Current Projects

“Leadership? No, Thanks!" A New Construct: Worries About Leadership

Leadership is usually considered a key career aspiration, but in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, is such a goal indisputably desirable? Could it be that some people are doubtful about undertaking leadership responsibilities? We propose a new construct, worries about leadership (WAL), defined as the worries people have about the possible negative consequences of assuming a leadership role. We conducted four studies to develop and validate our scale for WAL. The data confirmed the three dimensions theoretically proposed in the conceptualization of WAL, namely, worries about failure, work-life imbalance, and harm. WAL was found to be an orthogonal construct to Motivation to Lead (MTL; Chan & Drasgow, 2001) and it correlated with neuroticism and prevention focus. We measured electrodermal activity and heart rate variability to examine the physiological correlates of WAL. In both experimental and naturalistic field studies, WAL predicted leader emergence above and beyond MTL. Potentially significant implications for further research and leadership development are discussed.

Aycan, Z. & Shelia, S. (2019). “Leadership? No, thanks!” A new construct: Worries about Leadership. European Management Review, 16, 21-35.

WAL profiles: Leadership-related career intentions and employee outcomes

Under the leadership of Prof. Taru Feldt, the Work and Organizational Psychology Consortium ( of University of Jyväskylä in Finland investigates WAL profiles based on the latent profile analysis of the three dimensions of WAL. Zeynep Aycan and Muaz Ozcan from LeadLab are collaborating with the Finnish team to examine: (1) how WAL-profiles of non-leaders are associated with attitudes towards making errors at work and intentions to become leaders, and (2) how WAL-profiles of current leaders/managers are associated with employee outcomes (e.g., satisfaction with leadership). The dataset for these studies include thousands of managers and non-managerial employees from educational and industrial sectors.

WAL & Leadership Decision Making

LeadLab & SomiLab Decision-Making Study
LeadLab is currently conducting a joint research with Social Minds Lab ( The project focuses on decision making process in leadership roles. As a first step, we aim to examine the relationship between worries about leadership, motivation to lead, and metacognitive ability. This research will provide a basis for our research program that examines the relationship between WAL, metacognitive ability and leaders’ decision-making efficiency.
LeadLab & TMDM Decision-Making Study
LeadLab is collaborating with the Time and Decision-Making Lab ( in an experiment on the association of WAL with leaders’ decision-making process. The question we explore is whether WAL modulates the speed-accuracy trade off in decion-making.

Worries about leadership: Is it a liability or advantage in leadership emergence for women and men?

Our team comprised of Arzu Aydinli-Karakulak, Salome Shelia, Ayse Burcin Baskurt, Zeynep Aycan, and Gamze Koseoglu submitted the manuscript to the Journal of Applied Psychology. We conduct three studies to investigate how worries about leadership (WAL) in men and women predict self-nomination and other-nomination for leadership. The studies show that women who have high WAL are less likely to self-nominate for leadership roles, but men who have high WAL are more willing to assume leadership roles in male-dominated groups. In addition, supervisors are more likely to evaluate male subordinates who have high WAL more suitable for leadership roles because they view WAL among men as indicating higher warmth. Results and implications for increasing gender parity in leadership are discussed in light of expectation violation theory.

Contextualization of the Worries About Leadership

LLAB team is currently working on a project examining the effects of contextual factors (e.g., organizational culture, situational factors at work) on WAL. Relatedly, we are trying to understand how WAL is affected by contextual factors may influence individual- and organizational-related outcomes.

Leadership Emotions

One of the senior members of LLAB, Salome Shelia (Ph.D. Candidate) conducted a research regarding leadership emotions. The objective of this research was to investigate the role of emotions in leader emergence, specifically whether emotions affect choice of individuals to become leaders. She collected data in a lab study and used physiological indices (e.g. heart rate variability) as implicit measures of emotions. Analysis is geared towards understanding the correlations between self-reported and physiological data.

