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“What’s a Leader Without Trust?”: Perceptions of Unethical Leadership and Loss of Trust from the Experiences of MENA Refugee and Immigrant Women



This ethnographic study advances understanding of follower perceptions of leadership through an intersectional approach, based on the experiences of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) immigrant and refugee women following resettlement in the United States. The findings discussed support follower perceptions of unethical leadership among government entities based on the pre-migration context of the participants’ home countries. This research is part of a larger study involving three years of immersive observations during weekly classes, three focus group sessions, and 30 interviews with key informants, from which five major findings related to leadership emerged. In the present article, the findings related to unethical leadership are presented with its themes of corruption, deceit, egotism, inaccessibility, theft, and loss of trust.
JEQR Journal of Ethnographic
& Qualitative Research
Volume 16 Issue 1 ISSN 1935-3308 Fall 2021
Volume 16 Issue 1 Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Fall 2021
Medication Assisted Treatment of Opioid Addiction:
A Qualitative Review of Program Challenges 1
Christine M. Connolly, Constance C. Milbourne
“What’s a Leader Without Trust?”: Perceptions of Unethical Leadership and
Loss of Trust from the Experiences of MENA Refugee and Immigrant Women 18
Tiffani N. Luethke
Firefighters’ Experiences with Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Vicarious Trauma:
A Photovoice Project 35
Rebecca A. Stout, Samantha Kostamo
Practical Morality: Social Order and Criminal Network Processes in an
Impoverished Mexico City Neighborhood 51
Avelardo Valdez, Mario Dominguez, Alice Cepeda
Unlocking the Potential of Struggling Students: One Teacher, Student-Centered
Inquiry Learning and a Makerspace 68
Susan Griebling, Kimberly Yates, Noah Waspe
Wells Fargo (Fortune, 2020), emphasizes the
urgency for research regarding unethical lead-
ership. From a global perspective, widespread
corruption and unethical leadership have sus-
tained throughout the Middle East and North
Africa (MENA), particularly following the Arab
Spring in 2011 (Sapsford et al., 2019; Spierings,
2017). This widespread corruption draws at-
tention to the importance of the present study
that will contribute to knowledge about follow-
er outcomes and may provide implications for
Defining Unethical Leadership and
Its Implications
Unethical leader behavior appears with-
in the literature by a variety of names, includ-
ing (but not limited to) the dark side of lead-
ership (e.g., Braun et al., 2018; Conger, 1990;
Khoo & Burch, 2008), destructive leader be-
havior (e.g., Güntner et al., 2021; Padilla et al.,
2007; Schyns & Schilling, 2013; Thoroughgood
et al., 2012), toxic leadership or leader toxici-
ty (e.g., Lipman-Blumen, 2005, 2010; Mehta &
Unethical leaders have occupied positions of
power across many societies throughout histo-
ry, despite their abusive and destructive prac-
tices (Lipman-Blumen, 2005). Leaders, such as
Adolf Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, and Niccolò Ma-
chiavelli, are a few among many who help dem-
onstrate this point. A simple Google search of
“bad leaders in history” will generate about 410
million results, each listing several bad, or un-
ethical, leaders. Yet, historically leadership lit-
erature has largely focused on the ethical as-
pects of leadership practice (Brown et al., 2005;
Engelbrecht et al., 2017; Mayer et al., 2009; Ru-
bin et al., 2010; Saha et al., 2020; Treviño et al.,
2003; Walumbwa & Schaubroeck, 2009).
The increasing frequency of scandals in-
volving big names, such as BP Oil (Meiners,
2020), Bernard Madoff (Henriques, 2021), and
Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research
2021, Vol. 16, 18–34 ISSN: 1935-3308
“whats a leader without trust?”: perceptions of
unethical leadership and loss of trust froM the
experiences of Mena refugee and iMMigrant woMen
This ethnographic study advances understanding of follower perceptions
of leadership through an intersectional approach, based on the experi-
ences of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) immigrant and ref-
ugee women following resettlement in the United States. The findings
discussed support follower perceptions of unethical leadership among gov-
ernment entities based on the pre-migration context of the participants’
home countries. This research is part of a larger study involving three
years of immersive observations during weekly classes, three focus group
sessions, and 30 interviews with key informants, from which five major
findings related to leadership emerged. In the present article, the findings
related to unethical leadership are presented with its themes of corruption,
deceit, egotism, inaccessibility, theft, and loss of trust.
Tiffani N. Luethke, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of
Communication at University of Nebraska at Kearney in Ke-
arney, Nebraska.
