hospital administrator is responsible for scheduling operations and staff
hours, maintaining the work flow, and supervising all staff in financial and logistical matters surrounding the operation of the
hospital. Those staff members directly reporting to the hospital administrator include receptionists, groomers, veterinary
technicians and service coordinators. These made up approximately 80% of the total staff of each hospital. Associate veterinarians
are supervised by the medical director. The medical director also directly supervises all other staff in the provision of care to
patients. During any given work day, a staff member below the level of associate veterinarian can receive direction and tasks from
both the medical director and the hospital administrator.
Thirteen leadership changes took place over a six-month period in the sponsoring organization. These events took place at
twelve hospitals ranging in size from 9 to 68 employees, with an average size of 25 employees. During the period examined, four of
the leadership changes involved a change in the medical director position and the other nine involved the change in the person
holding the job of hospital administrator.

5.2. Procedures

The design for the study involved a pre-event/post-event longitudinal design to test our hypotheses. For pre-event data, we
used the results of annual employee surveys conducted by the focal organization. The sponsoring organization conducted annual
employee attitude surveys of employee attitudes and perceptions of the medical and operational leadership in all of its hospitals
and these data were provided to the researchers. The surveys were distributed within the firm's internal mail system but were sent
directly by employees via U.S. mail to a third-party organization who tabulated the results and provided summaries of the data
back to the firm. In the annual employee attitude survey used in this study, 425 surveys were returned out of 823 non-managerial
employees surveyed for a response rate of 51.6%. Employees in hospitals that subsequently experienced a succession event
completed a total of 110 of these returned surveys.
The second step in the data collection involved developing and administering a post-event survey. Over a six-month period, the
cooperating firm sent us notification of incidents of leadership changes in the hospitals. The notifications all took place
immediately following the change of leaders at each hospital. In response, we sent out surveys to the member of the leadership
team in each hospital who had not left with instructions to distribute the surveys to each employee. Employees were provided with
a cover letter instructing them to return the survey directly to the researchers via U.S. mail in a postage-paid envelope supplied by
the researchers.
A total of 307 employees were sent this post-event survey in response to 13 leadership changes. These post-event surveys were
sent within a week after the departure of the hospital administrator or medical director. The dual-leadership structure facilitated
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 223

Table 1
Breakdown of survey responses by hospital for Study 1

Site no. Position Employee count Surveys received Useable responses Matched previous employee survey
1 Hospital administrator 26 10 4 1
2 Hospital administrator 49 17 9 1
3 Hospital administrator 68 24 14 2
4 Medical director 14 12 2 1
5 Hospital administrator 18 7 2 6
6 Hospital administrator 21 9 9 2
7 Hospital administrator 15 9 5 0
8 Hospital administrator 14 11 4 1
9 Medical director 25 17 10 4
10 Medical director 15 9 6 0
11 Medical director 9 9 5 0
12 Hospital administrator 19 4 1 0
13 Hospital administrator 28 13 7 1
Totals 307 151 78 19

administration of the survey in that the surveys were sent via overnight mail to the leader who remained in the hospital for
administration. The surveys were distributed within the firm's internal mail system but were returned directly by employees to the
researcher via U.S. mail; we included a letter from the researcher explaining the nature of the study and the steps taken to ensure
confidentiality of the data. Within two days after mailing out the surveys, we contacted the leader responsible for survey
administration to see if the package was received and the survey was administered. Of this group, 151 surveys were returned, for an
overall response rate of 49.2%, but responses with missing information on the variables used in our analysis were removed using
listwise deletion; the entire record was removed when missing data was found for any of the variables. A total of 78 surveys (25.4%
response rate) remained for analysis. Of this 78, there were no significant differences in the breakdown of responses by
respondent's job title. The breakdown of survey responses by hospital is provided in Table 1.
The annual employee attitude surveys were matched to the post-event survey using employee ID numbers. Sixteen
respondents to the post-event survey also completed the employee attitude survey. The decrease of useable responses can be
attributed to a compounding of the initial response rate on the employee survey (51.6%), the limited number of hospitals that
experienced leadership succession (25%) the turnover rate among employees (30%) which limited the ability to match from the
two surveys, and the response rate to the post event survey (49% overall) with complete data on all variables (25%). Means,
correlations and standard deviations for the post-event survey are included in Table 2.

