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New insights into ethical leadership: A qualitative investigation of the experiences of executive ethical leaders


Frisch, Colina; Huppenbauer, Markus (2013). New insights into ethical leadership: A qualitative investigation of the experiences of executive ethical leaders. Journal of Business Ethics:online.

Abstract

Ethical leadership has become a thriving research field. However, on reviewing previous research, we argue that several fundamental questions remain unclear and need further investigation. (1) Ethical leaders are defined as behaving ‘normatively appropriate[ly]’ (Brown et al., Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 97(2):117–134, 2005), but it remains unclear what this entails. What specific behaviours does an ethical leader show? (2) To date, ethical leadership has focused primarily on leader behaviour towards employees. Which stakeholders apart from employees are important to the ethical leader, and what kind of ethical behaviour does the ethical leader show towards them? (3) What are further antecedents and consequences of ethical leadership? We addressed these questions by qualitatively analysing interviews with 17, mostly Swiss, executive ethical leaders. The results indicate that executive ethical leaders care not only about employees but also about other stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, owners of companies, the natural environment and society. Additionally, this study identified a broad range of executive ethical leaders’ behaviours towards these stakeholders, and, therefore, may function as a useful resource for future quantitative studies. Furthermore, we identified several antecedents of executive ethical leadership, for example ethical role models, business strategy and owner’s values, and consequences such as effects on other stakeholders than employees. Finally, our results shed more light on the processes of ethical guidance of employees. Managerial implications and avenues for further research are discussed.

Abstract

Ethical leadership has become a thriving research field. However, on reviewing previous research, we argue that several fundamental questions remain unclear and need further investigation. (1) Ethical leaders are defined as behaving ‘normatively appropriate[ly]’ (Brown et al., Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 97(2):117–134, 2005), but it remains unclear what this entails. What specific behaviours does an ethical leader show? (2) To date, ethical leadership has focused primarily on leader behaviour towards employees. Which stakeholders apart from employees are important to the ethical leader, and what kind of ethical behaviour does the ethical leader show towards them? (3) What are further antecedents and consequences of ethical leadership? We addressed these questions by qualitatively analysing interviews with 17, mostly Swiss, executive ethical leaders. The results indicate that executive ethical leaders care not only about employees but also about other stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, owners of companies, the natural environment and society. Additionally, this study identified a broad range of executive ethical leaders’ behaviours towards these stakeholders, and, therefore, may function as a useful resource for future quantitative studies. Furthermore, we identified several antecedents of executive ethical leadership, for example ethical role models, business strategy and owner’s values, and consequences such as effects on other stakeholders than employees. Finally, our results shed more light on the processes of ethical guidance of employees. Managerial implications and avenues for further research are discussed.

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3 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 University Research Priority Programs > Ethics
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
170 Ethics
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:24 Jan 2014 09:03
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:29
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0167-4544
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1797-9

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