Correspondence regarding this article should be sent
Tiffani N. Luethke
University of Nebraska
One key element of unethical leadership
that emerges across the literature is the harmful
consequences that followers face under leader-
ship that is unethical or destructive (e.g., Eisen-
beiß & Brodbeck, 2014; Lašáková & Remišová,
2015; Misha & van Dijke, 2019; Schyns & Schil-
ling, 2013; Tepper et al., 2017). In a meta-anal-
ysis conducted by Schyns and Schilling (2013),
many important implications related to destruc-
tive, or unethical, leadership included negative
attitudes towards one’s leader, counterproduc-
tive (work) behaviors, decreased wellbeing, neg-
ative affectivity, and increased stress. Similarly,
Tepper et al. (2017) synthesized research about
abusive supervision and identified its conse-
quences as decreased performance, withdrawal
(e.g., lack of engagement, increased psycholog-
ical distress), and harm to well-being (e.g., ex-
periencing depression, increased stress). Clear-
ly, there are many overlapping findings across
scholarship, which broadly encompass the no-
tion of unethical leadership and its negative ef-
fects, underscoring the importance of further re-
search in this area of study.
Culture and Perceptions of
Leader Behavior
Karacay et al. (2019) defined culture as
“commonly experienced language, ideologi-
cal belief systems, ethnic heritage, and history”
(p. 2). Perceptions of leader behavior, regard-
ing what is ethical and what is unethical, are
largely impacted by these cultural differences
(Eisenbeiß & Brodbeck, 2014; Hofstede, 1980).
Yet, research which has explored the relation-
ship between culture and (un)ethical leadership
remains limited (Brown & Mitchell, 2010; Eisen-
beiß & Brodbeck, 2014). Moreover, conceptual-
izations of (un)ethical leadership are likely to
vary within different cultural and subcultural
communities (Brown & Mitchell, 2010; Eisen-
beiß & Brodbeck, 2014; Resick et al., 2006; Thor-
oughgood et al., 2012). Beliefs about leadership
are strongly related to a set of ethical values (By
et al., 2012), largely influenced by one’s culture,
or cultural context (Hofstede, 1980). These val-
ues shape notions of right and wrong, good and
bad, as well as leadership practice and its out-
comes, including how it is perceived by follow-
ers (e.g., acceptable/favorable versus unaccep-
tance/undesirable; By et al., 2012; Luthans et
Maheshwari, 2013; Pelletier, 2010), and abusive
supervision (e.g., Tepper, 2000, 2007; Tepper et
al., 2017), in addition to unethical leadership
(e.g., Blair et al., 2017; Brown & Mitchell, 2010;
Eisenbeiß & Brodbeck, 2014; Hoyt et al., 2013;
Lašáková & Remišová, 2015). This wide-rang-
ing use of terminology largely contributes to a
lack of consensus in clearly defining unethical
leadership and hints at the complexity of this
concept (Lašáková & Remišová, 2015; Padilla et
al., 2007). Variations within this body of work
also include differing foci, including associated
leader personality traits (e.g., Braun et al., 2018;
Khoo & Burch, 2008) versus the specific behav-
iors of unethical leaders (e.g., Eisenbeiß & Brod-
beck, 2014; Sam, 2021).
Moreover, although the leader is the prima-
ry focus of this scholarship, Chandler (2009),
Padilla et al. (2007), and Tepper et al. (2017)
suggested that additional factors, including fol-
lowers and environment, impact the emergence
of an unethical leader as well. With vague and
sometimes ambiguous frameworks, several
scholars today use Brown and Mitchell’s (2010)
definition of unethical leadership, “as behaviors
conducted and decisions made by organization-
al leaders that are illegal and/or violate moral
standards and those that impose processes and
structures that promote unethical conduct by
followers” (p. 588). In addition, drawing from
Eisenbeiß and Brodbeck’s (2014) work, unethi-
cal leadership is individual behavior that is per-
ceived as egotistic, dishonest and corrupt, inhu-
mane and unfair, manipulative and destructive,
and focused on short-term success.
Although investigation of unethical lead-
er behavior is gaining more recent scholarly in-
terest (e.g., Ahmad et al., 2020; Güntner et al.,
2021; Sam, 2021; Schyns & Schilling, 2013; Tep-
per et al., 2017), an unexplored area is that of
unethical leadership in public domains, such
as governmental bodies (Asencio, 2019; Has-
san, 2019). Resultingly, the majority of research
about the construct of unethical leadership fo-
cuses on implications related to private organi-
zational and employee outcomes (Ahmad et al.,
2020; Güntner et al., 2021; Schyns & Schilling,
2013; Tepper et al., 2017). Despite this limited re-
search, some meaningful conclusions are trans-
ferable and help demonstrate the consequences
of unethical leadership in other contexts.
