By successfully completing this assignment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:
Competency 2: Evaluate the context, setting, and rationale for the business problem.
Explain each study's purpose and alignment with an identified problem.
Competency 3: Develop a research purpose statement based on stated business problems.
Compare the articles' foundational theories and concepts supporting the stated business problems' research purposes.
Competency 4: Develop research questions in support of a business problem and research purpose.
Describe the business problems' context, setting, rationale, and operational definitions.
Competency 7: Analyze different approaches to the creation of literature reviews that support applied business research.
Write in standard academic English appropriate for audience using correct grammar and current APA format.
Competency 8: Analyze requirements of ethical research.
Summarize the authors' ethical procedures and processes.
Review the research articles by Al-Emadi and Marquardt (2011) and Marsh (2013) (ATTACHED). Applying your knowledge of critical concepts and principles of applied business research, you will compare the articles' foundational theories and concepts supporting the stated business problem's research purposes.
Compose one formal, APA-formatted paper of no more than 700 words (word count excluding title and reference pages) that demonstrates your understanding of the following concepts for each study:
1. Context: What is the business problem? What is the specialization? Are these appropriately related?
2. Setting: What is the applied business research or research method and design (or both)?
3. Rationale: What is the value (worth) of examining the problem as applied to business? Upon whose research did the authors seek to build, that is, what is the scholarly justification for the research?
4. Research purpose: What is the purpose of the study? What is the alignment between the research purpose and problem identified by the authors?
5. Ethical procedures and processes: In summary, what actions did the authors take to ensure the ethical protections required in applied business research?
6. Operational definitions: Were specialized terms used?
7. Foundational theories and concepts frameworks: How do the articles differ with respect to their foundational theories and concepts?
Refer to the Applying Critical Concepts of Business Research Scoring Guide to ensure you meet the grading criteria.
To achieve a successful experience and outcome, you are expected to meet the following requirements:
Written communication: Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message, follows standard academic English usage, and uses language appropriate for the intended business and scholarly doctoral audiences.
APA formatting: Paper, references, and citations are formatted according to current APA style and format.
Length: One paper of 700 words, double-spaced. Submissions including a paper for each article will not be accepted for grading.
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Business Executives’ Perceptions of Ethical Leadership and Its Development
Received: 6 July 2011 / Accepted: 22 May 2012 / Published online: 12 June 2012
� Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract This paper summarized the findings of a qual-
itative study that examines the perceptions of ethical
leadership held by those who perceived themselves to be
ethical leaders, and how life experiences shaped the values
called upon when making ethical decisions. The experi-
ences of 28 business executives were shared with the
researcher, beginning with the recollection of a critical
incident that detailed an ethical issue with which each
executive had been involved. With the critical incident in
mind, each executive told the personal story that explained
the development of the values he or she called upon when
resolving the ethical issue described. The stories were
analyzed through the use of constant comparison, which
resulted in the development of two models: (1) a frame-
work for ethical leadership illuminating valued aspects of
ethical leaderships and the value perspectives called upon
when making ethical decisions, and (2) a model explaining
how the executives’ ethical frameworks developed. The
paper concludes with a brief discussion on virtue ethics,
experiential learning, and human resource development.
Keywords Ethics � Virtue � Leadership � Action learning
As the daily news carries allegations of corrupt behavior in
all arenas of life, the world’s attention is focused on the
behavior of leaders in government, business, social, and
even religious institutions. The courts selectively prosecute
high profile-offenders, the Catholic Church sends priests
into retirement, and political candidates challenge one
another’s records for signs of moral weakness. Legislation,
in the form of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, passed by
the United States Congress following the Enron, Tyco and
Worldcom scandals, has been enacted, but the scandals
Both executives and scholars are realizing that while
legislation is necessary, leadership may be the primary
determinant in ethical action. Gini (1998) stressed, ‘‘The
ethics of leadership—whether it be good or bad, positive or
negative—affects the ethos of the workplace and thereby
helps to form the ethical choices and decisions of the
workers in the workplace’’ (p. 28). Pollard (2005) stated,
‘‘While rules may bring a higher standard of accountability
and add the ‘stick’ of more penalties, they cannot deter-
mine the honesty, character, or integrity of the people
involved’’ (p. 14).