5.3. Measures

Leader–member exchange. This was assessed in the employee attitude survey using eight items adapted from Graen & Uhl-Bien
(1995). One item from their original 7-item scale: “I know where I stand with my supervisor…I usually know how satisfied my
supervisor is with what I do” was split into two items. Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they agree or
disagree with statements on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree.” Coefficient alpha for the
LMX scale was .89 for medical directors and .92 for hospital administrators. The mean LMX score for respondents to the employee
attitude survey who also completed the post-event survey was 3.73, which is not significantly different from the mean LMX for all
respondents to the employee attitude survey (X = 3.75).
Affective reactions. These were measured in the post-event survey using anchored items that asked the subject to respond to the
questions by circling the point on a line that best described how they felt when the old team leader left. We used a three-item scale
to calculate our affective reaction measure, using anchoring terms suggested (Russell & Feldman Barrett, 1999; Watson, 2000). The
items were anchored for positive affect (depressed/elated), negative affect (relaxed/nervous) and for the hedonic direction of the
reaction (happy/sad). Coefficient alpha for the scale was .78 and they were averaged together for analysis on a single dimension.
Evaluation of prior relationship with new leader was assessed on the post-event survey by asking two questions of those who
indicated any history with the new leader prior to them taking the job. Respondents were asked to respond on 5-point scales to: “If

Table 2
Descriptive statistics and pairwise correlations for all Study 1 participants

Variable Mean SD 1 2 3 4
1. LMX w/prior leader 3.73 1.13 (.90)
2. Affective reaction 3.31 0.88 −.54a⁎ (.78)
3. Evaluation of prior relationship with new leader 4.38 0.87 −.55b .17c (.81)
4. Trust in new leader 3.37 0.93 .21a .28d⁎ .62c⁎ (.78)

⁎p b .05.
Note: Sample sizes for pairwise correlations are in footnotes. na = 16; nb = 5; nc = 31; nd = 78.
Note: Reliabilities for variables are on the diagonal.
224 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

Table 3
Study 1 regression results for trust in leader as a function of ability evaluations and affect levels after succession

No history History (step 1) History (step 2)

Affect 0.26⁎ (0.12) 0.65⁎⁎ (0.18) 0.54⁎ (0.15)
Evaluation of prior relationship with new leader 0.54⁎⁎⁎ (0.12)
N 47 31 31
R2 0.09 0.28 0.56
F 4.45⁎ 12.48⁎⁎ 19.95⁎⁎

⁎p b .05.
⁎⁎p b .01.
⁎⁎⁎p b .001.

you have worked with the new leader before, please evaluate their performance on their prior job” and, “if you have worked with
the new leader before, please evaluate the quality of your relationship with this individual on the prior job.” The responses to the
two items were correlated .72 (α = .81), so the scores were averaged for our analysis.
Trust for the new leader was measured in the post-event survey form using the 4-item trust scale developed by Mayer & Davis
(1999). Sample items include: “If I had my way, I wouldn't let my [hospital administrator/medical director] have any influence over
decisions that are important to me” (reverse scored) and “I would be willing to let my [hospital administrator/medical director]
have complete control over my future in this hospital.” Respondents were asked to respond on 5-point scales ranging from 1 for
“strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree.” Reliability for the measure in the post-event survey was α = .78. The mean trust
measure of 3.37 was not significantly different from the mean trust score in the prior employee attitude survey (X = 3.32).
Exploratory factor analysis of the 7 items in the trust and affective reactions scales revealed that two distinct factors emerged
with eigenvalues greater than 1 (Kaiser, 1960) and no cross loadings occurred where affect items loaded on the trust factor and vice
versa. While this test has substantial limitations (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003), this finding does suggest that
common method variance does not threaten the findings with regard to Hypotheses 2 and 3. Additionally, we tested for group-
level effects on the affect, trust and evaluation of the prior leader items using within and between analysis (WABA; Dansereau &
Yammarino, 2000; O'Connor, 2004). Tests revealed between and within etas for all variables that were not significantly different
from each other and statistical analysis of the within and between components revealed support for a nongrouped effect.

6. Results

6.1. Hypothesis tests

Hypothesis 1 was tested by evaluating the magnitude of the correlation between quality of the relationship measured in the
employee attitude survey and the affective reactions to the prior leader's departure reported in the post-event survey. As shown in
Table 2, sixteen participants provided information on their affective reaction to the departure, and this was significantly negatively
correlated with previously taken measures of LMX (r = −.54, p b .05). This provides support for Hypothesis 1.
To test Hypothesis 2, we used regression analysis of a subset of the data created by using the responses of the group who
indicated that they had no prior history with the leader (n = 47). We found that there was a significant relationship between the
affective reaction to the prior leader's departure and the evaluation of trust in the new leader (B = 0.26, t = 2.11, p b .05; see Table 3).
Hypothesis 2 was supported for the positive relationship between affective reactions and the trust judgment in the new leader.
To test Hypothesis 3, we used hierarchical linear regression to test the relationships between affect and the evaluation of the
quality of the prior relationship with the new leader against the response variable of trust in the new leader within the sample that
reported a history with that leader (n = 31). First we entered the affect term into the model. As shown in Table 3, the coefficient for
affect is significant (B = 0.65, t = 3.72, p b .01). When added in at the next step, the regression term for the evaluation of the
relationship with the leader in their prior job on the trust evaluation was significant (B = 0.54, t = 4.41, p b .01). The incremental
change in R2 created by adding this term to the model was .28 (p b .01). Hypothesis 3 is supported in that the evaluation of the new
leader's ability was a significant predictor of trust for individuals with prior information or evaluations of an incoming leader over
and above the affective reaction to the succession event.