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 19
al.,1998; Padilla et al., 2007; Thoroughgood et
al., 2012)
Additionally, these values are reflected at
both an individual and broader cultural level
(Erez & Gati, 2004; Fischer, 2006), which means
they are likely to be influenced by cultural con-
textual factors in addition to other personal at-
tributes (e.g., gender, ethnicity, race, religious
practice, etc.) and experiences (e.g., career, ed-
ucation, upbringing, etc.). Understanding the
impact of both individual and cultural factors
on one’s values, and their perceptions of lead-
ership, helps bring to light the necessity of in-
tersectional research (Chin, 2013), which inves-
tigates these individual and cultural influences.
Additionally, research by Brown and Mitchell
(2010) and Tepper et al. (2017) identified a need
for cross-cultural research which investigates
abusive supervision, or unethical leadership.
MENA Culture and Perceptions
of Leadership
Research by Kabasakal et al. (2012) drew
from the Global Leadership and Organizational
Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) project to in-
vestigate the relationship between leadership
and culture in the MENA region. The GLOBE
project, conducted by House et al. (2004), in-
volved a cross-cultural analysis of leadership
prototypes, including 62 societies from a wide
variety of countries. The region termed the Mid-
dle Eastern cluster, including Egypt, Morocco,
Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar, revealed cultural
commonalities, such as the prevalence of Islam,
collectivism (or in-group orientation), mascu-
linity, tolerance for ambiguity, and short-term
planning. Although some cultural commonali-
ties appear across the MENA region, it should
be noted that the cultural practices throughout
these societies are diverse and unique in many
ways, including the ethnicity of individuals, lan-
guages spoken, religious practices, and politi-
cal systems (Harb, 2016; Kabasakal et al., 2012).
Additionally, cultural values vary between pop-
ulations within and among countries, meaning
it is difficult to broadly generalize individual be-
havior and preferences (Harb, 2016).
With regard to leadership, the findings of
Kabasakal et al.’s (2012) research suggested a
cultural preference across MENA regions for
leaders who practice honesty, justice, and in-
spiration, who are visionary and competent,
and who build loyalty. In contrast, this work
provided insights about leadership attributes
that are commonly viewed culturally as neg-
ative, including leaders who are autonomous,
autocratic, malevolent, self-centered, and fo-
cus on saving face (Kabasakal et al., 2012). Fur-
ther expanding on the findings of the GLOBE
project, Karacay et al. (2019) investigated lead-
er preferences and the notion of cultural disso-
nance, or the difference between cultural ide-
als and reality. At a societal level, their work
highlighted disparities between desired leader
attributes and real leadership practice, result-
ing in cultural dissonance. In other words, lead-
ers tended to act in ways that were inconsis-
tent with cultural values. Karacay et al. (2019)
noted that this dissonance could largely be ex-
plained by two factors: (high) power distance
(i.e., unequal distribution of power) and (low)
gender egalitarianism (i.e., gender inequality).
The findings of their study asserted a need for
social change which may be assisted through
additional research exploring leadership within
MENA contexts.
Corruption and (Unethical) Leadership
in the Middle East and North Africa
In a recent report discussing challenges
across the Middle East and North Africa, Ahram
(2017) cited the “sudden breakdown of Middle
Eastern states in 2011” as a primary source of
conflict throughout the region (p. 361). This pe-
riod, frequently referred to as the “Arab Spring”
resulted in particular consequences for Egypt
but its impact reverberated throughout the
MENA region (Bhuiyan & Farazmand, 2020, p.
375). States, including Iraq, Libya, Syria, and
Yemen, were especially vulnerable, resulting
from war and/or dependency on outside or in-
ternational powers for many of their resourc-
es (Ahram, 2017; Bhuiyan & Farazmand, 2020).
Moreover, Ahram (2017) explained how efforts
to protect territories may inadvertently result
in a void of power, creating conditions that are
ripe for conflict and, ultimately, corruption.