Lavengood (Pollard 2005) conceded that where public
policy leaves off, leadership must assist with the devel-
opment of a moral community that shapes human character
and behavior. Gough (1998) concurred and explained that
when caught in an internal struggle with regards to getting
ahead or doing the right thing, ‘‘The determining factor is
nothing less than the strengths and the weaknesses of your
character’’ (p. 43).
Badaracco (2006) emphasized, ‘‘Questions of character
are not simply useful … they are crucial to successful leadership….’’ (pp. 8–9). Quinn (2004) indicated that as leaders become more inwardly focused on their values,
their inner and outer worlds become aligned, significantly
impacting organizational behavior. He expounded, ‘‘We
also become less self-focused and more other-focused’’ (p.
The study summarized in this paper examined the eth-
ical character of leadership in today’s organizations by
C. Marsh (&) North Park University, Chicago, IL, USA
e-mail: [email protected]
J Bus Ethics (2013) 114:565–582
assisting executives in turning inward and uncovering the
values upon which they base their most difficult business
decisions, and listening to them reveal clues pertaining to
the development of a framework for ethical leadership.
This study can be differentiated from other studies that are
predominantly quantitative and utilize a measurable
approach that begins with existing research on values, such
as that of Rokeach (1973), Schwartz (1992, 1994, 2000), or
research on values embedded in existing leadership models
(Kanungo 2001; Mendonca 2001; Bass and Steidlmeier
1999; Greenleaf 1970/1991). Based on Rokeach (1973),
Hood (2003) connected leadership values with business
ethics in a study that measured, by means of a Likert scale,
the relationship of 14 of the Rokeach values with trans-
formational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership
styles (Burns 1978, 2003). Based on a modified version of
Schwartz’s instrument (1994) developed by Stern et al.
(1998), Sosik (2005) used multisource field data collected
in five organizations to examine links among managers’
personal values, charismatic leadership of managers, and
three outcome measures. Also, employing the tool devel-
oped by Stern et al. (1998), Fritzsche and Oz (2007) related
personal values to ethical dilemmas, by means of a Likert
scale, to determine the extent to which personal values
inform ethical decisions. To assess the impact of the
exposure of foreign culture on the development of leaders’
values, Chang and Lin (2008) used a modified version of
Schwartz’s Likert based Portrait Values Questionnaire
(PVQ) (Schwartz 2005, 2006). Graf et al. (2011) also made
use of the PVQ in their assessment of the effects of ideal
and counter-ideal values (Van Quaquebeke et al. 2010)
between leaders and followers. Recent empirical studies
that examine leader values through indirect values frame-
works embedded in leadership models include Groves and
LaRocca (2011) and Reed et al. (2011). Groves and LaR-
occa (2011) utilized the historic ethical philosophies of
teleology and deontology as associated with models of
transformational and transactional leadership (Kanungo
2001; Mendonca 2001; Bass and Steidlmeier 1999) to
examine leader ethical values. Reed et al. (2011) examined
ethical leader values implicited within the servant leader-
ship model (Greenleaf 1970/1991).
While the import of quantitative methods in determining
statistical relationships between the variables of human
values and ethical leadership must be acknowledged, the
need for a more interpretative approach to understanding
the immeasurable aspects of ethical leadership, as repre-
sented in the current study, is emerging. A number of
researchers (Trevino et al. 2003; April et al. 2010; Resick
et al. 2011) have approached the topic by means of qual-
itative methods. Trevino et al. (2003) conducted inductive
research by interviewing corporate ethics officers and
senior executives to examine ‘‘the perceived content
domain of executive ethical leadership’’ (p. 5), including
values and behaviors. April et al. (2010) had middle
managers, enrolled in MBA programs in South Africa and
the Netherlands, self-report enablers (values), and stum-
bling blocks to ethical action. Resick et al. (2011) used
qualitative methods to identify attributes (values are
included) and behaviors that managers from Asia, Amer-
ica, and Europe ascribe to ethical and unethical leaders.