6.2. Study 1 discussion

This research testing the role of affect in trust judgments in a field setting provides some promising findings and points to other
issues that need to be investigated in a more controlled setting. First, the results provide support for the notion that a work group
member's affective reactions to succession events are based in part on the quality of the relationship they had with the prior leader.
Second, the results do provide support for the notion that these affective reactions to the succession event play a role in group
members' trust judgments of new leaders unless they have access to previously formed judgments about the leader's ability. Those
employees that needed to engage in complex processing to evaluate a novel target made affect-congruent judgments that were
primarily based in their affective reaction to the event.
The study has significant limitations that constrain our ability to draw strong conclusions about when and where affect
impacted those cognitive processes that form judgments regarding trust in a target. First, because we asked participants to recall
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 225

their affective reaction to an event rather than report their current affective reaction, the extent to which this response correctly
captures their actual experience of the event may be called into question (Robinson & Clore, 2002). While there is little evidence
that the direction of the affective reaction recalled will change over a period as short as one week (Holmes, 1990), there may be
some doubt as to whether the measurement accurately reflects the intensity of the affective reaction to the event. Additionally,
practical limitations regarding the length of the survey and time constraints placed on us by the sponsoring organization placed
restrictions on the measurement of affective reactions to leader departure; we were not able to include more items in the affect
The inability to anticipate leadership changes required us to use LMX data from an annual employee opinion survey. This led to
a problem of matching respondents over a long period of time which reduced the sample available to test Hypothesis 1. The normal
pattern of turnover among employees and the compounding of response rates are two of the main reasons for the reduced sample.
While the correlations found are statistically significant even given the small sample sizes, the number of respondents per work
group is small enough to raise concerns about the stability of our findings. Nevertheless, we believe that the interesting nature of
the questions involved and the opportunity to test our hypotheses in a field setting justify publication of results from the data set
(Peterson, Smith, & Martorana, 2006).
Models of affect infusion in interpersonal judgments are generally concerned with how current mood or affective state impacts
these judgments (Forgas, 1995; Forgas & Bower, 1987). The field setting in this study restricted our ability to precisely measure
these relationships; specifically, to test these hypotheses using multiple measures of state affect rather than affective reactions. In
order to strengthen our ability to test the relationships between affect, judgments of leader trustworthiness and trust in the leader,
we designed a more controlled setting where we could test these hypotheses using measures that would be administered during a
simulation of succession processes at multiple points of time.

7. Study 2: succession simulation

7.1. Sample and procedures

116 students enrolled in an undergraduate management course at a large Midwestern university were solicited to volunteer to
participate in a 3-week contest with the purported intent being to test learning effects on group performance. Students
participated in 16 groups ranging in size from 5 to 8 members. Sixteen participants were randomly assigned to the role of leaders of
the groups leaving 100 members of groups. Because of their role as leaders the 16 participants did not provide any data that were
used in the testing of our hypotheses reducing our available sample to 100. In addition, three participants dropped out during the
study and their data were excluded from analyses. Sixty-five of the 97 participants were male (67%) and the average age was
20.8 years. Ninety-four participants reported that they had held a paying job (96%) and the average tenure on the job that they had
held the longest was 25 months. Of the 16 group leaders selected at random for the study, 8 were male and 8 were female.
Participants were told that the contest involved the completion of group projects with prizes awarded at each trial and a larger
prize ($400) for the team that performed the best work over the course of the study. Participants were randomly assigned as either
leaders or group members at the beginning of the experiment. In order to facilitate the leadership succession manipulation, two
groups participated during each time slot; when the succession event took place, the leaders of the two groups in that time slot
changed groups. The time slots for the groups were equally divided between Monday/Wednesday trials and Tuesday/Thursday
trials. Each group participated in one trial on any given day, meaning that the study took place over a three week period. The trials
ran approximately 30 min in duration, depending on how long the students took to complete the trial.
On first reporting to the rooms where the study was conducted, the group members were introduced to each other and their
leader. Participants then completed instruments assessing their affect levels and attitudes toward the group and their trust in the
group leader. After all the forms were completed, participants were briefed on the rules of the contest and the rules for completing
the assembly task. All participants were told that the group with the lowest (best) time for each trial would receive a prize of $5 per
person and that the group that performed the best for the study would receive a prize of $400 to be divided amongst them based in
part on the leader's evaluation of their performance.
The group members were then provided all of the parts of two disassembled Lego™ block toys. Participants were told that the
group's task was to assemble the two toys in the fastest possible time using a set of instructions provided. The group leader and
members were told that the group leader was the only one who could have access to the instructions and that the group's score for
contest purposes was the time taken to complete the project and then they were asked to start work. When the group believed that
it had finished assembling the toy, the group leader informed the researcher to stop timing and inspect the work product. If it was
judged complete, the time was entered as official for the group. The group members then completed forms evaluating the leader's
abilities and performance, while the group leader left the room to complete performance evaluations for the group members. The
group leader's responsibilities, along with controlling access to the instructions for the work product, were to evaluate the
performance of the individual group members after completion of each trial and to determine the share of the $400 that each
person would receive if the group won the final prize. Standings of the teams in relation to the determination of the winner of the
final prize were posted on a web site with the address for the site e-mailed to all participants. This process was repeated for three
trials. Group members and leaders were kept the same and the rules did not change. The process is summarized in Fig. 1.
The manipulation of leadership succession took place between sessions 3 and 4. At the start of the fourth trial, group leaders
were pulled aside prior to meeting with their groups and told to report to a different room. When the remainder of the group
reported for the trial, they were informed by the researcher that the group leader had been replaced. Participants were asked to
226 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

