For the Good or the Bad? Interactive Effects of Transformational Leadership with Moral and Authoritarian Leadership Behaviors

Journal of Business Ethics 116 (3):629-640 (2013)
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Although the ethical aspects of transformational leadership have attracted considerable attention, very little is known about followers’ reactions to the moral and immoral conduct of transformational leaders. Against this background, this study examined whether and how transformational leadership interacts with moral and authoritarian leadership behaviors in predicting followers’ in-role and extra-role efforts. Building on attribution theory, we hypothesized that the positive and negative effects of these leadership behaviors would be particularly pronounced for highly transformational leaders given that this leadership style elicits strong attention and sense-making efforts among followers. We tested our model in a sample of 228 individuals comprising 114 leader–follower dyads from a wide range of organizations and industries. In line with our hypotheses, results revealed that for highly transformational leaders, moral leadership behaviors related positively to employees’ in-role and extra-role efforts whereas authoritarian leadership behaviors related negatively to employees’ in-role and extra-role efforts. In contrast, moral and authoritarian leadership behaviors did not significantly affect followers’ reactions to leaders low in transformational leadership. Taken together, these findings suggest that transformational leadership, contrary to its largely positive perception in the literature, can be a rather mixed blessing. Implications for theory, future research, and managerial practice are discussed



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Xin-An Zhang
Tongji University