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Do Ethics really matter? Understanding group reactions to unethical leadership

Morais, Catarina (2017) Do Ethics really matter? Understanding group reactions to unethical leadership. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:66577)

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Abstract

Most research on ethical leadership has disregarded the role of group processes, and particularly of group membership. Using social identity theory of leadership as a framework, this thesis aims to understand the impact of ethical and unethical leaders on group members' perceptions about the leader, as well as to investigate under which circumstances group members may be willing to accept and endorse unethical leaders. To test these ideas, seven experimental studies and one longitudinal study were conducted. Study 1 (N = 90) manipulated whether participants evaluated an ethical or unethical leader, providing empirical support to the idea that unethical leaders have a less positive impact on group members, especially if they belong to the outgroup (N = 129). Study 3 (N = 229) also manipulated target status, showing that unethical behavior displayed by a regular member had a less negative impact when compared to unethical leaders. Study 4 (N = 125) revealed that the intention of behavior is an important factor too, as group members considered the group-promoting leader more prototypical, warmer and competent. Attributions of behavior also changed based on the context (Study 5, N = 226), with leaders' behavior attributed more to internal and stable dispositions in an intragroup (compared to an intergroup) context. Studies 6 and 7 (Ns = 178, 170) extended these findings by showing that attributions were also shaped by the outcome of the behavior to the group. Moreover, leaders who benefited the group (even if they were unethical) were perceived as more competent and more endorsed. Study 8 (N = 260) showed that when the outcome was positive to the group, group members were more willing to accept unethical leadership and to exert less social control. Taken together, the results suggest that leaders play an important role in setting ethical and normative behavior, but also that, under certain circumstances, leaders' ethicality might be overlooked, as long as the behavior is in the group's best interest.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Randsley de Moura, Georgina
Thesis advisor: Abrams, Dominic
Uncontrolled keywords: leadership; ethical; unethical; groups; organizational leadership
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2018 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:53 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/66577 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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