Bhuiyan and Farazmand (2020) highlight-
ed this widespread corruption, emphasizing its
prevalence in Syria, Yemen, and Libya today. In
one example, Dixon et al. (2018), whose study
focused on public administration and societal
governance within the Middle East and North
Africa, helped explain the impact of outside
and Mitchell (2010) and Tepper et al. (2017)
called for cross-cultural investigations of un-
ethical leadership. The present study findings
contribute intersectional knowledge by explor-
ing perceptions of leadership from the unique
perspective of women who are of MENA de-
scent. Although the present study does not pro-
vide comparison of populations from different
cultures (e.g., both Western and non-Western
perspectives), participants in the present study
experienced leadership changes from their pre-
migration (non-Western) context to their post-
migration (Western) cultural context. In this
way, the present study findings may provide
some meaningful insight regarding the influ-
ence of cultural context on how leadership is
perceived by followers. The present research
is both important and timely in better under-
standing perceptions of leadership based on the
pre-migration context (i.e., the Middle East and
North Africa) among this community of MENA
immigrant and refugee women.
In the present ethnographic study, I inves-
tigated perceptions of leadership among MENA
refugee and immigrant women to answer the
research question of how members of this com-
munity perceived leadership through their expe-
riences as followers. The purpose of the present
study was to explore perceptions of leadership
focused on the pre-migration experiences of
their home context (i.e., the Middle East and
North Africa), which revealed the finding of un-
ethical leadership, especially among govern-
ment entities. This research is part of a larger
study involving three years of immersive obser-
vations during weekly classes at a community
center, three focus group sessions, and 30 in-
terviews with key informants, from which five
major findings related to leadership emerged. In
the present article, the themes related to unethi-
cal leadership are presented, which include cor-
ruption, deceit, egotism, inaccessibility, theft,
and loss of trust.
The present research was part of a three-
year ethnographic study which involved data
collection through immersive field observations
during classes at a community center, three fo-
cus group sessions, and 30 interviews with key
informants. As the primary investigator and au-
thor, I conducted all data collection and data
analysis. As a woman, I was undoubtedly
power on Libya as creating “an atmosphere of
irresponsibility, corruption, [and] a lack of ac-
countability,” which resulted in the waste of im-
portant resources (p. 763). Moreover, Dixon et
al. (2018) documented the potential for nega-
tive and oppressive impacts when strong state
institutions (i.e., having too much power) main-
tain authority. Additional research, such as that
by Forster (2017), which investigated the lack
of universities throughout the Middle East and
North Africa, helps draw attention to the broad
regional impacts of corruption. Factors such as
constraints on free expression and intellectual
thought, lack of accountability, and oversight of
research that stunt economic growth and edu-
cational advancement have proven problematic.
This evidence of corruption throughout MENA
regions further supports the importance of this
present research as a means to understand fol-
lower perceptions of leadership (ethical or un-
ethical) within the pre-migration context of the
Middle East and North Africa. Such exploration
may assist with understanding individual fol-
lower outcomes and implications for mitigating
negative impacts.
The Impacts of Corruption on Trust in
the Middle East and North Africa
In an investigation of corruption follow-
ing the Arab Spring, Sapsford et al. (2019) dem-
onstrated a clear linear relationship between
corruption and loss of trust, explaining how
corruption precedes destruction of trust and
“breaks the cords that hold modern societies to-
gether” (Sapsford et al., 2019, p. 1). Sapsford
et al. (2019) highlighted the significance of cor-
ruption because individuals displayed distrust
not only for the government and business enti-
ties, but also for each other. In close parallel, re-
search by Spierings (2017) found a widespread
decrease in political-institutional trust, citing a
“negative spillover effect” which impacted gen-
eral trust (p. 13).
As a review of the literature demonstrates,
there is limited research that has investigated
unethical leadership, particularly within public,
or governmental, domains. Additionally, there
is a need for investigation of corruption, or un-
ethical leadership, among Middle Eastern and
North African populations, particularly follow-
ing the Arab Spring. Chin (2013) called for in-
tersectional leadership research and Brown
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 21
advantaged in my ability to connect and im-
merse myself within this community of women
due to norms that often support gender segre-
gation as a part of MENA culture. Additionally,
it is worth noting that my partner is a native of
Saudi Arabia and that my basic knowledge of
cultural practices related to the Middle East and
North Africa also assisted in my ability to con-
nect with the members of this community. Al-
though my extended family (those members re-
lated to my husband) are Muslim and of Arab
descent, I actively worked to set aside any per-
sonal bias or assumptions about this communi-
ty by taking on the role of an active learner dur-
ing immersive observation (Agar, 1996).