Fig. 1. Order of measurement and activity in Study 2. Note: At the start of Trial 4, where succession event occurred, subjects were told of the succession, completed
affect forms first, met the new leader for 1 min, and then completed the trust forms after the leader departed.

complete the forms assessing affect levels and attitudes towards the group and task while awaiting the arrival of a new leader. After
this form was completed, the new leader was introduced and given 1 min to talk about the task with their new group members.
Following this discussion, the leader left the room and participants completed the trust evaluation of the new leader and answered
questions regarding their prior experiences in working with this individual. The new leader was then brought back into the room.
Group members then conducted the same assembly task as they had the first three trials. The group and the new leader repeated
the same task for the remaining three trials (Trials 4 through 6).

7.2. Measures

Affective reactions. Given the control over measurement afforded by the laboratory setting, we used a more precise
measurement process (relative to Study 1) of affective state as a means of assessing affective reactions to the event. Positive
and negative affect were measured at the beginning of each trial during the study using the 20 item PANAS scales developed by
Watson, Clark, & Tellegen (1988). The scale consists of 20 words describing different feelings and emotions. Each trial,
participants were asked to indicate how “you feel this way right now, that is, at the present moment.” These scores are referred
to as momentary measures of affect. The possible scores for each scale (positive and negative affect) range from 10 to 50.
Positive affect was determined by summing the responses on the ten items: interested, excited, strong, enthusiastic, proud,
alert, inspired, attentive, determined, and active. Negative affect was determined by summing the responses on the ten items:
scared, afraid, upset, distressed, jittery, nervous, ashamed, guilty, irritable and hostile. Coefficient alpha for the 10-item positive
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 227

affect scale was .92. The mean scores for positive affect for Trials 3–5 were 2.78, 2.89 and 2.64 respectively. Only the difference
between Trials 4 and 5 were significant, t (92) = 4.69, p b .001. Coefficient alpha for the 10-item negative affect scale was .88. The
mean scores for negative affect for Trials 3–5 were 1.41, 1.56 and 1.34 respectively. Only the difference between Trials 4 and 5
were significant, t (92) = 4.04, p b .001. The two variables were not significantly correlated at any of the trials, which is
consistent with propositions regarding the independence of the two factors when measuring current affective states (Watson
et al., 1988). It is interesting to note that the highest levels of affect for both positive and negative affect were observed on Trial
4, which was immediately after the change in leaders. This could indicate that the succession event itself introduced a more
affectively charged atmosphere across all members of the groups. This is consistent with prior research on succession as a
“disruptive” force in work groups (Grusky, 1960). Affective reactions to the succession event were assessed by using these affect
scores taken at specific points in time as variables in an analysis of covariance equation (for Hypothesis 1) and as independent
variables using regression approaches to difference scores (Edwards & Cooper, 1990) for Hypotheses 2 and 3.
Trust for the leader was measured using the four-item scale developed by Mayer & Davis (1999) and two additional ones
developed for this study. The two items added were “my group leader keeps my interests in mind when making decisions” and “I
would prefer there to be a rule that required a group vote before the leader implements a decision” (reverse scored). Coefficient
alpha for the 6-item trust scale measured at Trial 4 was .68. The mean trust score for the new leaders at Trial 4 was 3.02 (SD = 0.49)
and at Trial 5 the mean was 3.08 (SD = 0.47). The difference between the scores at the two trials was not significant, t (93) = −1.22, ns.
We tested the Hypotheses using both the 6-item scale described above and the four items used in Study 1 and this does not affect
the conclusions reached with regard to either hypothesis.
Leader ability was measured at each trial after the completion of the object using three items from Mayer & Davis (1999) that
assess the group members' perception of the ability of the group leader. Respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which
they agree or disagree with statements on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree.” A sample
item assessing the ability dimension: “my leader is very capable of performing his/her job.” This variable was measured after the
completion of the experimental task on each trial. Coefficient alpha for the ability measure was .80 and the mean score for new
leader ability at Trial 4 was 3.38 (SD = 0.64).
History with the leader was assessed after the introduction of the new leader at the start of Trial 4 by asking respondents to
answer three “yes” or “no” questions: “I had met the [leader] before they took the current job”, “I was familiar with the [leader's]
work before they took the current job”, and “I worked directly with the [leader] before they took this job.” If the respondent
answered yes to any of these questions they were coded as “1” for having a prior history with the new leader. Nineteen participants
indicated that they had some history with the leader prior to the change; these participants were excluded from analysis of
Hypothesis 2.
Leader past performance was assessed as a control variable using the standings points score for the group which the leader
participated in during Trials 1–3. This was done because rewards for the exercise were determined by standings points as opposed
to total times. These standings points were calculated by giving 1 point to the group with the best time, 2 points to the group with
the second best time, and continuing in that pattern until 16 points were awarded to the group with the worst time for a trial. These
standings points were cumulative across the trials. Participants were made aware of the performance of all teams participating in
the study through the dissemination of standings on a web site that was made available to all participants.

