Authentic Leadership and Followers’ Cheating Behaviour: A Laboratory Experiment from a Self-Concept Maintenance Perspective

  • Susanne Braun
  • Lars Hornuf
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership book series (PASTLEFO)


This chapter presents insights into the question whether followers’ perceptions of authentic leadership attenuate cheating. From the perspective of self-concept maintenance theory, followers will cheat so long as they can maintain a positive self-concept. We suggested that authentic leadership lowers the perceptual threshold under which followers can still consider themselves honest. A laboratory experiment combined video-based variations of authentic leadership with a cheating-of-mind experiment. We collected data from 343 students at a German university. Results indicate that participants cheated, but not to the fullest extent possible. Authentic leadership did not affect the extent to which participants cheated. These results held when moderating variables were tested (e.g., cheating norm, victimization). Hence, the findings do not support the notion that a short-term authentic leadership intervention attenuates cheating.


Authentic leadership Cheating Experiment Self-concept maintenance Unethical conduct 



We gratefully acknowledge the support of David Schindler and the team of the Munich Experimental Laboratory for Economic and Social Sciences. We also thank Ximena Garcia-Rada and the participants in the Workshop on Experimental Labour and Personnel Economics (Institute for Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union) as well as the Workshop on the Autonomy at Work and Employee Involvement: Causes and Consequences (Institute for Employment Research) for their helpful comments and suggestions. We are highly indebted to Anna Fuhrmann and Xueqian Chen for their excellent research assistance. We also thank Matthias Schmitt, Karolina Nieberle, David Goretzko, and Mark Bärthel for their help in running the experiment. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Braun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lars Hornuf
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Durham University Business SchoolDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Center for Leadership and People ManagementLudwig Maximilian University MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of Business Studies & EconomicsUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  4. 4.Max Planck Institute for Innovation and CompetitionMunichGermany

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