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The negative and positive psychology of leadership and group research


The academic literature within social psychology focuses on describing what leaders and groups do wrong rather than what they do right. We refer to this as the "negative psychology" of leaders and groups. This chapter reviews the negative and positive research perspectives on leadership and groups. We propose that scholarly research makes more references to the shortcomings of leaders and groups rather than their successes. We conjecture that the pressure by the academic community to produce compelling counterintuitive research findings fuels the tendency to concentrate on failures. In contrast, we suggest that popular articles and books more often focus on the positive achievement of leaders and groups because their audience, namely managers, are more interested in learning how to achieve positive results than to avoid negative outcomes. Finally, we suggest that scholarly research on the psychology of leaders and groups could benefit from understanding how to achieve and maintain positive outcomes, whereas popular press may better prevent organizational failure and ruin by understanding managers' blunders and faults.


Book Chapter


Cynthia Wang, Leigh Thompson

Date Published



Wang, Cynthia, and Leigh Thompson. 2006. The negative and positive psychology of leadership and group research.


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