Although their findings were consistent with the GLOBE
(House et al. 2004) framework of values across culture, the
Resick et al. (2011) did not design the study with the
GLOBE framework in mind. The three above-mentioned
qualitative studies explored particular phenomenon and did
not attempt to correlate findings to particular models or
frameworks, unlike the quantitative studies. These quali-
tative studies differ from the quantitative studies in that
they do not measure known variables; they explore per-
ceptions of each study’s participants through open-ended
questions. They do not generalize externally (Maxwell
2002), rather they explore multiple perspectives and
meanings in an attempt to understand the complex phe-
nomenon of ethical leadership within a particular, inter-
nally generalizable, context (Maxwell 2002). The
qualitative studies are not designed to measure variation;
they are more concerned with ‘‘describing in detail what
survey questionnaire results do not permit to be descri-
bed—the assumptions, behaviors, and attitudes of a very
special set [of participants]….’’ (Freidson 1975, pp. 272–273).
The study summarized in this paper utilized a qualitative
approach to add to the growing knowledge base that clar-
ifies and expands the concept of ethical leadership. How-
ever, unlike the qualitative studies described above, this
study investigated not only the phenomenon of ethical
leadership, but also examined how ethical leadership
develops. The context of the study was senior executives,
in American businesses ranging from small entrepreneurial
ventures to large multi-national corporations, who were
perceived by others, and identified themselves as ethical
leaders. The field of research on ethical leadership is young
and the topic broad and complex (Trevino et al. 2003),
providing ample territory for a constructivist theory-
building approach (Creswell 2003). Further, due to the
subjective nature of ethical leadership (Conger 1998) a
qualitative exploration may prove more suitable than post-
positivist empirical observation and measurement (Cre-
Problem Statement and Purpose
Based on the premise that leadership is a fundamental
determinant in ethical action, the study summarized in this
566 C. Marsh
paper examined both executives’ perceptions of the
frameworks that guided their ethical decisions and their
thoughts on how those frameworks came into existence. As
previously mentioned, a modicum of research linking
values and business ethics exists (April et al. 2010; Chang
and Lin 2008; Graf et al. 2011; Groves and LaRocca 2011;
Fritzsche and Oz 2007; Hood 2003; Resick et al. 2011;
Sosik 2005; Trevino et al. 2003), but little has been done to
draw upon the actual perceptions of the business leader as
to what life experiences have fostered the development of
values and character. The growth of virtue ethics as an
aspect of the business leadership development provides
new opportunity for research that explores the link between
the growth of personal values and leadership development.
As Donaldson (2003) stated, ‘‘at no time has the legitimacy
of business depended so heavily on clarifying its connec-
tion to human values’’ (p. 365). Further, virtue ethics is
seen to develop through experience (Brewer 1997; Hart-
man 2011; MacIntyre 1984), hence examining the experi-
ences of those who perceive themselves to be ethical may
add to our understanding of ethical leadership develop-
ment. This study, in its attempt to clarify that connection
between the development of personal values and ethical
leadership behavior, took its participants on a journey in
which they discussed their values in the context of ethical
issues with which they had struggled. It allowed them to
take the time to tell their personal stories regarding their
understanding of the dimensions of their ethical frame-
works and the development of the values upon which those
frameworks were based. Specifically, this study contributes
not only to the emerging knowledge on ethical leadership
but also the nascent field of ethical leadership
Two overarching questions guided this study.
1. What aspects of ethical leadership are valued by those
who consider themselves ethical leaders?
2. In what ways do the life experiences of those who
perceive themselves to be ethical leaders inform the
understanding of the process of ethical leadership
In recent years, business ethicists have begun to investigate
the merit of the inclusion of virtue ethics, based on values,
in business ethics education (Whetstone 2001, 2003).
Miller and Collier (2010) cited Crockett (2005) to explain
virtue ethics in the Aristotelian sense: virtues ‘‘…are meant to be exercised in practical judgments, habitualized with frequent
use and gradually adopted as a stable part of one’s character’’
(Crockett 2005, p. 199). This is in keeping with Aristotle who
described ethics as a habit of virtue that is modeled and
developed through practice’’ (Miller and Collier 2010, p. 83).