8. Results

8.1. Hypothesis tests

Means, standard deviations and correlations for the variables in Study 2 are presented in Table 4. Hypothesis 1 involved
the testing of the change in momentary affect levels reported by participants at Trial 3 (before succession) and Trial 4 (after

Table 4
Means, standard deviations and correlations for Study 2 (N = 97)

Variable Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
1 Positive affect (Trial 3) 2.78 0.78
2 Positive affect (Trial 4) 2.89 0.81 .79
3 Positive affect (Trial 5) 2.64 0.78 .77 .74
4 Negative affect (Trial 3) 1.41 0.48 .02 .00 .00
5 Negative affect (Trial 4) 1.56 0.62 .09 .01 .16 .53
6 Negative affect (Trial 5) 1.34 0.48 .06 −.03 .07 .62 .57
7 LMX (Trial 3) 3.18 0.52 .18 .13 .12 −.21 −.04 −.10
8 LMX (Trial 4) 3.10 0.44 .26 .21 .29 −.12 −.17 −.12 .44
9 LMX (Trial 5) 3.09 0.42 .16 .12 .15 −.14 −.07 −.01 .31 .63
10 Trust (Trial 4) 3.02 0.49 .10 .07 .07 −.08 −.33 −.15 .04 .43 .18
11 Trust (Trial 5) 3.08 0.47 .24 .22 .27 −.13 −.30 −.14 .09 .43 .46 .59
12 Ability (Trial 4) 3.38 0.63 .17 .20 .28 −.05 −.03 .02 .06 .54 .32 .34 .39
13 History with leader 0.19 0.40 .01 .07 .10 −.08 .10 .03 .12 .06 .03 .06 .14 .26
14 Leader's prior performance 25.39 9.60 −.03 −.02 −.13 .08 .11 .03 −.01 .08 .20 − .03 − .07 − .13 − .33

Note: Correlations above .20 are significant at p b .05 level.

