Managers as Moral Leaders: Moral Identity Processes in the Context of Work

Journal of Business Ethics 172 (4):639-652 (2021)
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Abstract

This qualitative study explores how business leaders narrate their personal ways of recognizing, reasoning, and resolving moral conflicts and what these stories reveal about their moral identity processes within organizational contexts. Based on interviews with 25 business leaders, 4 moral identity statuses were identified: achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and diffusion. The moral identity statuses were based on how leaders approached and interpreted moral conflicts and what the influence of the organizational context was in their moral decision-making processes. Some remained steadfast in adhering to their previous value commitments, while others tried to avoid taking any clear moral standpoint. Still others experienced moral conflicts as disequilibrating events that triggered reflective processes and developmental cycles of moral identity change. These moral identity statuses hold implications for facilitating moral identity development among business leaders in the context of work.

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