Ethical Decision Making and Leadership: Merging Social Role and Self-Construal Perspectives

Journal of Business Ethics 126 (4):531-539 (2015)

Abstract

This research extends our understanding of ethical decision making on the part of leaders by merging social role and self-construal perspectives. Interdependent self-construal is generally seen as enhancing concern for justice and moral values. Across two studies, we tested the prediction that non-leading group members’ interdependent self-construal would be associated with lower levels of unethical decision making on behalf of their group but that, in contrast, this relationship would be weaker for leaders, given their social role. These predictions were experimentally tested by assigning participants to the role of leader or non-leading group member, and assessing the association between their interdependent self-construal and their unethical decision making. Across both studies, interdependence predicted less unethical decision making on behalf of one’s group for non-leading group members. However, the leader role was shown to weaken, and even reverse, this relationship. This research demonstrates that self-construal influences group-based ethical decision making, but that the nature of this influence is moderated by social role

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