Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 115, Issue 3, pp 435–449 | Cite as

Ethical Leadership: Assessing the Value of a Multifoci Social Exchange Perspective

  • S. Duane Hansen
  • Bradley J. Alge
  • Michael E. Brown
  • Christine L. Jackson
  • Benjamin B. Dunford


In this study, we comprehensively examine the relationships between ethical leadership, social exchange, and employee commitment. We find that organizational and supervisory ethical leadership are positively related to employee commitment to the organization and supervisor, respectively. We also find that different types of social exchange relationships mediate these relationships. Our results suggest that the application of a multifoci social exchange perspective to the context of ethical leadership is indeed useful: As hypothesized, within-foci effects (e.g., the relationship between organizational ethical leadership and commitment to the organization) are stronger than cross-foci effects (e.g., the relationship between supervisory ethical leadership and commitment to the organization). In addition, in contrast to the “trickle down” model of ethical leadership (Mayer et al. in Org Behav Hum Decis Process 108:1–13, 2009), our results suggest that organizational ethical leadership is both directly and indirectly related to employee outcomes.


Ethical leadership Commitment Social exchanges Leader–member exchange Leadership 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Duane Hansen
    • 1
  • Bradley J. Alge
    • 2
  • Michael E. Brown
    • 3
  • Christine L. Jackson
    • 2
  • Benjamin B. Dunford
    • 2
  1. 1.John B. Goddard School of Business & EconomicsWeber State UniversityOgdenUSA
  2. 2.Krannert Graduate School of ManagementPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Sam and Irene Black School of BusinessPenn State Erie, The Behrend CollegeErieUSA

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