Leaders Who Elicit Other-Praising Emotions
Leaders Who Elicit Other-Praising Emotions
  • Jinhee Kim Asociate Professor
  • 승인 2017.05.24 20:37
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Leaders, regardless of the scale of their organization, expect that members of the organization fulfill their responsibility, show passion about their work, and commit to the organization. If members work hard not because of external pressure or monetary reward but because of internal and voluntary motivation, the organization will be able to achieve its goals based on mutual trust. Leaders may elicit various positive and negative emotions, but in this column, I would like to focus on the former, particularly other-praising emotions.    
All human beings can be selfish, but at the same time, they can also be motivated to behave morally. In this context, what are other-praising emotions? They reflect the bright side of moral emotion and are different from other-condemning emotions (e.g., anger, disgust) and other-suffering emotions (e.g., empathy). According to a social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, other-praising emotions include gratitude, awe, and elevation arising from witnessing others’ exemplary actions. We feel grateful when another person has done a good deed for us, and we want to repay a similar favor to the benefactor. However, gratitude may not motivate us to help others who are not our direct benefactor. We feel awe when we experience fright and amazement at the same time, such as witnessing the natural beauty or exceptional human abilities (e.g., skill or talent). Awe makes us stop and admire; however, this response may be elicited from observing non-moral excellence. Finally, elevation as a particular case of awe can be elicited from observing others who show self-sacrifice, kindness, charity and generosity, human dignity and virtues. This moral beauty or moral excellence is distinguished from the natural beauty or aesthetic beauty and does not just mean perfection.
Several leaders who demonstrate moral excellence and thus elicit elevation are noteworthy. Dan Price, a CEO of Gravity Payments, cut 90% his salary to give his employees a higher basic pay (i.e., $70,000.00 as the amount needed to live a normal life according to him). He made this decision to tackle inequality. Ilhan Yoo, a Korean enterpriser and founder of Yuhan Co, Ltd, donated all his money to future education when he died and excluded his family including a son and all other relatives from administrating the company. Soongyum Hong, a CEO of the East Piston, returned a resignation letter from an employee who lost his daughter from Sewol ferry disaster. The father felt sorry and guilty not being at the work when he had to stay longer in Jindo’s Paengmok Port. However, the president Hong said that he could not even imagine the unfortunate situation and suggested that they could talk after the things have been handled. Moreover, the president Hong had been providing paychecks over seven months continuously before the father returned to the work after he had found her daughter’s dead body. These three exemplars demonstrate moral excellence that depicts interpersonal fairness, self-sacrifice, and kindness. Those who encounter these exemplars’ stories through social media or regular news may experience elevation, although they are not directly related to these situations.     
When experiencing elevation, we feel heart-warmed, uplifted, inspired, and blends of happiness and sadness. We also experience unique physical responses, such as tears crying, opening in the chest, and lump in the throat. Importantly, elevation motivates us to have generalized pro-social desires to become a better person, help other people that include an unspecified number of the general public, and donate money to charity. The scope of elevation is much larger than that of gratitude and admiration. Gratitude motivates us to repay a similar favor to just a benefactor (not strangers). Similarly, admiration drives us to improve ourselves for the purpose of personal achievement and success. According to a social psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotions broaden our “momentary thought-action repertoire” rather than narrow down our attention to a problem. Elevation as a remarkable positive moral emotion fits well with this notion.
The vision of POSTECH is to “become an entrepreneurship university that contributes to the nation and nurtures creative global leaders with excellence and a sound personal value system.” You are already leaders and can be leaders soon. If you as leaders want to increase members’ commitment to the organization and cohesiveness, you should demonstrate moral excellence through self-sacrifice and interpersonal fairness and thus elicit elevation response from members. Elevation as a contagious moral emotion has a ripple effect in which the emotion can be transferred easily to other people and related organizations. Through elevation virus, we may enjoy hope, inspiration, and empathy by cultivating strong social bonds one another.