I was introduced to the community by a col-
league who was not involved in the immediate
study and who maintained a previously estab-
lished relationship with the MENA women who
were members of the Helping Hand Commu-
nity Center (HHCC; a pseudonym) as a volun-
teer. The HHCC’s services included assistance
with resettlement efforts through the provision
of English language and cultural classes, among
other services. In an effort to be as transparent
as possible, I was introduced to the community
as a researcher. Throughout the duration of this
research, I welcomed participants’ questions
about my research and my role as the research-
er. I also made no effort to conceal the contents
of my fieldnotes and always honored partici-
pants’ requests to redact information from my
notes, although these requests were incredibly
Study Design
I selected ethnography as my research ap-
proach because of its appropriateness for inves-
tigation of behavior and thought patterns—such
as leadership—within a culture-sharing group
(Agar, 1996; Creswell & Poth, 2018; Geertz,
1973; Lareau & Schultz, 1996; Lichtman, 2013;
Merriam & Tisdell, 2016; Richards & Morse,
2013). For the purposes of the present study,
culture-sharing group refers only to the imme-
diate community which formed following reset-
tlement within the United States through mem-
bership in the HHCC. Culture-sharing group is
an appropriate description because the similar
experiences of migration to a cultural context
different from their own allowed participants to
develop a common identity, defined by shared
values, ideology, and customs. Despite these
commonalities, the participants were vastly
unique individuals who were diverse in age,
marital status, personal experiences, length of
time in the United States, and job status, among
other factors. In reporting the findings, I used
pseudonyms for the names of people and loca-
tions and removed all identifying information to
protect the anonymity of the participants. Ad-
ditionally, specific details beyond each partici-
pants’ home country are not included because
details such as age, locations of previous resi-
dence, or marital status could make participants
easily identifiable due to the diversity within
this small group.
It is important to note that the members of
the immediate community included both refu-
gees and immigrants as defined under the law,
who may have vastly different experiences and
legal statuses. According to the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS;
2021), a refugee is anyone who “demonstrates
that they were persecuted or fear persecution
due to race, religion, nationality, political opin-
ion, or membership in a particular social group”
(para. 1). In other words, the legal definition of
a refugee recognizes that refugees are individ-
uals who have been forced to migrate, which
is distinctly different from the term immigrant,
which implies choice of migration. However,
there are a large number of individuals living in
the United States who have not been granted le-
gal status as refugees but who “were persecuted
or fear persecution” and, therefore, were forced
to migrate (USCIS, 2021, para. 1).
Although the majority of community mem-
bers who attended the HHCC experienced forced
migration resulting from their life circumstanc-
es, such as war in their home country, some
individuals did not have legal status as refu-
gees and were therefore considered to be im-
migrants. I did not ask participants about their
specific immigration status in order to help pro-
tect their rights to privacy. Out of the key infor-
mants, Suha is the only individual who, based
on her own account, did not experience forced
migration. Although, it is worth noting that her
status as a Palestinian left her without citizen-
ship to any country. Her experiences were par-
allel to those experiences of the other key in-
formants in that all of them left their home
countries with virtually nothing of monetary
value and migrated to a cultural context differ-
ent from their own. All of the key informants ex-
perienced the loss of life as they knew it prior to
arriving in the United States. For these reasons,
I recognize that, although the legal distinction
between refugees and immigrants is important,
the majority of members within this community
shared similar experiences of migration.
In close alignment with the ethnograph-
ic research recommendation to observe a com-
munity at a common gathering site (e.g., Agar,
1996; Emerson et al., 2011), I primarily conduct-
ed observations at the HHCC. These observa-
tions occurred on a weekly basis during classes
that were open to women only. The classes in-
cluded an hour of English language instruction,
followed by an hour of discussion-based infor-
mative class. Class topics varied from week to
week because they were driven by the needs
of the community and frequently involved
guest experts, such as immigration attorneys,
local law enforcement, healthcare providers,
school administrators, tax attorneys, and land-
lords. During weekly observations, I regularly
observed up to 17 participants who attended
classes during this time.
I identified key informants after spending
an extensive amount of time (two years) ob-
serving at the HHCC; I selected them due to
their in-depth knowledge of the community,
active involvement, including attending class-
es regularly, and establishment of trust demon-
strated by their willingness to speak openly and
authentically without reservation. In this way, I
selected key informants using a purposive ap-
proach. Following guidelines for ethnographic
research (Spradley, 1979), I identified and in-
terviewed seven key informants on at least five
occasions, averaging one-hour for each inter-
view. Table 1 includes a summary of each key
informants’ home country (i.e., where they
were born) and the total number of times they
were interviewed.
