How low does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model

By: David M. Mayer, Maribeth Kuenzi, Rebecca Greenbaum, Mary Bardes, Rommel Salvador


Mayer, D. M., Kuenzi, M., Greenbaum, R., Bardes, M., & Salvador, R. (2009). How low does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108: 1-13.

Abstract:

This research examines the relationships between top management and supervisory ethical leadership and group-level outcomes (e.g., deviance, OCB) and suggests that ethical leadership flows from one organizational level to the next. Drawing on social learning theory [Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.; Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.] and social exchange theory [Blau, p. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: John Wiley.], the results support our theoretical model using a sample of 904 employees and 195 managers in 195 departments. We find a direct negative relationship between both top management and supervisory ethical leadership and group-level deviance, and a positive relationship with group-level OCB. Finally, consistent with the proposed trickle-down model, the effects of top management ethical leadership on group-level deviance and OCB are mediated by supervisory ethical leadership.