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Ethical Leadership and Its Cultural and Institutional Context: An Empirical Study in Japan

Abstract

In recent times, international comparative studies on managers’ beliefs regarding ethical/unethical leadership have increased in number. These studies focus on both Eastern and Western countries. However, although these previous studies focused on the effects of national culture, they did not pay sufficient attention to the effects of institutions. Moreover, these studies covered only a few countries. Despite Japan’s strong influence on the world economy, it has not been included in previous studies on ethical leadership. Thus, to reveal unexplored factors—particularly cultural and institutional factors—and to determine the generalizability of previous findings, this study used a qualitative research method to examine Japanese business managers’ beliefs about ethical/unethical leadership. The data revealed the convergence and divergence in beliefs regarding ethical/unethical leadership between managers in Japan and in other countries. The analysis identified mostly the same themes of ethical/unethical leadership as found in other countries albeit with different distributions. In addition, We identified new themes that may be specific to Japan or that were neglected in previous studies. Moreover, this study suggests the necessity of considering each society’s history of business ethics and current ethics-related institutional contexts in ethical/unethical leadership studies.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Haruyuki Kanou from Japan Organization for Employment of the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Job Seekers for voluntarily helping the data analysis. Also, we would like to thank Enago (www.enago.jp) for the English language review. Finally, we would like to thank Dr. Karianne Kalshoven and this journal's reviewers for their valuable feedback.

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Correspondence to Takuma Kimura.

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This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 15K17127.

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Kimura, T., Nishikawa, M. Ethical Leadership and Its Cultural and Institutional Context: An Empirical Study in Japan. J Bus Ethics 151, 707–724 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3268-6

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Keywords

  • Ethical leadership
  • National culture
  • Institutional theory
  • Business ethics