ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (6): 1079-1094.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.01079

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The Trickle-Down Effect in Leadership Research: A Review and Prospect

WANG Zhen; XU Haoying; DU Chenduo   

  1. (Business School, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing 100081, China)
  • Online:2015-06-25 Published:2015-06-25
  • Contact: WANG Zhen, E-mail:


The inquiry of the trickle-down effect is booming and developing into a new realm in the leadership study. Trickle-down effect refers to a top-down process in which leaders’ trait, cognition, affect, attitude and behavior induce the similar responses of followers and/or groups. Based on 62 independent empirical investigations reported in 50 articles, we found: (1) Trickle-down effect can be classified into six types according to the nature (state-like, affects, cognitions, attitudes, behaviors, relationships) of the transmitted variables; (2)Trickle-down effect can further influence the attitudes, behaviors and performance of followers, teams and other stakeholders; (3)There are mainly five theories explaining the occurrence of trickle-down effect, namely emotion contagion/affective event theory, social learning theory, social exchange theory, social identity theory and social information processing theory; (4) The strength of trickle-down effect depends on some specific leader, follower/team, and contextual attributes.

Key words: leadership effectiveness, trickle-down effect, underling mechanism, boundary conditions