Identifying the individual and situational factors of ethical and unethical leadership: A Delphi study

by Hartman, Lucas E., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2013, 224 pages; 3596511


Leadership has a dominant role in shaping the ethical tone of an organization; therefore, leadership is crucial to an organization's ability to meet increased ethical requirements. While research on ethical leadership is growing rapidly, unethical leadership has not received the same amount of attention. Further, the relationship between ethical and unethical leadership is still not established. This study consists of a sample of ethical and unethical leadership experts; through a five-step sampling process, 18 academics and 20 practitioners were identified and invited to participate in the three-phase, rank-type Delphi. In the first phase of the study, the brainstorming phase, academics and practitioners collectively identified the individual and situational factors of ethical and unethical leadership. The phase resulted in four lists: Individual Factors of Ethical Leadership List (iELL), Situational Factors of Ethical Leadership List (sELL), Individual Factors of Unethical Leadership List (iULL), and Situational Factors of Unethical Leadership List (sULL). In the second phase, the narrowing phase, academics and practitioners separately selected the most important factors of each list. The phase resulted in four lists: Academic Ethical Leadership List (aELL), Academic Unethical Leadership List (aULL), Practitioner Ethical Leadership List (pELL), and Practitioner Unethical Leadership List (pULL). In the final phase, the ranking phase, academics and practitioners iteratively and separately ranked their respective lists. The phase established consensus in final rankings of the aELL, aULL, pELL, and pULL. The findings can be applied to organizational practices such as hiring and organizational design efforts. Additionally, the findings can be applied to advance the ethical and unethical leadership literature and to further define their relationship.

AdviserCyd Strickland
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsEthics; Management; Organization theory
Publication Number3596511

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