We integrate social sciences with an experimental (neuro)cognitive perspective to unravel the basic psychophysiological processes underlying constructive and destructive leadership behaviour.

In our research on leadership we focus on cognitive processes – such as cognitive control, response inhibition, adaptive rule breaking, and implicit evaluations – and investigate them using an experimental approach, physiological measures (eye tracking, SCL, HRV), and neurophysiological correlates (EEG, ERPc, qEEG).

Current Projects

Diving deeper into the dark: Current conceptual and methodological challenges in the investigation of destructive leadership

Destructive leadership in its various sub-forms has devastating negative consequences and, thus, necessitates nuanced empirical investigations into root causes as well as moderating contextual factors in order to better understand how individuals and organisations can react to and /or prevent it. Empirical research focusing on destructive leadership is steadily increasing throughout the last two decades. We aim at systematically analysing the status quo in the empirical evaluation of destructive leadership with respect to definitions, concepts, methods of assessment, consequences, and antecedents. Therefore, we work on reviews to outline current methodological and conceptual challenges in the field and avenues to overcome these challenges via a more direct assessment of behaviour, person, and environment. We find it important to highlight the opportunities but at the same time the limits which laboratory experiments, cognitive measures, and (neuro)physiological methods bring to the table when investigating leadership. We want to ground our empirical work in the theoretical reflections necessary to advance research on destructive leadership and elevate it to the next level of empirical investigation.

Work in Progress

Towards a more valid assessment of behavioural aggression: An open source platform and an empirically derived scoring method for using the Competitive Reaction Time Task (CRTT)

Diving deeper into the dark: Current challenges in the investigation of destructive leadership 

For further details contact Franziska Emmerling.

Explicit and implicit follower evaluation of differential leadership behaviour

Leadership is not only based on a leader’s actions, but emerges from followers’ perceptions of and reactions to these actions. To date, current leadership research is mostly mono-methodological, mainly based on explicit but introspective measures (i.e., self- and other-report), and has not emphasised the cognitive and psychophysiological formation process of followers' perceptions. We investigate how the perception of a leader is formed and how various leadership behaviours affect this perception.

To investigate the perception of leadership, we revert to established psychometric measures of implicit and explicit evaluations and implement them in a leadership-specific paradigm. Within this paradigm, neutral face stimuli are randomly associated with group affiliations and corresponding behavioural examples; afterwards implicit and explicit evaluations of those face stimuli (now associated with a group or a specific type of behaviour) are measured on multiple dimensions.

We use this approach to measure followers explicit and implicit evaluations of various constructive as well as destructive leadership styles. Furthermore, we investigate the differences between explicit and implicit evaluations of consistent and inconsistent leaders’ situational behaviours, i.e. behaviour that is (in)consistent with the leader’s overall leadership style. This will help us to understand cognitive processes underlying perception formation and, thus, the reason why specific followers perceive specific leaders in a specific way.

Methods: computerised tasks, implicit cognition, eye tracking, introspective data, electroencephalogram

Work in Progress

Exploiting paired associative learning to measure implicit and explicit evaluations of virtual personas

Designing and validating vignettes to induce constructive versus destructive leadership in experimental set-ups

Cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying implicit reactions of followers towards differential leadership behaviour

For further details contact Hannah Kunde.

Conditional rule breaking and creativity in entrepreneurship

To understand the personal characteristics of entrepreneurs is vital, for it allows to access and describe individual antecedents of entrepreneurial activity. To foster this understanding, we thoroughly investigate a variety of personal behaviour and characteristics and how they relate to entrepreneurship. We specifically focus on conditional rule breaking, personality traits, risk taking behaviour, and creativity.

Conditional rule breaking is the skill to decide whether to follow or break a rule in a particular decision-making situation according to the consequence and the self-interests of the rule breaker. Creativity is the process of generating novel and useful ideas. Both concepts share the underlying cognitive operation of violating norms to obtain a favourable outcome by following internal goals. Both skills are based on a specific form of rule breaking action, namely one that can lead to positive results. Exactly this form of rule breaking skill is a substantial underpinning of successful entrepreneurship.

Therefore, we study in laboratory settings how conditional rule breaking and creativity as well as their cognitive and neurophysiological underpinnings play a role in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, we are interested in getting a holistic picture of the personal antecedents of entrepreneurship and, thus, focus not only on the cognitive side of entrepreneurship but also on personality traits such as risk aversity, narcissism, or impulsivity.

Our research on the individual characteristics of entrepreneurship on the level of cognition and personality will help to understand which individuals are especially suited to undertake entrepreneurial activities and how entrepreneurs can be optimally supported in their work.

Methods: electroencephalogram, eye tracking, computerised tasks, introspective data

Work in Progress

Conditional rule-breaking and its relationship to narcissism and entrepreneurial orientation

The neural link between conditional rule-breaking, creativity, and entrepreneurship – an EEG study

For further details contact Leidy Cubillos-Pinilla.

Robot leadership

Digitalisation is causing new challenges and creating opportunities for organisations. Recent technological advancements have put social robotics on the map of researchers. Robots have been used primarily to support humans in dangerous or menial tasks. However, their increasing social capabilities and functions have created amplified potential for being used in highly complex domains. As recent research shows that humans are able to trust and cooperate with robots, we raise the question whether robots can not only be accepted as coworkers, but also as leaders, and therewith influence human work.

To answer this question, we work on implementing leadership behaviours in social robots and investigate

  • how robot leaders compare to human leaders,
  • how different specific leadership styles displayed by robots are perceived by human followers, and
  • which specific role the dark side of leadership plays in robot leadership.

With this research, we will improve our understanding of robot leaders, generate insights for the field of human-robot interaction pertaining to robots in positions of authority, and extend our knowledge on contexts in which robot leaders will be of benefit compared to more traditional leaders.

Methods: social robotics, introspective data, physiology

Work in Progress

Robot leadership – human reaction to differential behaviour in robot leaders

Evaluating the potential of Virtual Reality for leadership diagnostics and training

For further details contact Jakub Cichor.