I interviewed all of the participants individ-
ually with the exception of Deema, Jana, and
Sama, who requested to be interviewed togeth-
er. I honored their request in an effort to priori-
tize participants’ comfort and this accommoda-
tion did not appear to conflict with the findings
of the present study since their responses close-
ly aligned with responses from the other four
key informants. Whenever possible, I accom-
modated key informants according to their pref-
erence of meeting place because many faced
transportation challenges, such as not own-
ing a vehicle or not having a driver’s license.
Suha and Dahlia generally preferred to be inter-
viewed in public places, such as cafés or restau-
rants, although all of the other key informants
preferred to be interviewed in their own homes.
I conducted interviews using semi-struc-
tured interview questions, which I developed
through an iterative process (Spradley, 1979)
based on my observations and the focus group
sessions. I introduced additional probing ques-
tions when more information was needed in or-
der to help clarify the participants’ meaning,
such as “Can you describe what you mean by
[insert participant’s term]?” or “Could you pro-
vide an example of a time when [insert partic-
ipant’s experience] happened?” I recorded and
later transcribed all interviews. During the inter-
views, I took minimal fieldnotes in order to de-
vote my full attention to the speaker. The notes
I did take focused on contextual factors, such
as what the space was like and what the speak-
er’s body language conveyed and points which
were important for follow up, such as checking
participants’ meaning or other interviews for
similar points. Data saturation was reached as
Table 1
Basic Key Informant Information
Key Informant Country of Origin Total Number of Interviews
Interpreter Present for
7 (with Jana & Sama)
7 (with Deema & Sama)
7 (with Deema & Jana)
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 23
involved three specific coding approaches: pro-
cess coding (i.e., coding the actions or process-
es described by participants), in vivo coding
(i.e., coding the actual words of participants),
and simultaneous coding (i.e., coding for ex-
plicit and implicit meaning; Saldaña, 2021). I
strategically selected these approaches of analy-
sis because they were most appropriate for an-
swering the research questions and for the type
of data to be analyzed.
Specifically, process coding was appropri-
ate for identifying patterns of leader behavior
since the particular actions related to leadership
could be coded. Additionally, in vivo coding
was selected because the cultural context was a
major focus of the present study and this coding
approach allowed for the discovery of nuanced,
or culturally specific, meaning. Similarly, simul-
taneous coding allowed for discovery of implicit
meaning, which may not be explicitly stated or
immediately clear but is still an important part
of the participants’ intended meaning. Finally, I
used second-cycle pattern coding as a means of
grouping codes into themes (Saldaña, 2021). I
selected pattern coding since it draws on an in-
ductive process through which individual codes
are generated from the data in order to identi-
fy emergent themes. For example, I grouped the
individual codes of greed, self-absorbed, self-
ish, and ignorant into what eventually became
the theme of egotism.
several recurrent themes emerged from the key
informants’ interviews, many of which could be
triangulated with my observational fieldnotes.
Data Analysis
The primary sources of data included 30 in-
terview transcripts, transcripts from three sepa-
rate focus group sessions, and weekly fieldnotes
that I took during immersive observations. In
total, I had nearly 36 hours of recorded inter-
view content and more than 70 fieldnote en-
tries. Throughout the duration of the present
study, I regularly reviewed my fieldnotes and
added reflective memos (Emerson et al., 2011).
In this way, the observational fieldnotes primar-
ily served as a means to develop interview ques-
tions and to help triangulate the present study
findings generated from the interviews. I ana-
lyzed all interview and focus group transcripts
using a line-by-line approach during first-cycle
eclectic coding and then completed second-cy-
cle pattern coding to identify themes through
the grouping of codes. This information is sum-
marized in Table 2.
To answer the immediate research question,
which focused on leadership, I sought a cod-
ing approach that would allow for emergence
of the themes most pertinent to leadership prac-
tices. As a result, I adopted a more generalist
approach, including process coding, based on
Saldaña (2021). The first-cycle eclectic coding
Table 2
Overview of Data Sources and Analysis Processes
Data Source
Review Points Contribution(s)
All attendees
during classes at
the HHCC
Frequent review with
reflective memos
Entirety of
Assisted in
development of
interview questions
and triangulation of
Interview transcripts Key informants
First-cycle eclectic
coding and second-
cycle pattern coding
Near the end of
Primary source for
development of codes
and themes
Focus group transcripts
All attendees
present at the
First-cycle eclectic
coding and second-
cycle pattern coding
focus groups
and again near
the end of
Assisted in
development of
interview questions
and codes/themes
provided clarity of intended meaning during for-
mal interviews (e.g., “Could you tell me more
about that?”). An additional means of validation
occurred through peer review (Lincoln & Guba,
1985). For the purposes of this research, an out-
side expert with appropriate contextual and
methodological knowledge reviewed my initial
coding schema and provided constructive feed-
back that helped refine the themes as the basis
of the findings. Finally, rich, thick description
involved the integration of detailed contextual
knowledge in order to help frame the findings
of the present study (Geertz, 1973). For the pur-
poses of the present research, constant aware-
ness and investigation of the cultural contextual
factors (e.g., conflicting gender norms between
MENA cultural practices and those norms in the
United States) provided one means of integrat-
ing rich, thick description.
