Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp 511–528 | Cite as

An Empirical Study of Leader Ethical Values, Transformational and Transactional Leadership, and Follower Attitudes Toward Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Kevin S. Groves
  • Michael A. LaRocca


Several leadership and ethics scholars suggest that the transformational leadership process is predicated on a divergent set of ethical values compared to transactional leadership. Theoretical accounts declare that deontological ethics should be associated with transformational leadership while transactional leadership is likely related to teleological ethics. However, very little empirical research supports these claims. Furthermore, despite calls for increasing attention as to how leaders influence their followers’ perceptions of the importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) for organizational effectiveness, no empirical study to date has assessed the comparative impact of transformational and transactional leadership styles on follower CSR attitudes. Data from 122 organizational leaders and 458 of their followers indicated that leader deontological ethical values (altruism, universal rights, Kantian principles, etc.) were strongly associated with follower ratings of transformational leadership, while leader teleological ethical values (utilitarianism) were related to follower ratings of transactional leadership. As predicted, only transformational leadership was associated with follower beliefs in the stakeholder view of CSR. Implications for the study and practice of ethical leadership, future research directions, and management education are discussed.


corporate social responsibility ethical values ontological ethics teleological ethics transformational leadership 


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The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions for improving the article’s contribution. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support throughout multiple phases of this research project provided by the Graziadio School of Business and Management’s Julian Virtue Professorship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graziadio School of Business and ManagementPepperdine UniversityLos AngelesU.S.A.

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