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Ethical Leaders and Their Followers: The Transmission of Moral Identity and Moral Attentiveness

  • Weichun Zhu (a1), Linda K. Treviño (a1) and Xiaoming Zheng (a2)

In the expanding field of ethical leadership research, little attention has been paid to the association between ethical leaders’ ethical characteristics (beyond personality) and perceived ethical leadership, and, more importantly, the potential influence of ethical leadership on followers’ ethical characteristics. In this study, we tested a theoretical model based upon social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) to examine leaders’ moral identity and moral attentiveness as antecedents of perceived ethical leadership, and follower moral identity and moral attentiveness as outcomes of ethical leadership. Based upon data from 89 leaders and 460 followers in China, collected at two points in time, we found that leaders’ moral identity and moral attentiveness are associated with follower’s perceptions of ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is, in turn, associated with their followers’ moral identity and moral attentiveness. We found furthermore that ethical leadership mediates the effect of leaders’ moral identity on followers’ moral identity, but not the effect of leaders’ moral attentiveness on followers’ moral attentiveness. We discuss the findings, theoretical contributions, practical implications, and future research.

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Business Ethics Quarterly
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