In all, five major findings emerged from the
present ethnographic research project and those
themes related to unethical leadership are pre-
sented herein. Although the major focus of the
present study involved investigation of leader-
ship practices and follower perceptions among
members of this community following resettle-
ment, an additional aspect of this research in-
cluded exploration about how notions of lead-
ership changed from their pre-migration to the
post-migration context. Through focus on this
aspect, two definitions or major findings of
leadership emerged: ethical and unethical lead-
ership. This distinction is important because
the women of this community clearly identi-
fied their own leadership practices in alignment
with what emerged as ethical leadership, which
will be detailed in a separate manuscript. In
contrast, the notion of unethical leadership was
indicative of greater governmental and commu-
nity powers that they primarily witnessed with-
in their home countries, often related to war or
political instability. Therefore, the themes pre-
sented in the present article are those themes
most salient to the understanding of unethical
leadership and include corruption, deceit, ego-
tism, inaccessibility, and theft, culminating in
loss of trust.
In this way, the themes were entirely de-
rived from the data. I used MAXQDA coding
software to assist with procedural analysis and
the inductive process used to discover emergent
themes. Using this coding process, five major
findings emerged each with supporting themes.
For the purposes of the immediate study, the
findings presented are those themes related to
unethical leadership. The finding of unethical
leadership appeared independently from oth-
er findings since its themes did not overlap
with the other emergent themes from this re-
search. Additionally, it appeared well-support-
ed as unique, having emerged from six indi-
vidual themes, which were drawn from several
codes across multiple participant accounts. Im-
portantly, the findings related to unethical lead-
ership do not appear to be well-explored within
previous literature involving MENA populations
of women and provide new insights as a valu-
able contribution to research.
Internal Validity
I used data triangulation, member check-
ing, peer review, and rich, thick description for
the purposes of internal validity. I applied trian-
gulation in two ways. First, inclusion of multiple
participant perspectives acted as one means of
triangulation in order to provide multiple view-
points about the same issues (Guest, 2014). Sec-
ond, drawing data from multiple primary sourc-
es, including field notes, focus groups, and
interviews, provided another form of triangula-
tion since the findings from each source were
compared for congruencies (Deegan, 2007; Den-
zin, 1978). The use of observational fieldnotes
and focus groups to generate interview ques-
tions is one way that I integrated data from var-
ious sources, using an iterative process. In this
way, concepts that emerged from observations
or focus groups could be further investigated or
checked during interviews and vice versa.
In addition, a form of member checking oc-
curred similarly through continuous confirma-
tion of meaning (Harvey, 2015). Member check-
ing occurred during both informal and formal
interviews throughout the duration of the pres-
ent study. Specifically, I could ask about a par-
ticular event or observation at any time through
informal interaction (e.g., “I noticed [insert in-
cident witnessed], can you help me under-
stand what happened?”) and probing questions
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 25
In my country, it’s free to go to the hos-
pital. But if you go and you’re having a
baby, for instance, you have to pay the
nurse a bribe, and you have to pay this
person and this person…it’s supposed
to be free but it costs so much. And if
you don’t pay, they will just leave you
there bleeding. You will die.
In a similar account, Miriam (who was not a
key informant) shared a personal experience
in which she required a dilation and curettage
(D&C) following a miscarriage and was turned
away by a doctor who required her to pay a
bribe for the services. In this case, it took her 10
days to gather enough money for the bribe so
that she could finally receive the medical ser-
vices she needed. The accounts of both Bush-
ra and Miriam demonstrate how paying bribes
was necessary for survival within their pre-mi-
gration context. Moreover, these examples illus-
trate how corruption tends to impact the most
vulnerable (i.e., low income) individuals.
