This principle exists independent of any specific domain, and has come up recently in two completely different contexts.
First, I was having a discussion about some different civilizations and societies from history, and it was noted that the culture of the group seemed to almost always be established by the leader and his or her attitude. If a king was honorable, his subjects tended to follow his lead. If a leader was lazy or promiscuous, so went the folks.
Then a little later, I was watching a sports show, talking about the NCAA basketball tournament, and the commentators all agreed that the attitude and demeanor of the coach was the biggest element in shaping the team.
This principle absolutely holds true in business. Zappos is a great example of everyone at the company enjoying life, because that’s the attitude of the CEO. I have also observed that the best way to motivate a team, department or company, is simply the example of the leader. If they have a good work ethic, stay late to get tasks done, and are always excited, these same characteristics tend to find their way to the masses, as if by magic. On the other hand, nothing seems to keep people from pushing themselves, like a leader who is lazy.
While this is the natural flow, it can be altered. Even if your direct supervisor falls into the not-so-good category, you can make a conscious decision to break the chain. By setting the right example and having the right attitude, your group can attain success and set the standard for everyone else.