An Empirical Study of Leader Ethical Values, Transformational and Transactional Leadership, and Follower Attitudes Toward Corporate Social Responsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 103 (4):511-528 (2011)
Several leadership and ethics scholars suggest that the transformational leadership process is predicated on a divergent set of ethical values compared to transactional leadership. Theoretical accounts declare that deontological ethics should be associated with transformational leadership while transactional leadership is likely related to teleological ethics. However, very little empirical research supports these claims. Furthermore, despite calls for increasing attention as to how leaders influence their followers’ perceptions of the importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) for organizational effectiveness, no empirical study to date has assessed the comparative impact of transformational and transactional leadership styles on follower CSR attitudes. Data from 122 organizational leaders and 458 of their followers indicated that leader deontological ethical values (altruism, universal rights, Kantian principles, etc.) were strongly associated with follower ratings of transformational leadership, while leader teleological ethical values (utilitarianism) were related to follower ratings of transactional leadership. As predicted, only transformational leadership was associated with follower beliefs in the stakeholder view of CSR. Implications for the study and practice of ethical leadership, future research directions, and management education are discussed
Keywords corporate social responsibility  ethical values  ontological ethics  teleological ethics  transformational leadership
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0877-y
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