Transformational Leadership and Follower’s Unethical Behavior for the Benefit of the Company: A Two-Study Investigation

Journal of Business Ethics 120 (1):81-93 (2014)

Abstract

Although the ethical dimension of transformational leadership has frequently been discussed over the last years, there is little empirical research on employees’ ethical behavior as an outcome of transformational leadership. This two-study investigation examined the relationship between transformational leadership and unethical yet pro-organizational follower behavior. Moreover, mediating and moderating processes were addressed. Our research yielded a positive relationship between transformational leadership and employees’ willingness to engage in UPB. Furthermore, both studies showed employees’ organizational identification to function as a mediating mechanism and employees’ personal disposition toward ethical/unethical behavior to moderate the relationship between organizational identification and willingness to engage in UPB. Altogether, results indicate transformational leadership to entail a certain risk of encouraging followers to contribute to their company’s success in ways that are generally considered to be unethical. Implications regarding the ethical dimension of transformational leadership are discussed.

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