Perceived Ethical Leadership Affects Customer Purchasing Intentions Beyond Ethical Marketing in Advertising Due to Moral Identity Self-Congruence Concerns

Journal of Business Ethics 156 (2):357-376 (2019)
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Abstract

Ethical leadership has so far mainly been featured in the organizational behavior domain and, as such, treated as an intra-organizational phenomenon. The present study seeks to highlight the relevance of ethical leadership for extra-organizational phenomena by combining the organizational behavior perspective on ethical leadership with a classical marketing approach. In particular, we demonstrate that customers may use perceived ethical leadership cues as additional reference points when forming purchasing intentions. In two experimental studies, we find that ethical leadership positively affects purchasing intentions because of customers’ concerns for moral self-congruence. We show this by means of both mediation and moderation analyses. Interestingly, the effect of perceived ethical leadership on purchasing intentions holds over and above the ethical advertising claims that are commonly used in marketing. We conclude by discussing the possible ramifications of ethical leadership beyond its effects on immediate employees.

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