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Indigenous Insights into Ethical Leadership: A Study of Māori Leaders

Abstract

The need for ethical leadership in navigating today’s complex, global and competitive organisations has been established. While research has confirmed the importance of ethical leaders in promoting positive organisational and employee outcomes, scant research has examined the antecedents of ethical leadership. Furthermore, there has been a call for further examination of leadership models, particularly indigenous leadership models. Responding to these issues, this study suggests Māori leaders’ values add insights into enhancing ethical leadership. Three studies confirm the role of Māori values and ethical leadership. Study one, based on kaupapa Māori research methods, is an exploratory 22-interview study of Māori leaders and identifies five values, (humility, altruism, long-term orientation, collectivism and cultural authenticity) as common to successful indigenous leaders. In study two, 249 employees rate their leaders on these five dimensions in relation to their ethical leadership and exchange relationships. Structural equation modelling shows strong support for the distinct nature of the five values and their positive influence on ethical leadership perceptions and quality exchange relationships (LMX). Study three, on 122 employees, reinforces the findings of study two—and demonstrates that LMX predicts job outcomes both indirectly and directly, with humility and collectivism also directly predicting outcomes. Our findings suggest that indigenous leaders’ values enhance perceptions and outcomes of ethical leadership for employees.

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Acknowledgements

Jarrod Haar has received a research grant for this paper (This study was funded by The Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Grant number X957).

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Correspondence to David Brougham.

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Jarrod Haar, Maree Roche and David Brougham declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Jarrod Haar and Maree Roche shared first authorship.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 6.

Table 6 Adapted from

Appendix 2

See Table 7.

Table 7 Adapted from Ruru et al. (2017). This work uses whakataukī (proverbs) to summarise themes of findings. These are further explained in column two, with the “touchpoint” to the current study in column three

Appendix 3

Humility

  • Considers themselves an ordinary person who is no better than others

  • Wouldn’t want people to treat them as though they were superior to others

  • Wants people to know that they are an important person of high status [reverse coded]

Altruism

  • Has sympathy for people who are less fortunate than they are

  • Tries to give generously to those in need

  • Is seen by people as a hard-hearted person [reverse coded]

Collectivism

  • Winning is everything at work to my immediate supervisor/manager [reverse coded]

  • It is important to my immediate supervisor/manager that they do my job better than others [reverse coded]

  • Competition is the law of nature at work to my immediate supervisor/manager [reverse coded]

Long-Term View

  • My immediate supervisor/manager plans for the long term

  • My immediate supervisor/manager doesn’t mind giving up today’s fun for success in the future

  • Traditional values are important to my immediate supervisor/manager

Culturally Authentic

  • Is true to their cultural beliefs in most situations

  • Always stands by what their cultural values and beliefs

  • Thinks it is better to be following their cultural values and beliefs, even if this makes them less popular

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Haar, J., Roche, M. & Brougham, D. Indigenous Insights into Ethical Leadership: A Study of Māori Leaders. J Bus Ethics 160, 621–640 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3869-3

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Keywords

  • Indigenous/Māori leadership
  • Ethical leadership
  • Mixed methods research