Our research tidbits this week provides interesting examples when considering what it takes to become a good leader. Do all ethical behaviours come from within, or is it more a case of creating a conducive work environment?

The impact of authoritarian leadership on ethical voice in police
In a sample of 522 police officers and staff in an English police force, the authors investigated the role of authoritarian leadership in reducing the levels of employee ethical voice (i.e., employees discussing and speaking out opinions against unethical issues in the workplace).

Drawing upon uncertainty management theory, the authors found that authoritarian leadership was negatively related to employee ethical voice through increased levels of felt uncertainty, when the effects of a motivational-based mechanism suggested by previous studies were controlled. In addition, the authors found that the negative relationship between authoritarian leadership and employee ethical voice via felt uncertainty is mitigated by higher levels of benevolent leadership. That is, when authoritarian leaders simultaneously exhibit benevolence, they are less likely to cause feelings of uncertainty in their followers who are then more likely to speak up about unethical issues.

The authors discuss theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

Yuyan Zheng, Les Graham, Jiing-Lih Farh & Xu Huang. 2021. The Impact of Authoritarian Leadership on Ethical Voice: A Moderated Mediation Model of Felt Uncertainty and Leader Benevolence.

Journal of Business Ethics, 170(1), 133–146.

Mindfulness and habitus in educating wise leaders
This article brings together mindfulness and habitus theory in relation to developing wise leaders. In particular, the authors present new insights about the intersection of time, subjective and intersubjective experience, and mindfulness that are relevant to developing embodied wisdom in leaders.

The authors show that temporal competence is essential for shaping habitus and developing embodied wisdom. Further, and to extend theoretical understandings of mindfulness in leadership, the authors argue that temporal capabilities developed through mindfulness can foster embodied wisdom by creating a specific ‘wisdom habitus’ that includes values and ethics. The system of dispositions that comprise one’s habitus is, however, largely unconscious and implicit and the authors discuss how mindfulness renders habitus, including ethical conation accessible to development for the bodily ability to act wisely.

This article then establishes a framework that leadership development programs in business schools can adopt for understanding habitus and mindfulness to enable embodied wisdom to develop in leaders. Finally, the authors show that a mindfulness perspective offers valuable contributions to research on leadership.

David Rooney, Wendelin Küpers, David Pauleen & Ekatarina Zhuravleva. 2021. A Developmental Model for Educating Wise Leaders: The Role of Mindfulness and Habitus in Creating Time for Embodying Wisdom.

Journal of Business Ethics, 170(1), 181–194.

How does leader and employee humility influence employee citizenship and deviance behaviours?
Various studies have recognised the importance of humility as a foundational aspect of virtuous leadership and have revealed the beneficial effects of leader humility on employee moral attitudes and behaviours.

However, these findings may overestimate the benefits of leader humility and overlook its potential costs. Integrating person–supervisor fit theory and balance theory with the humility literature, the authors employ a dyadic approach to consider supervisor and employee humility simultaneously.

The authors investigate whether and how the (in)congruence of supervisor and employee humility influences employee citizenship and deviance behaviours. The authors conducted a multilevel, multiphase, and multisource field study to test their hypotheses. The results of cross-level polynomial regression analyses revealed that when supervisors and employees were incongruent in humility, employees experienced higher levels of negative affect toward supervisors. Also, compared to those in low–low congruent dyads, employee negative affect toward supervisors was lower in high–high congruent dyads.

The results further revealed asymmetric incongruence effects: employees experienced the highest levels of negative affect toward supervisors when their own humility was lower than their supervisors’. In addition, the authors found that employee negative affect toward supervisors mediated the impacts of supervisor–employee (in)congruence in humility on employee organisational citizenship behaviour and counterproductive work behaviour.

Xin Qin, Xin Liu, Jacob A. Brown, Xiaoming Zheng & Bradley P. Owens. 2021. Humility Harmonized? Exploring Whether and How Leader and Employee Humility (In)Congruence Influences Employee Citizenship and Deviance Behaviors.

Journal of Business Ethics, 170(1), 147–165.

Supervisors’ values and ethics: A cross-national study
In this study, the authors used the framework of institutional anomie theory (Messner and Rosenfeld in Crime and the American dream, Wadsworth, Delmont, CA, 2001; Rosenfeld and Messner in: Passas and Agnew (eds) The future of anomie theory, Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1997) to examine the relationship between supervisors’ ethics and their personal value orientation, including achievement and pecuniary materialism.

The authors further investigated whether these individual-level associations were moderated by societal factors consisting of income inequality, government efficiency, foreign competition, and technological advancement. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze data of 16,464 supervisors from 42 nations obtained from the 2010–2014 wave of the World Values Survey.

Results showed that strong achievement value orientation was positively related to willingness to justify ethically suspect behaviours; government efficiency and technological advancement, respectively, had negative and positive moderating effects on this relationship. On the other hand, foreign competition had a positive moderating effect on the association between pecuniary materialism and ethicality.

Chung-wen Chen, Hsiu-Huei Yu, Kristine Velasquez Tuliao, Aditya Simha & Yi-Ying Chang. 2021. Supervisors’ Value Orientations and Ethics: A Cross-National Analysis.

Journal of Business Ethics, 170(1), 167–180.

Values and why some stories are sacred in organisations
How and why could some stories be construed as sacred in organisations, and what functions does the sacred have in organisational values work? Research has shown how values can be made formative of a range of organisational purposes and forms but has underscored their performative, situated, and agentic nature.

The authors address that void by studying the sacred as a potentially salient yet under-researched realm of values work. Drawing on an ethnographic case study of a faith-based health care organisation and the ethical philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, the authors describe how the sacred is figured in two sets of tales that were lived and told with surprising intensity and consistency: the parable of the Good Samaritan and the tale of the legacy bestowed by the organisation’s founder.

The authors theorise how this figuring of the sacred in story and in action recasts values work from a centralised and unitary process to a two-way learning dialectic between the ongoing creative imitation of action and narrative. Values in the shape of stories of the sacred do not achieve their meaning as unchangeable cores or sanctioned beliefs. Rather, they come to life in a process of ongoing moral inquiry that co-evolves with moral agencies. In the latter regard, the sacred primarily becomes manifest in everyday work in the form of questioning and creative acts of care. People become moral agents when they feel and respond to the sacred in the call of the other.

Gry Espedal & Arne Carlsen. 2021. Don’t Pass Them By: Figuring the Sacred in Organizational Values Work.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(4), 767–784.