What influences a leader’s mindset to pursue ethical and sustainable behaviour? This week’s research tidbits provides case studies and recent research.
Leaders’ mindset and corporate sustainability at Puma
In this longitudinal study, the authors explore the co-evolution of the cognitive complexity of the CEO of Puma, Jochen Zeitz, and his view and initiatives on sustainability. The authors’ purpose was to explore how the changes in a leader’s mindset relate to his/her views and actions on sustainability.
In contrast to previous studies, the authors adopt an in-depth longitudinal case study approach to capture the role of leaders’ cognitive complexity in the context of corporate sustainability. By understanding the cognitive development of Zeitz as leader of Puma, the authors provide an important step toward understanding the co-evolution of leaders’ cognitive complexity and proactive corporate sustainability initiatives over time.
The findings show that as he developed a more complex mindset that also included non-business lenses, Zeitz developed a more inclusive understanding of sustainability and adopted proactive initiatives that went beyond business-as-usual. The study also demonstrates that a longitudinal perspective can offer valuable insights for a better understanding of how individuals and their interactions affect and are affected by an organisation’s strategies and performance, in corporate sustainability and beyond.
Stefan Gröschl, Patricia Gabaldón and Tobias Hahn. 2019. The Co-evolution of Leaders’ Cognitive Complexity and Corporate Sustainability: The Case of the CEO of Puma.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(3), 741–762.
Ethical management in the hotel sector
The study examines the employment experience of workers with intellectual disability (WWID) in the hotel sector in Australia. Through a qualitative case study, the authors interviewed managers and WWID, and held focus groups with supervisors and colleagues at three hotels.
The authors have used the theoretical framework of corporate social responsibility to investigate HR practices that create an ethical climate which promote authentic work experiences for WWID. The study found that participative work practices provide evidence of how WWID fit in at the workplace.
When workers are confronted with work-related anxieties, the pragmatic nature of existential authenticity becomes a reality. The findings reveal that managing workers ethically can lead to more authentic work experiences. In turn, this may promote social inclusion of WWID and improve their reported well-being.
Hannah Meacham, Jillian Cavanagh, Timothy Bartram and Jennifer Laing. 2019. Ethical Management in the Hotel Sector: Creating an Authentic Work Experience for Workers with Intellectual Disabilities.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(3), 823–835.
National economy and supervisors’ ethical values
This study examined the direct influence of national economic condition, as well as the indirect effects through the strength of noneconomic institutions on supervisors’ ethical reasoning using the institutional anomie theory developed by Messner and Rosenfeld (Soc Forces 75(4):1393–1416, 2001).
Utilising data of 20,025 supervisors across 52 countries, the analyses showed that high disparity in the economic distribution directly and indirectly leads to unethical values. High economic inequality in a country resulted in high tendency of supervisors to justify unethical acts. In addition, some of this influence went through the institutional strength of family, education, polity, and religion, thereby indicating partial mediation.
As a result, the study presented the important roles of social institutions in explaining supervisors’ attitude and behaviour. The findings of this research contribute to the institutional anomie theory by clarifying the multilevel path of the macrostructures’ conditions in explaining supervisors’ ethicality.
Moreover, since some of the relationships between variables resulted in the direction opposite to the propositions of the theory, this study suggested other theoretical models that may be integrated with IAT. Along with these theoretical contributions, practical implications to businesses and society are discussed to strengthen supervisors’ ethics.
Kristine Velasquez Tuliao & Chung-wen Chen. 2019. Economy and Supervisors’ Ethical Values: Exploring the Mediating Role of Noneconomic Institutions in a Cross-National Test of Institutional Anomie Theory.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(3), 823–838.
When and for whom is ethical leadership more effective?
Despite urgent calls for more research on the integration of business ethics and the meaning of work, to date, there have been few corresponding efforts, and the authors know surprisingly little about this relationship. In this study, the authors address this issue by examining when and for whom ethical leadership is more (or less) effective in promoting a sense of work meaningfulness among employees, and their subsequent work attitudes.
Drawing on the contingency theories of leadership and work meaningfulness literature, the authors speculate that both employees’ core self-evaluation (CSE; as a dispositional characteristic) and perceived organisational support (POS; as a situational characteristic) moderate the relationship, but in different ways, and these associations carry over to employees’ subsequent work attitudes in terms of job satisfaction, organisational commitment and turnover intention.
The authors test their hypotheses with two-wave survey data collected from 377 employees. Results indicate that ethical leadership is effective in eliciting work meaningfulness and attitudes for employees higher in CSE or when POS is lower, and ineffective for those lower in CSE or when POS is higher.
A supplementary analysis reveals a three-way interaction between ethical leadership, CSE and POS in predicting a sense of work meaningfulness and subsequent work attitudes. The researchers caution that ethical leadership is not a universally positive practice; it can be ineffective or even have a negative impact under some circumstances.
Zhen Wang & Haoying Xu. 2019. When and for Whom Ethical Leadership is More Effective in Eliciting Work Meaningfulness and Positive Attitudes: The Moderating Roles of Core Self-Evaluation and Perceived Organizational Support.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(4), 919–940.
Tone-at-the-top Lessons from Abrahamic justice
Abraham’s “leadership by example” provides a template for business leaders to implement a tone at the top based on a balance of tzedek (righteousness) and mishpat (legal judgement). The former expresses the generosity of spirit required of leaders, while the latter expresses the sound judgement in conformity with both ethics and enacted law.
The authors relate the two constructs to several contemporary theories of justice and jurisprudence. The authors also relate the development of Abrahamic Justice in the Jewish tradition from antiquity through Maimonides in the middle ages. The authors draw insight from this tradition to answer a contemporary business ethics question: Do corporate managers violate their fiduciary duty to shareholders if they refuse to engage in legal tax avoidance?
Dov Fischer & Hershey H. Friedman. 2019. Tone-at-the-Top Lessons from Abrahamic Justice.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(1), 209–225.
Building relational leadership for sustainability
The practice of relational leadership is essential for dealing with the increasingly urgent and complex social, economic and environmental issues that characterise sustainability. Despite growing attention to both relational leadership and leadership for sustainability, an ethical understanding of both is limited.
This is problematic as both sustainability and relational leadership are rife with moral implications. This paper conceptually explores how the moral theory of ‘ethics of care’ can help to illuminate the ethical dimensions of relational leadership for sustainability. In doing so, the implications of ethics of care more broadly for the practice of relational leadership development are elaborated.
From a caring perspective, a ‘relational stance’ or logic of effectiveness can be fostered through engaging in a reflective process of moral education through conversation. In starting this dialogue, we can begin to build capacity for relational leadership for sustainability and, thus, support the development of individual well-being and organisational and societal flourishing.
Jessica Nicholson, Elizabeth Kurucz & Jessica Nicholson. 2019. Relational Leadership for Sustainability: Building an Ethical Framework from the Moral Theory of ‘Ethics of Care’.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(1), 25–43.