It’s a Match: Moralization and the Effects of Moral Foundations Congruence on Ethical and Unethical Leadership Perception

Abstract

While much research has focused on the effects of ethical and unethical leadership, little is known about how followers come to perceive their leaders as ethical or unethical. In this article, we investigate the co-creation of ethical and unethical leadership perceptions. Specifically, we draw from emerging research on moral congruence in organizational behaviour and empirically investigate the role of congruence in leaders’ and followers’ moral foundations in followers’ perceptions of ethical and unethical leadership. By analysing objective congruence scores from 67 leader–follower dyads by means of polynomial regression with surface response analysis, we find partial support for our theoretically derived predictions. Significant effects were revealed for the fairness, loyalty, and authority moral foundations but not for the care and sanctity moral foundations. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

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    We also performed the same analyses with destructive leadership measured with 3 items, yielding the same pattern of results.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Michael Palanski for his helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this article.

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Correspondence to Maxim Egorov.

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Egorov, M., Kalshoven, K., Pircher Verdorfer, A. et al. It’s a Match: Moralization and the Effects of Moral Foundations Congruence on Ethical and Unethical Leadership Perception. J Bus Ethics 167, 707–723 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04178-9

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Keywords

  • Moral congruence
  • Moral foundations
  • Moralization
  • Ethical leadership
  • Unethical leadership