A selection of interesting research and articles we’ve found recently.

Insights from ethical executives
Colina Frisch and Markus Huppenbauer investigated several questions about ethical leaders. They asked: What specific behaviours does an ethical leader show? Is ethical leadership mainly about leader behaviour towards employees or does it involve other stakeholders? If so, which ethical behaviours does the ethical leader show towards them? What are further antecedents and consequences of ethical leadership? Their qualitative study involving 17 interviews with mostly Swiss executives showed that executive ethical leaders care about a wide range of other stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, owners of companies, the natural environment and society, in addition to employees. Diverse leader behaviours are exhibited towards these stakeholders. Among the antecedents of executive ethical leadership were ethical role models, business strategy and the owner’s values. Consequences of ethical leaders included effects on other stakeholders beyond employees.

Read more detail in Frisch, Colina and Huppenbauer, Markus. New Insights into Ethical Leadership: A Qualitative Investigation of the Experiences of Executive Ethical Leaders. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(1), pp 23-43.

Leader compassion, kindness – grace side-lined
Compassion and kindness have implications for employee trust and commitment, and so Mike Thomas and Caroline Rowland decided to look at the role of compassion and kindness in current leadership theory and practice. They were particularly interested in the role of these attributes in sustainable and ethical leadership. They found that compassion is a confusing concept, along with its application to leadership. Kindness may even be perceived as a weakness among contemporary leadership characteristics. Following their review, Thomas and Rowland concluded that there is an inconsistency between what contemporary models of sustainable, ethical leadership are calling for and compassion and kindness. Compassion and kindness are side-lined.

Further details are available in: Thomas, Mike and Rowland, Caroline. Leadership, Pragmatism and Grace: A Review. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(1), pp 99-111.

Do ethical role models matter?
Michael Brown and Linda Treviño investigated the effects of different types of ethical role models on perceived ethical leadership. The researchers surveyed supervisors and their reports to examine the effects of three types of ethical role models and ethical leadership. The three categories of role models were the leader’s childhood role models, career mentors, and top managers. Results showed that having had an ethical role model during the leader’s career was positively related to their later ethical leadership behaviour as rated by staff. Age played a role in several ways too. First, the relationship between career mentoring and ethical leadership was stronger for older leaders. Second, childhood ethical role models were more strongly and positively related to ethical leadership for younger leaders. Interestingly, top management when acting as ethical role models had no effect on ethical leadership behaviours.

This study is reported in: Brown, Michael E. and Treviño, Linda K. Do Role Models Matter? An Investigation of Role Modeling as an Antecedent of Perceived Ethical Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 122(4), pp 587-598.

Learning about ethical leadership from the ancient kings of Judah
Glenn Rowe used data from the King James Version of the Bible to examine some of the antecedents and consequences of ethical leadership back in the years 931 BC to 586 BC. One interesting proposal derived from his qualitative and quantitative data is that maternal influence leads to leaders being ethical whereas fathers’ influence appears not to impact whether leaders turn out to be ethical. Furthermore, on the basis of this study Rowe argues that ethical leaders are more likely to achieve longer tenures and experience better organisational performance.

Read more about what we can learn from ancient ethical leadership in: Rowe, W. Glenn. Some Antecedents and Consequences of Ethical Leadership: An Examination Using the Kings of Judah From 931 bc to 586 bc. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(4), pp 557-572.