A selection of interesting research and articles we found recently.

Why don’t organisational leaders always conform to organisational goals? 

Anne Joosten, Marius van Dijke, Alain Van Hiel and David De Cremer argue that the constant pressure that leaders face can limit their willpower to behave according to ethical norms and standards. The result may be unethical behaviour. Joosten et al. examined whether depleted self-regulation mechanisms in leaders could be linked to leader moral identity in promoting unethical leadership behaviour. The authors concluded that regulatory resource depletion promotes unethical leader behaviours among leaders who are low in moral identity, but not among leaders with high moral identity. The chaotic, frantic workdays typical of leaders may increase the likelihood of them violating ethical norms. This implies that tasks that may have ethical implications should be carefully scheduled. The authors emphasise that organisations should be aware that overloading their managers with work may increase the likelihood of their leaders transgressing against ethical norms.

Read further in Joosten Anne, van Dijke Marius, Van Hiel Alain, & De Cremer David. Being “in Control” May Make You Lose Control: The Role of Self-Regulation in Unethical Leadership Behavior, Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 121(1), pp 1-14.


“Wise leaders fear foolishness while foolish leaders are fearless”

These words come from Stephanie Solansky, who has a strong message for leaders in proposing that a fear of appearing foolish is essential to finding wisdom. She argues that leaders are often conditioned to suppress their fears and project confidence, but this can be misleading and result in mistakes. By recognizing these fallacies and that they are being driven by fear of the consequences, leaders can gain wisdom. Thus, according to Solansky, the fear of foolishness motivates the pursuit of wisdom. The fear of foolishness can be motivated by a desire for self-protection but recognizing this can fundamentally change leader behaviours and attitudes in the direction of wisdom as well as individual, organisational, and societal well-being. The following provides more discussion of this topic:

Solansky, S. T. To Fear Foolishness for the Sake of Wisdom: A Message to Leaders. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 122(1), pp 39-51.


Should leaders apologise for their mistakes?

Despite their best efforts, like all of us, leaders make mistakes. Leader mistakes often have implications for the well-being of both followers and the leader. Is it beneficial for a leader to apologise for a mistake? Alyson Byrne, Julian Barling and Kathryne Dupré found that leader apologies have a positive relationship with followers’ psychological well-being and emotional health, and that these relationships are moderated by the severity of the leader’s transgression. These researchers also concluded that leader apologies positively benefit the leader. Apologising affects the leaders’ own psychological well-being, positive emotional health and authentic pride. In both cases, the effects depended on the nature or severity of the transgression. Implications and further details are available by reading:

Byrne, Alyson, Barling, Judith and Dupré, Kathryne E. Leader Apologies and Employee and Leader Well-Being. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 121(1), pp 91-106.


If you feel good, do you also do good!?

Anne Joosten, Marius van Dijke, Alain Van Hiel and David De Cremer noted that studies of self-related processes underlying moral behaviour have resulted in two distinct and opposing streams of findings that are usually referred to as moral consistency and moral compensation. Moral consistency research shows that a salient self-concept as a moral person promotes moral behavior. Conversely, moral compensation research reveals that a salient self-concept as an immoral person promotes moral behavior. This study aimed to integrate these two literatures. The researchers argued that compensation forms a reactive, “damage control” response in social situations, whereas consistency derives from a more proactive approach to reputation building and maintenance. Two experiments supported this prediction in showing that cognitive depletion (i.e., resulting in a reactive approach) results in moral compensation whereas consistency results when cognitive resources are available (i.e., resulting in a proactive approach). Experiment 2 revealed that these processes originate from reputational (rather than moral) considerations by showing that they emerge only under conditions of accountability. The authors concluded that reputational concerns are important for both moral compensation and moral consistency processes, and that which of these two prevails depends on the perspective that people take: a reactive or a proactive approach.

For more information about this study read: Anne Joosten, Marius van Dijke, Alain Van Hiel and David De Cremer.  Feel Good, Do-Good!? On Consistency and Compensation in Moral Self-Regulation. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(1), pp 71-84.