Similarly, Morrell and Clark (2010) explained, ‘‘virtue ethics
has at its heart the habits and character of key actors—who
become virtuous through carrying out right actions, acting in a
manner that communicates the importance of considering the
means by which outcomes are achieved’’ (p. 257).
This turn toward the character perspective comes as a
result of research that shows that the teleological and
deontological cognitive decision-making approaches alone
have not had sufficient impact (Rest and Narvaez 1994),
and that ethical decisions are ultimately an expression of
the decision maker’s value system. Further, ‘‘by shifting
the focus from the act to the agent, virtue ethics overcomes
these problems [problems posed by act-centered teleolog-
ical and deontological approaches to ethics]’’ (Dawson and
Bartholomew 2003, p. 127). Bastons (2008) discussed the
cardinal virtues as personal decision-making competencies
and stresses, ‘‘… without these competences it is not pos- sible to guarantee a decision is really optimal’’ (p. 399). As
the focus of the research summarized in this paper was on
the connection between leadership values and ethical
decision-making, virtue ethics provided the study with a
foundational framework due to its emphasis on character,
rather than cognitive act-centered decision-making schema,
in the exercise of ethical leadership.
One of the most recognized calls for a return to Aristo-
telian virtue ethics has come from Alasdair MacIntyre
(1984). MacIntyre asserted that current ethical theory and
practice are in a state of grave disorder brought on by the
liberal individualism of the Enlightenment, most notably
articulated by Nietzsche. He postulated that people can best
remedy this disorder by reviving the Aristotelian tradition
of virtue ethics. Moore (2002, 2003) insisted that corpora-
tions can only resist the power of corrupting influences
through incorporation of the virtues of those who represent
the organization. A major tenet offered by MacIntyre’s
premise is that we discover our virtuous character only in
acting it out in relationship within community—it is only
through our association with virtue that we can become
virtuous (Blum 1988). If the community itself is not virtu-
ous, and MacIntyre struggled with the notion that the
business organization could be virtuous, the actions of
community members will be victim to the desires/morals of
the community (Dobson 2009; Hine 2007). MacIntyre
conceded, however, that individual members of the com-
munity are not necessarily bound by what he perceives to be
the moral limitations inherent within business institutions
operating within a capitalist society (Schwartz 2009).
Ethical Leadership and Its Development 567
Dawson and Bartholomew (2003) argued that in as much
the business organization serves as community, it plays a
significant role in encouraging and developing the virtues.
Through his or her experience, then, ‘‘the manager would
draw upon an ever increasing understanding of what con-
stitutes the good’’ (Brewer 1997, p. 832). In Hartman’s
examination of the role of the Aristotelian virtues in busi-
ness decision-making he suggested, ‘‘We learn through
experience, and we may look to the insights of literature,
including religious literature, to distill that experience and
improve our moral imagination’’ (2011, p. 14.). Hence,
moral education is at the heart of virtue ethics, and, in turn,
virtue ethics provides a basis for understanding the expe-
riential development of ethical leadership and supports the
quest, undergirding this study, to comprehend the process
by which executives develop their ethical frameworks.
Understanding this process may provide clues for those
engaged in the arduous task of not only leadership devel-
opment, but also ethical leadership development.
As previously mentioned, the design for the research
undertaken in the present study is qualitative. As the study
relied primarily upon the capability of the researcher to
enter into dialog with the participants to extract meaning
from lived experience (Maxwell 1996) in an inductive
fashion, an interpretive approach, which is qualitative by
nature, was required (Merriam et al. 2002). In addition, as
the study was undertaken with the hopes that it would pave
the way for new theory to emerge from the perceived
reality of the participants rather than from the researcher’s
own perspective, a qualitative process assisted with the
formulation of theory from the data as it unfolded (Morse
and Richards 2002). The semi-structured data collection
interviews were based on the following questions:
(1) Think of a time in your career in which you were
confronted with a difficult business decision you
considered to be an ethical dilemma.
(2) What was at stake?
(3) What did you decide?
(4) What process did you use in reaching that decision?
