“Character is an integration of habits of conduct superimposed on temperament. It is the will exercised on disposition, thoughts, emotion and action. Will is character in action.” – Vince Lombardi
Evidence from a growing number of studies suggests leader character as a means to advance leadership knowledge and practice. Based on this evidence, we propose a process model depicting how leader character manifests in ethical leadership that has positive psychological and performance outcomes for leaders, along with the moderating effect of leaders’ self-control on the character strength–ethical leadership–outcomes relationships. We tested this model using multisource data from 218 U.S. Air Force officers (who rated their honesty/humility, empathy, moral courage, self-control, and psychological flourishing) and their subordinates (who rated their officer’s ethical leadership) and superiors (who rated the officers’ in-role performance). Findings provide initial support for leader character as a mechanism triggering positive outcomes such that only when officers reported a high level of self-control did their honesty/humility, empathy, and moral courage manifest in ethical leadership, associated with higher levels of psychological flourishing and in-role performance. We discuss the implications of these results for future theory development, research, and practice.
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We wish to thank Abbey Philip and Kaushik Krishnaswamy Kumar for their assistance with this research. We also thank Section Editor Michael E. Palanski and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. An earlier version of this article appears in the Best Papers Proceedings of the 78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Chicago, IL, USA, August 10–14, 2018.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
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.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Sosik, J.J., Chun, J.U., Ete, Z. et al. Self-control Puts Character into Action: Examining How Leader Character Strengths and Ethical Leadership Relate to Leader Outcomes. J Bus Ethics 160, 765–781 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3908-0
- Character strengths
- Ethical leadership
- In-role performance
- Psychological flourishing