228 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

succession). The statistical analysis was conducted using Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA), which controls for pretest scores in the
prediction of posttest levels of the dependent variable. In ANCOVA, the pretest score is included as an independent variable along
with the other independent variables of interest. We constructed an ANCOVA to test Hypothesis 1 using the measure of LMX
collected at the end of Trial 3 and the affect measures collected from participants at the start of Trials 3 and 4. The results show that,
when controlling for positive affect and negative affect measured at the start of Trial 3, LMX with the prior leader was not a
significant predictor of positive affect when measured at the start of Trial 4 (β = −0.02, t = −0.20, ns) nor was it a significant predictor
of negative affect when measured at the start of Trial 4 (β = 0.09, t = 0.80, ns). Hypothesis 1 was not supported.
Hypothesis 2 concerned the issue of whether the change in affect levels that resulted from the succession event influenced the
initial evaluation of leader trustworthiness. Because group members were evaluating the same leader, we were concerned that
their responses might be correlated, thereby violating a critical regression assumption. We therefore used a form of regression
models referred to as generalized estimating equations (GEE) as a means of controlling for this correlation in analyzing responses
at the individual level of analysis (Ballinger, 2004; Hardin & Hilbe, 2003; Liang & Zeger, 1986). GEE accounts for within-group
correlation of responses by using a working correlation matrix estimated from those correlations found within groups on the
dependent variable in forming the regression estimates and their associated variances. This method avoids biases frequently seen
in repeated measures analysis of variance and also generally produces more conservative (larger) estimates of variances (Diggle,
Heagerty, Liang, & Zeger, 2003). Hypotheses 2 and 3 were tested using GEE by regressing the affective reaction scores on the trust
measure taken after the succession event. Because there were fewer than 20 groups involved (Horton & Lipsitz, 1999), the
correlation within-group was accounted for using the “exchangeable” form of the working correlation matrix, which assigns an
average value of within-group correlation across the groups, and we used the empirical standard error estimates to test the
parameters for significance.
To test Hypothesis 2, we had to ensure a dyad had not worked with each other on the experimental task and that they had not
worked with each other on other tasks prior to the experiment. To do this, we restricted the sample to those 79 participants who
indicated that they did not have any prior history with the new leader. Group members had access to one potentially critical source
of objective information about the leader's trustworthiness beyond their personal knowledge of the leader's ability: they could
have been aware of the performance of the new leader's group relative to their own. To rule out this information as source of
variance in initial trust judgments, we controlled for the performance of the new leader's team prior to the change.
Following appropriate practice for measuring change (Edwards & Cooper, 1990), we entered the terms for affect measured
before (Trial 3) and after (Trial 4) the succession simultaneously into the GEE regression predicting trust in the new leader
(at Trial 4). Using this method, the GEE regression term for negative affect at Trial 4 is significant and negative (B = −0.54, Z = −6.06,
p b .001) and the regression term for negative affect at Trial 3 is significant and positive (B = 0.39, Z = 3.55, p b .001). This implies that
when negative affect levels are higher, the judgment of trust in the new leader is lower. However, the regression term for positive
affect at Trial 4 is not significant (B = 0.10, Z = 1.25, ns). This method provides limited support for Hypothesis 2 in that negative
affective reactions are related to trust judgments, while positive affective reactions are not. Interestingly, the measure for the new
leader's prior performance is also a significant predictor of initial trust levels (B = 0.01, Z = 3.47, p b .001). The regression results are
shown in Table 5.
In Hypothesis 3 we proposed that prior knowledge about the leader would account for variance in the measure of initial trust
over and above that that of the affect measures. We tested Hypothesis 3 using data collected in two trials after the succession event
took place, specifically at Trials 4 and 5. After one trial with the new leader, we propose that the evaluation of trust in the leader will
be based on their prior evaluation of the leader's ability as assessed after completing the construction of the object during Trial 4
over and above the role affect may play in this judgment. To test this hypothesis, we removed the restriction on prior history with
the group leader, as now all group members had some working history with this individual. We tested this using hierarchical GEE
regression, entering the two affect terms at Step 1 and then entering the ability evaluation term at Step 2 to predict trust in the
leader at the start of Trial 5. The significance of the ability term over and above the variance explained by the affect terms is
determined in GEE using the difference in the −2 log likelihood goodness of fit statistics for the 2 equations. This statistic is
evaluated against the chi-square distribution. GEE regression results for Hypothesis 3 are summarized in Table 6.
When examining the results for Step 1, the evaluation of trust at Trial 5 is not significantly associated with negative affect at
Trial 5 (B = −0.14, Z = −1.76, ns) but is significantly associated with positive affect at Trial 5 (B = 0.18, Z = 3.15, p b .01). The −2 log

Table 5
Study 2 GEE regression results for trust in new leader at Trial 4 as a function of affect levels assessed before and after succession (N = 78)

Variable Trust in new leader

Negative affect at Trial 3 0.39⁎⁎⁎ (0.11)
Negative affect at Trial 4 − 0.54⁎⁎⁎ (0.09)
Positive affect at Trial 3 0.10 (0.08)
Positive affect at Trial 4 − 0.16 (0.09)
Leader prior performance record 0.01⁎⁎ (0.00)
Constant 2.66⁎⁎⁎ (0.20)
−2 log likelihood −39.49
Pseudo – R2 .19

⁎p b .05. ⁎⁎p b .01. ⁎⁎⁎p b .001.

Note: N = 78 because these are tests for subjects who had not worked with or met new leader prior to succession.
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 229

Table 6
Study 2 GEE regression results for trust in leader at Trial 5 as a function of ability evaluations and affect levels after succession (N = 97)

Step 1 Step 2
Negative affect at Trial 5 −0.14 (0.08) −0.14 (0.09)
Positive affect at Trial 5 0.18⁎ (0.06) 0.12⁎ (0.05)
Ability at Trial 4 0.25⁎⁎ (0.08)
Constant 2.79⁎ (0.16) 2.09⁎⁎ (0.28)
−2 log likelihood −57.86 − 51.88
Change in −2 LL 5.98⁎⁎

⁎p b .05. ⁎⁎p b .01.

likelihood statistic for the equation is −57.86. When the term for ability, measured at the end of Trial 4, is added to the model,
perceived ability of the leader is a significant predictor of trust beyond the variance accounted for by both positive and negative
affect (B = 0.25, Z = 3.48, p b .001). The −2 log likelihood for the full model is −51.88 (Δ-2LL = 5.98, χ2 (1) b .05), indicating that the
addition of the evaluation of ability significantly improved the model's ability to predict evaluations of trust at Trial 5. Hypothesis 3
is supported.
As part of an ex post facto examination of links between affective reactions to succession events and group performance, we
tested the proposed relationships between average changes in affectivity and trust and trust and performance at the group level.
We found no significant relationships between the affective reactions to succession (in terms of PA or NA) and average trust levels,
nor did we find a relationship at the group level between trust and group performance. When testing a relationship between
change in PA and group performance on the trial following the succession event (Trial 4), we found a significant relationship. Using
the difference score regression approach (Edwards & Cooper, 1990), we found the regression terms for PA at Trial 4 and PA at Trial 3
were significant and in the expected direction. This demonstrates that an increase in PA at the group level was associated with
improved group performance. We did not find a similar relationship for the change in NA.