(5) Now—tell me some stories about how you developed
the values that supported the decision.
(6) Which of these do you consider to be the most
important influence(s) on your ethical perspective?
The constant comparison methods (Glaser and Strauss
1967), supplemented by critical incident technique (Flan-
agan 1954), were key elements of the data analysis. They
provided the structure that allowed theory to evolve from
the research process. First, the critical incident technique
was used to isolate the ethical dilemmas through which the
executives told their stories. With the incident clearly in
mind, each executive told stories of how he or she came to
hold the values called upon when making the decision.
Second, after the collection of data, the method of constant
comparison was used to understand patterns among the
stories that were shared.
Examples of the incidents detailed in the complete write
up of the study are: (1) A bank executive recalled a time
when he had been asked by his commanding officer to hire
the future son-in-law of a powerful senator over a qualified
internal candidate; (2) A vice president of human resources
of a multi-national software corporation discussed a time
when she was employed by a telecommunications com-
pany that was downsizing for the first time in its over
100 year history. She found herself needing to lay off
employees in their 50s and 60s; and (3) A managing
partner of a professional services firm talked about a time
when he reached a decision to sell his small firm to a more
financially secure competitor knowing that some of his
employees would lose their jobs.
The participants whose stories informed the research were
senior-level executives ranking from the level of director
and above. The participants ranged in age from 38 to 73.
The goal was to interview between 20 and 30 participants
until the point of saturation was reached (Creswell 1998)
and no new interpretative patterns emerge. 31 executives
were interviewed and 28 of the interviews were utilized in
this study. One of the 31 was eliminated due to his high
public profile and concern as to whether his data could be
kept confidential. Two others were eliminated after their
interviews had been conducted and it was clear that they
did not see themselves as having the power to make
decisions that impacted their organizations and therefore
no longer fit the selection criteria.
There are limitations to this study. The participants were
selected through the technique of nomination by reputa-
tional-case selections in which individuals are selected on
the recommendation of experts in the area to be studied
(Goetz and LeCompte 1984). Initially, business leaders
within this researcher’s own network were contacted due to
her belief that these leaders were ethical; they in turn
nominated others for participation. There was no external,
independent verification conducted to indicate that the
participants were indeed ethical leaders. The participants
perceived themselves to be ethical leaders, and that per-
ception, together with their nomination, qualified them to
participate in this study. Finally, the trustworthiness and
transferability of the data generated by the participants, rest
568 C. Marsh
upon the researcher’s ability to write clearly and remain
true to the participants’ stories by providing rich, thick
descriptive (Merriam et al. 2002) narrative to which the
reader could relate. Initial feedback from the participants as
well as practitioners and scholars indicates that the findings
Two models emerged from this study—a framework for
ethical leadership and a model for its development. The
supporting quotes contained within the following synopsis
are representative of a much larger body of data that may
be found in the original study.
A Framework for Ethical Leadership
In answering questions regarding the development of their
ethical frameworks, the participants in the study also
revealed what they most valued in their ongoing practice of
ethical leadership. As the participants’ insights merged, a
framework for ethical leadership surfaced. The overall
framework is made up of four value perspectives and each
of the value perspectives is formed by approaches valued
by the participants in their ongoing practice of ethical
leadership. The term, value perspective, was developed to
retain the integrity of both the study’s purpose and the
questions asked to generate the data. The first research
question asks, ‘‘What aspects of ethical leadership are
valued by those who consider themselves ethical leaders?’’
The participants were not asked about the development of
their leadership qualities, behaviors, or competencies; the
interview questions asked them to discuss how they had
developed the values upon which their most difficult
decisions were based. Hence, the data that emerged rep-
resented the participants’ perspectives on what they valued
in their exercise of ethical leadership. A value perspective
is not a value in and of itself; it is a conduit through which
the participants were able to connect their values with their
decisions and actions. The concept of the value perspective
may be one way in which this study contributes to the
growing body of knowledge on ethical leadership.
