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J Appl Psychol. 2002 Apr;87(2):304-11.

Transformational leadership and moral reasoning.

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  • 1Queen's School of Business, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Terms such as moral and ethical leadership are used widely in theory, yet little systematic research has related a sociomoral dimension to leadership in organizations. This study investigated whether managers' moral reasoning (n = 132) was associated with the transformational and transactional leadership behaviors they exhibited as perceived by their subordinates (n = 407). Managers completed the Defining Issues Test (J. R. Rest, 1990), whereas their subordinates completed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (B. M. Bass & B. J. Avolio, 1995). Analysis of covariance indicated that managers scoring in the highest group of the moral-reasoning distribution exhibited more transformational leadership behaviors than leaders scoring in the lowest group. As expected, there was no relationship between moral-reasoning group and transactional leadership behaviors. Implications for leadership development are discussed.

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