Situational impacts on leader ethical decision-making




Stenmark, Cheryl K.
Mumford, Michael D.

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Leader ethical decision-making has received a great deal of attention in the academic literature. Most research examining ethical leadership has focused on the leader characteristics and subordinate outcomes associated with ethical leadership, but research examining the situational variables influencing leader ethical decision-making is limited. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine a number of situational variables that may influence leader ethical decision-making. This study examined the impacts of performance pressure, interpersonal conflict, the leader’s decision-making autonomy, the type of ethical issue at hand, and the level of authority of the other person involved in the interaction. The results indicated that when making a decision in response to a superior (as opposed to a peer or subordinate), leaders make worse decisions. Additionally, a number of interactions of the other variables negatively impacted leaders’ ethical decision-making. The implications of these findings are discussed.



leadership, ethical decision-making, performance pressure, interpersonal conflict, authority, autonomy


Stenmark, C.K., & Mumford, M.D. (2011). Situational impacts on leader ethical decision-making. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(5), 942-955.