Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 349-366

First online:

Ethical Leader Behavior and Big Five Factors of Personality

  • Karianne KalshovenAffiliated withEthics Institute, Utrecht University Email author 
  • , Deanne N. Den HartogAffiliated withDepartment of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, University of Amsterdam Business School
  • , Annebel H. B. De HooghAffiliated withDepartment of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam

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Most research on ethical leadership to date investigates the consequences of ethical leadership rather than its antecedents. Here, we aim to contribute to this field by studying leader personality as a potential antecedent of ethical leader behavior. In two multisource studies, we investigated the relationships between personality traits and ethical leader behavior. Leader personality was measured through self-ratings using the five-factor personality framework. Two subordinates rated their leaders’ ethical behavior. Study 1 used a uni-dimensional Ethical Leadership Scale (ELS). In study 2 we used this scale as well as an instrument distinguishing three different ethical leader behaviors, namely, fairness, role clarification, and power sharing. Further, in study 2 we controlled for the influence of the relationship between leader and followers (LMX). As expected, conscientiousness and agreeableness were most consistently related to ethical leadership. In study 1, after controlling for the other personality traits, conscientiousness related positively with ethical leadership. In study 2, after controlling for other traits and LMX, conscientiousness related positively with ethical leadership and the behavior role clarification, and agreeableness with power sharing and fairness. Also, emotional stability related positively with ethical leadership and role clarification after controlling for LMX. As expected, openness to experience and extraversion were unrelated to ethical leader behaviors.

Key words

ethical leadership personality conscientiousness agreeableness emotional stability