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We analyze how followers respond to principled and unprincipled leaders as they express positive and negative emotions, based on the moral tenets of authentic leadership theory. Grounded on the theoretical principles of emotion contagion and cognitive interpretation, we propose that negative affective displays taint followers’ perceptions of authentic leaders and that positive affective displays brighten followers’ perceptions of inauthentic leaders. We tested these hypotheses in two laboratory experiments. Results indicate that while negative affective displays significantly disfavored perceptions about an authentic leader, positive affective displays did not favor attitudes about the leader. In contrast, positive affective displays not only favored attitudes toward an inauthentic leader but also positively influenced judgments regarding the leader’s ethicality. Passive negative displays led to more favorable attitudes toward an inauthentic leader than active negative displays. Our findings unveil followers’ susceptibility to distant leader’s emotion displays, highlighting the nexus among leadership, emotions, and ethics, as well as their relevance in the organizational and political arenas.