The data support the conclusion that the value per-
spectives of mindfulness, engagement, authenticity, and
sustainment provide clues to the practice of ethical lead-
ership. The value perspective of mindfulness, representing
cognitive processes involved when acting ethically, is
composed of the valued approaches of ethical leadership:
observation, time for reflection, systems thinking, rational
process, and dialog and questioning. The value perspective
of engagement, representing involvement in ethical action,
is composed of the valued approaches of ethical leadership:
embraces diversity, cultivates relationships, terminates
relationships, and encourages risk taking. The value per-
spective of authenticity, representing character called upon
in being ethical, is composed of the valued approaches of
ethical leadership: personal integrity, self-knowledge, and
author of one’s own life. Sustainment is the term that
represents the value perspective that anchors the frame-
work, arising from the participants’ narratives as the ‘‘that
without which’’ of ethical leadership. The value perspec-
tive of sustainment is composed of the valued approaches
of ethical leadership: no illusions, hope, and a holistic
approach to work and life.
The value perspective of mindfulness is supported through
participants’ stories that underscored the exercise of
observation, time for reflection, systems thinking, rational
process, and questioning and dialog in the practice of
ethical leadership. A number of scholars (Boyatzis and
McKee 2005; Fiol and O’Connor 2003; Hansen and Haas
2001; Langer 1989; Langer and Piper 1987; Marques
2012; Ruedy and Schweitzer 2010; Varela et al. 1991;
Verhezen 2010; Weick 1995; Weick et al. 1999) have
begun to investigate the concept of mindfulness in rela-
tionship to leadership activity in organizations. Ruedy and
Schweitzer (2010) defined mindfulness as, ‘‘an individual’s
awareness of his or her present experience,’’ (p. 73). The
study participants highlighted the exercise of observation
as practice for gaining awareness of the present. Obser-
vation was also seen as a method that could assist with
moving beyond self to see and understand the experience
of others. Accordingly, Hays (2007) expanded that defi-
nition, indicating that ‘‘mindfulness is a state of acute
awareness, attentiveness, and perceptiveness in everything
going on around oneself while minimizing the effect of
self and ego’’ (Marques 2012). Verhezen (2010) indicated
that mindfulness, as opposed to ‘‘moral muteness in a
culture of silence’’ (p. 187), will lead not only to compli-
ance with regulations but also to ethical innovations that
demonstrate integrity and respect for all parties. Many of
the study participants understood the importance of
breaking the silence and stimulating questioning and dia-
log with those who held differing perspectives as a method
for challenging their ego-bound assumptions, generating
new ideas and approaches as well as honoring individuals.
The importance of acknowledging and honoring individ-
uals supports Marques (2012) understanding of mindful-
ness pointing not only to the practice of letting go of ego
but also to the nurturing of kindness and compassion.
Vanentine et al. (2010) surmised that ‘‘mindfulness is a
positive characteristic that enables individuals to more
effectively respond to environmental demands’’ (p. 457).
Ethical Leadership and Its Development 569
Mindfulness is akin to awareness that is active and con-
stantly taking in, processing, and assimilating information.
This dimension of mindfulness was acknowledged by
many of the participants, as they stressed time for reflec-
tion as essential to remain vigilant to the constant flow of
ideas and action. Marques (2012) suggested that in the
workplace, mindfulness can lead to ‘‘greater concentration,
more joy in the moment, the ability to remain calm in
turbulent situations, and a greater ability to link occur-
rences with one another, which will help to detect pat-
terns’’ (p. 34). The ability to link occurrences and detect
patterns showed up in the participants’ stories that high-
lighted the use of rational process and systems thinking as
aspects of mindfulness.
Of the many stories shared by the participants, one in
particular highlights many of the approaches of mindful-
ness that emerged from the data. This vice president of an
international software consulting company observed, took
time to reflect, engaged in questioning and dialog, and
worked at uncovering deep systematic patterns. He also
assisted his team with using the same approaches. He
This meeting had ended up with a sense that it didn’t
go anywhere, and the issues still remained with a lot
of bottled-up passions and energy. People were really
frustrated… I just kept thinking….A week later I called the team back. …I got everybody to process their feelings and emotions and then I asked every-
body to get to the root of the dissatisfaction and
unhappiness. I wanted us to know where that was
coming from so we could figure out how to work with
it and chang