8.2. Study 2 discussion

These results provide confirmation of certain relationships seen in Study 1 in that the measures are spaced enough in time to
permit us to draw tighter conclusions regarding the role of affect in initial trust judgments. We measured affect at Trial 4
immediately following the announcement of the change in leaders (and prior to the introduction of a new leader), and then let the
participants meet with the new leader for a controlled period of time (1 min) before assessing their initial level of trust. Even
controlling for other information participants who had never met the leader may have had, affective state played a significant role
in the trust assessment. But once the group members engaged in the experimental task and saw the leader in action, they could
form judgments of the trustworthiness of their new leader. These were measured after the completion of the task and it was these
judgments (rather than affective state) that were significant predictors of subsequent trust in the new leader.
We only tested these hypotheses for new leader–member dyads at Trial 4 (as opposed to Trial 1 and Trial 4) because participants
would have had sufficient experience with the experimental task (which did not change throughout he course of the study) to
evaluate the leader's ability in regard to the task. Having seen another leader perform his or her duties in three trials, they could
form judgments about the proper role of that individual in the task. In addition, we did not have data on participants' prior working
relationships with the group leader at Trial 1; this was assessed only prior to the start of the experimental task in Trial 4.
There are certain limitations to note in Study 2. First, the use of a contest for a prize in the laboratory may lack sufficient external
validity and generalizability to the workplace setting. To overcome this, we made the prize sufficiently large enough to hopefully
induce sufficient motivation and kept the groups together over a sufficient length of time (3 meetings over one and a half weeks) to
build some sense of group identity and attachment to the leader. A second limitation is that the position of the leader in this
exercise may have lacked the position power to be seen by followers as having sufficient influence over the outcome. We
attempted, in the design of the study, to increase the leader's control over critical resources (the instructions, the perceived power
to evaluate performance, the perceived control over distribution of rewards) and the total amount of time (the 3 meetings with
each leader took place over 1 ½ weeks) for the possibility that differential levels of exchange relationships would form within the
group. We observe some variance in LMX scores in Study 2 (SD = .42–.52), but less than in the field study (SD = 1.13). This placed a
limitation on the amount of leader–member exchange that developed in the study. Additionally, Study 2 was a within-subject
design with no control group, which means that we can't explicitly rule out the existence of an additional factor (other than
affective reaction to leadership succession) that might drive results. In order to test whether the phenomenon occurred at the
individual level rather than the group level, we did run WABA (Dansereau & Yammarino, 2000) and the results provided support
for a non-grouped, or equivocal induction on this relationship.

9. General discussion and conclusions

The results of the studies taken together provide support for the notion that individual group members' affective reactions to
leadership succession play a role in the formation of trust-related judgments of new group leaders. As predicted, the quality of the
relationship with the prior leader was related to a change in affective state in the field, but this predicted relationship was not
230 G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232

