Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 381–392 | Cite as

Ethical Leadership and Followers’ Moral Judgment: The Role of Followers’ Perceived Accountability and Self-leadership

  • Robert SteinbauerEmail author
  • Robert W. Renn
  • Robert R. Taylor
  • Phil K. Njoroge


A two stage model was developed and tested to explain how ethical leadership relates to followers’ ethical judgment in an organizational context. Drawing on social learning theory, ethical leadership was hypothesized to promote followers’ self-leadership focused on ethics. It was found that followers’ perceived accountability fully accounts for this relationship. In stage two, the relationship between self-leadership focused on ethics and moral judgment in a dual decision-making system was described and tested. Self-leadership focused on ethics was only related to moral judgment when followers use active judgment as opposed to their intuition. This provides support that a deliberate application of self-leadership focused on ethics leads to higher moral judgment. Theoretical and practical implications as well as future research opportunities are discussed.


Ethical leadership Perceived accountability Self-leadership Moral judgment 



This work was supported by grants from the Department of Management and the Fogelman College of Business & Economics at the University of Memphis. This research support does not imply endorsement of the research results by either the Fogelman College or the University of Memphis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Steinbauer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert W. Renn
    • 1
  • Robert R. Taylor
    • 1
  • Phil K. Njoroge
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ManagementUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.School of AccountancyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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