Toxic Illusio and Personal Uncertainty: Understanding the Followers of Toxic Leaders

Aybike Mutluer Mergen & Prof. Mustafa Ozbilgin
Toxic leaders are one of the main threats to the wellbeing of people at work and in society in general, and followers play a critical role in constructing and maintaining the toxic leadership. In this conceptual study, we draw on Bourdieu’s concept of illusio (game) in an attempt to frame the dynamic system that sustains toxic leadership through continued support of the followers. More specifically, introducing the illusio perspective in a process-relational context to the toxic leadership discussion enables us to (i) explicate the allure of toxic leaders by addressing it as an incentive for followers to join the toxic illusio as a way of coping with their high personal uncertainty, (ii) synthesize the extant literature to illustrate the mechanisms and processes that combine together and motivate followers of toxic leaders to remain in the toxic illusio once they join. In this context, we also briefly discuss and differentiate between the ethical and moral dimensions of toxic leadership.

Nonverbal Cues and Leadership

Elif Gizem Demirağ-Burak is a Ph.D. candidate who has been working for three years in LLAB. Her research mainly addresses issues in political psychology including leadership, conflict resolution and nonverbal behavior. Within the scope of her Ph.D. project, she concentrates on nonverbal cues and leadership. More specifically, she is interested in analyzing how leader’s facial appearance influences leadership emergence and effectiveness. In addition, she explores the role of gender in perceived leader qualities and behavior. Her Ph.D. thesis has been supported by UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Sustainable Development.

A New Conceptual Model about Leadership Emergence

One of the Ph.D. students of LLAB, Muaz Özcan, is currently trying to develop a conceptual model aiming to demonstrate how leadership related choices that individuals make are affecting and being affected by the group/organization/society levels’ leadership concepts. His ultimate aim with this project is to shed light on the answers to the questions of “Why and how today we end up with too many ineffective or even harmful leaders to lead us?” Also, Muaz is currently working on an interdisciplinary survey study aiming to explore how much of the variation in the political participation behavior of individuals could be explained by psychological factors in relation to observing political leaders’ behaviors over and above traditional political science variables. I am working in collaboration with a colleague of mine from Harvard Political Science Department on this project and we are hoping to collect data during 2019 Turkish Local Elections.

Downward Mobbing and Stress-Related Growth

Didar Zeytun, one of the MA students at LLAB investigated whether being exposed to downward mobbing may lead to stress-related growth if the employee has the necessary resources. Without praising mobbing, she offered a counterintuitive perspective to suggest that perhaps traumatic experiences may stimulate growth under certain circumstances in the organizational context. Her research will be published in "Destructive Leadership and Management Hypocrisy: Advances in Theory and Practice" in 2021.

Zeytun, D., & Aycan, Z. (in press). A Manifestation of Destructive Leadership: Downward mobbing and employees’ stress-related growth. In Destructive Leadership and Management Hypocrisy: Advances in Theory and Practice. Emerald Publishing.

Past Projects

Worries About Losing Leadership

Sena Arslan, one of the master’s students of LLAB, is currently working on a new construct named “worries about losing leadership”, defined as worries people may have about possible negative consequences of losing a leadership role. She is trying to conceptualize and operationalize the phenomenon of worries about losing leadership. Correspondingly, she aims to develop a scale for the newly established construct “worries about losing leadership”. In addition to the new construct’s contribution to leadership literature, her study may also have important practical implications to mitigate possible negative outcomes of leaders’ worries.

Arslan, S., Altan-Atalay, A., & Aycan, Z. (in press). What Do We Really Lose When We Lose Leadership? Developing A Measure for Assessment of Worries about Losing Leadership. In Family Businesses: Business Model and General Strategies. Ankara: Gazi Press

A Different Perspective toward Abusive Supervision

Begüm, an M.A. student in Psychology, is currently working on destructive side of leadership. Given that power may corrupt but not necessarily for everyone or under all circumstances (Chen, Lee-Chai & Bargh, 2001), Begüm believes it is imperative to understand the factors that may change the use and expression of power in organizational settings. She is currently conducting an experimental study to investigate a causal link between variables that she has already found in the survey studies that they are associated with each other.

Cross-Cultural Validation of the WAL and MTL

Malina, MA Student in Psychology, is currently doing a cross-cultural validation of the WAL and MTL scale. The aim of the project is to provide German, French, Japanese, Korean and Chinese versions of the two scales and to get insight into cross-cultural differences in terms of leadership motivation and worries about leadership between Western European and East Asian cultures. Currently, she is collecting data from Chinese, French, and South Korean employees.

Artwork by Nancy J Adler ©

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