found in the laboratory setting. The significant effect in the field as opposed to the lab provides evidence that this relationship is
more generalizable to organizational settings where access to high-quality LMX relationships are integral to reaching career goals
and where presumably more time has been invested in the creation of deeper exchange relationships (Graen & Scandura, 1987).
The results of this research provide support for theoretical models of trust development that involve affective state as a
predictor of trust-related judgments and motivation to trust (Williams, 2001). In Study 2, we found that an individual's increase in
negative affect was negatively related to their initial trust judgment of the new leader. This research also represents an extension of
the Williams (2001) model in that we test how an individuals' interpretation of a prior event influences their trust-related
judgments and motivation to trust through changing their affective state. These results also provide support for the Affect Infusion
Model (Forgas & George, 2001) in that they demonstrate the influence of affective state on the complex cognitive processes
involved in forming trust-related judgments of new leaders. The relationship between affective reaction and trust-related
judgments was supported in both studies with some caveats. As noted above, we did not observe a change in positive affect in the
laboratory setting and therefore did not find a relationship between positive affect and initial trust for the new leader. There was a
significant effect for negative affect as predicted. In the field study, reported affective reactions were related to judgments of the
trustworthiness of the new leader.
This research also demonstrates that incoming group leaders should move to establish a perception of their ability with each
individual group member in that this judgment appears to drive evaluations of trust in the new leader that occur after the first
meeting. These judgments slowly take over the role of affect in those early trust judgments that are critical in the formation of
exchange relationships (Bauer & Green, 1996) because they determine whether group members will trust the new leader not to
take advantage of them in the delegation of work tasks. A major implication of these findings is that leaders who can achieve early
success can overcome the potential damage of affectively charged succession processes. Organizations should gear leadership
development training efforts to drive new group leaders to achieve success in early initiatives. Success will increase the perception
of the leader's ability, which can increase the level of trust in the new leader. These successes are critical in separating the trust
evaluation from an affective reaction to the old leader's departure.
These results may also help shed light on the group-level outcomes of leadership succession processes in organizations.
Currently, research on a group-level effect of leadership succession on performance has shown inconsistent results (Kesner &
Sebora, 1994; Rowe et al., 2005). Ballinger & Schoorman (2007) discuss the extent to which individual reactions to succession
events can be used to build a better understanding of the link between succession and group performance. The results of this
research indicate that groups where key performers had high quality relationships with the departing leader may suffer in a
performance context as these members have trouble forming relationships with the new group leader. Ballinger & Schoorman
(2007) also noted that the impact of the context surrounding the succession is likely to play a role in subsequent outcomes through
its impact on the intensity of the affective reaction to the event. For example, in cases where the succession is a surprise to the
individuals in the work group, the affective reactions are more likely to be intense. In cases of non-voluntary succession, members
with high quality relationships with the departing leader may feel more intensely negative affective reactions. And in cases where
the departing leader stays inside the firm (e.g., promotion), the affective reactions to succession are likely to be muted.
These are important results for the leadership and trust literatures because they indicate that leader–member exchange
relationships do not start from a blank slate but are influenced by the quality of the prior relationships held by the members of the
work group. This is important for several reasons: first, it means that certain group members may not evaluate new group leaders
fairly based solely on characteristic of the new group leader; the affective reaction that carries over can form a residue that colors
their perception of the new leader's actions. Second, it implies that exchange relationships are driven both by the behavior of the
new leader and the willingness of the work group member to engage in such a relationship (Bauer & Green, 1996). Researchers
have shown that an individual's expectations regarding the LMX relationship are predictive of the subsequent strength of that
relationship (Liden et al., 1993). It is possible that, for the employee, these expectations are impacted by the affective reaction to the
end of the prior LMX relationship. These findings indicate that some individuals in the group will be more open to incoming
leaders' efforts to quickly open up the kind of high-quality exchange relationships needed to be successful. Group members with
increased levels of negative affect may not wish to form a high quality relationship with a subsequent leader and this can certainly
impact the dynamics of the work group after a succession event. Third, it suggests that organizations should place a greater
emphasis on training new leaders of work groups by briefing them on the relationships that existed in the group prior to the
departure of the prior leader. A critical part of succession planning and training in organizations should be devoted to teaching new
group leaders skills in forming new trust relationships with group members who may still feel attached to the prior group leader.
Finally, it suggests that organizations should take steps through organizational communications to make the new leader's abilities
known to the work group so that judgments of the new leader's trustworthiness will be driven by these ability judgments rather
than by affect.
As we have noted throughout this paper, each of the studies has its strengths and weaknesses. Studying leadership
succession in the field is especially complicated because of the need to wait for naturally occurring succession events. This also
leads to the need to measure the affective reactions in retrospect. The inability to anticipate leadership changes required us to
either rely on retrospective measures of LMX with the previous leader or utilize measures that were collected on the previous
annual survey; this led to a problem of matching respondents over a long period of time which reduced the sample available to
test Hypothesis 1. In the two studies that we have presented we have tried to balance the advantages and limitations of
multiple approaches to testing these hypotheses. The lab study was an investigation of how changes in levels of affect (Frijda,
1993; Russell & Feldman Barrett, 1999), which are related to differences in cognitive processing styles, interpersonal
evaluations and communication strategies (Forgas, 2000; Forgas & George, 2001), impact initial trust judgments. The field
G.A. Ballinger et al. / The Leadership Quarterly 20 (2009) 219–232 231

study involved an investigation of how participants retrospective assessments of shifts in core affect impacted their process of
forming stable evaluations of the trustworthiness of their new group leader. While the direction of the affective reaction is
remembered for some time, the intensity of the anxiety and nervousness that the subject experienced in the chaotic times
during the succession event that was captured in the laboratory could have faded by the time the measure was taken in the
field. One advantage of the use of two studies is that this allowed us to test affective reactions to the succession event as they
exist in autobiographical memory as well as in contemporaneous reactions to the event. Another advantage of the use of the
two studies is that it allowed us the chance to more precisely investigate the role of affective reactions in the mechanics of the
trust-building process in the lab once such phenomena were identified in the field.
Finally, the findings of this study represent an initial step in the process of uncovering the immediate effects of leadership
succession on individuals. One obvious benefit of understanding these reactions is that it will help us better understand why some
individuals might be at increased risk of leaving the work group when their leader departs. Further research in this area needs to
look at patterns of attitude and behavior change in the months after succession events. Future research should focus on how the
context of the succession event and the origin of the successor may alter or heighten the affective reactions of group members to
the event and impact the formation of new leader–follower relationships. Longitudinal research on leadership succession will help
us test propositions on how new trust and exchange relationships are formed between incumbent team members and new leaders
of work groups. Understanding individual processes and reactions to a change in the leadership of the work group work provides a
means of “building up” theory predicting how succession is likely to impact group effectiveness.


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