Ethical Sales Leadership and Salesperson Performance: The Intervening Influence of Worthiness of being Followed: An Abstract
In the sales literature, researchers have identified that ethical leadership by sales managers influences various salesperson outcomes, including organizational identification, person-organization fit, extra-role behaviors, and reduced turnover intentions (DeConinck 2015; Schwepker 2015; Wu 2017). Yet, the process by which ethical leadership influences ethical behavior and improved performance by salespeople remains unknown.
This paper contributes to the current knowledge on the link between sales leadership and its outcomes by focusing on the intervening mechanism by which salespeople are likely to be influenced by sales manager’s ethical leadership. Specifically, drawing from emerging research on the construct of “worthiness of being followed” (Liborius 2014, 2017), it is proposed that sales managers’ ethical leadership induces salespeople’s behavior, when salespeople perceive that their managers are worthy of being emulated. In addition, it is suggested that ethical leadership enhances salespeople’s perceptions of their manager’s charisma as well as salespeople’s attribution of performance to their managers, which, in turn, enhance a manager’s worthiness of being followed. Two aspects of the ethical climate prevailing in the organization—ethical responsibility and peers’ unethical behavior—are considered as control variables.
Analysis of data gathered from business-to-business salespeople supports that when sales managers utilize an ethical leadership style, they are perceived as worthy targets for emulation by salespeople. In turn, their perceived worthiness of being followed serves as a motivational force for influencing outcome and behavioral performance. The results also show that ethical leadership boosts sales managers’ charismatic appeal and performance attribution which, in turn, enhance their perceived worthiness of being followed.
From a theoretical standpoint, this paper is one of the first to integrate ethical leadership, worthiness to be followed, charisma performance attribution, and performance outcomes in the sales literature. Further research on this concept in the sales domain could prove useful in better understanding various aspects of supervisor-salesperson relationships. From a practical standpoint, this research could offer valuable insights for sales manager selection, evaluation, and retention as well as for encouraging salespeople’s conformance and performance. Sales managers can be trained on ethical leadership so that they communicate, demonstrate, expect, and receive appropriate behaviors from their salespeople.
References Available Upon Request