Topic: Emotional Leadership and Trust

Author(s), Title and Publication

Jin, Y. (2010). Emotional Leadership as a Key Dimension of Public Relations Leadership: A National Survey of Public Relations Leaders. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(2), 159-181.


One of the most important yet least studied leadership skills is the role of emotion in public relations management. Based on emotional leadership theory, this study used a national mail survey of 124 public relations leaders to examine the core emotional traits and skills for effective public relations leadership. The survey measured five sets of variables: leadership style (transactional leadership vs. transformational leadership), empathy, the leader’s ability to manage employee emotions (optimism and frustration), trust in the leader, and the leader’s stance in conflict situations with employees and top management (action-based accommodation vs. qualified-rhetoric-mixed accommodation).


Results showed that PR leaders generally preferred transformational leadership to transactional leadership, and empathy played an essential role in transformational leadership. Leaders with a stronger transformational leadership style and greater empathy were more effective in gaining employees’ trust and managing their frustrations and hopes, as well as taking more accommodative stances toward employees. PR leaders with more years of experience and more empathy were less likely to take accommodative action-based stances toward top management in decision-making conflicts. Compared to male leaders, female leaders tended to take more accommodative stances toward employees and top management. This study helps us better understand how emotional skills can help PR leaders in decision-making conflicts with subordinates and superiors, but the findings can’t be generalized because of the small sample size.

Implications for Practice

The study underscores the importance  of leaders who 1) comprehend others’ feelings, 2) are both flexible and strategic in decision-making power sharing and negotiation processes, 3) are experienced in motivating and maintaining optimism in the work place, 4) know how to take accommodative actions and express their accommodation when confronted by disagreeing employees, and 5) possess negotiation and influence gaining skills when communicating their disagreements with top management in decision-making conflicts.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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