Other common accounts of corruption in-
cluded the use of power to gain favor or oth-
er benefits. As one example of this corruption,
Dahlia discussed how some privileged individu-
als will even pay others to earn a degree or cre-
dentials on their behalf. She shared:
People take tests for others…do my
homework. …So even sometime [sic]
when they apply for their doctoral de-
gree…now other people do it for you
while you were just vacationing and
Unethical Leadership
Unethical leadership encompassed notions
of a superior view of oneself, as demonstrat-
ed by the themes of egotism and inaccessibility,
and a lack of regard or consideration for others,
as exhibited by the themes of corruption, de-
ceit, and theft. Taken together, these unethical
leader behaviors contributed both independent-
ly to and culminated in a loss of trust or faith in
one’s leader. These characteristics of unethical
leadership are demonstrated in Figure 1.
The concept of corruption, especially in re-
lation to bribery, emerged as a common point
of discussion among all key informants as well
as many other community members. In fact,
through use of the coding software, I noted 36
separate accounts of corruption within the in-
terview and focus group transcripts. For the
purposes of the immediate study, corruption
represented practices such as taking bribes or
using one’s status (e.g., family name) for per-
sonal advantage. These corrupt practices disad-
vantaged individuals with less power, particu-
larly impoverished or vulnerable individuals.
One example of such accounts came from a fo-
cus group in which Bushra discussed the per-
vasiveness of bribery throughout the pre-migra-
tion context of her home country, even as a part
of the healthcare system:
Figure 1
Characteristics Defining Unethical Leadership
of him…Maybe they’re…illiterate; they
can’t read and write. They don’t know
about the religion…And they think,
“You know, whatever you’re saying, it’s
the truth.”
As with some of the other concepts that sup-
ported unethical leadership, Bushra’s words
demonstrated how deceit tends to impact indi-
viduals who are the most disadvantaged (i.e.,
uneducated). She further explained:
Sometime [sic] men, even [in] our re-
ligion, they look for [Quranic] verses
[for] their own benefits and they will
say, “Oh yeah, God says I’m better
than you. God said I’m this and that.”
No, that all just says me and you were
Bushra’s account supported the notion that
unethical leaders may manipulate informa-
tion (e.g., religion) in order to deceive others
for their own benefit, an important concept
that emerged repeatedly as a part of the pres-
ent study.
Within the immediate study, the theme of
egotism encompassed selfishness, arrogance,
and greed. Although some participants drew
from more recent accounts within their post-mi-
gration context, the majority of instances about
egotism were again focused within pre-migra-
tion contexts, or home countries. All of the key
informants discussed the idea of egotism in
some capacity. As one example of this discus-
sion, Sama explained how she viewed govern-
ment officials in her home country:
Those people who [are] put in power,
they just…soak (she makes a sound
like sucking through a straw) — suck,
suck, suck, suck, suck. All…they can
take. “Let me take whatever I can, let
me benefit myself and my family and
my relatives and my tribe. Who cares
about the others?”
Sama’s words highlight egotism as a sense of
entitlement, or self-importance, with little re-
gard for the needs of others. Although some key
informants, including Jana, noted that this char-
acteristic is not a reflection of all people from
their home country, or of their greater cultur-
al practices, Sama went on to explain that “the
people…who are honest, [who] have a waking
having fun, you pay them few dollars…
It’s a very sad thing.
In addition to obtaining fraudulent degrees, oth-
ers also discussed how one’s privilege or posi-
tion of power may be used to have legal charg-
es dismissed, to embezzle money, such as from
the government, or to grant one’s own family
members favoritism. The accounts from Bushra
and Dahlia, as well as others, explain how cor-
ruption flourished at all levels of society within
their pre-migration contexts because the upper-
most tiers of leadership were corrupt them-
selves. When I asked what would need to hap-
pen for this corruption to change, many women
suggested that mitigation would be a nearly in-
conceivable task. Short of completely removing
all individuals within leadership and starting
anew, they did not see how this change would
ever come to be. Their perceptions revealed
how war and unstable governments made cor-
recting corruption a complex, and perhaps im-
possible, task.
The concept of deceit, another theme of
unethical leadership, encompassed lying, de-
ception, and failure to keep promises or one’s
word. This notion emerged as a common point
of discussion among nearly all key informants
about perceptions of leadership within the pre-
migration context of their home country. As one
example, Lemma shared her views of govern-
mental leaders who tend to make promises if
elected but fail to keep such promises once they
are in power:
Most of [the leaders] back home…they
promise people so many things and
once they get on the chair, they forget
about all their promises and they nev-
er look back to all the poor people who
supported them, put them in that chair.
They forget about that.
Lemma’s account echoed a common sentiment,
suggesting that many unethical leaders rely on
deceit in order to gain follower support.
The notion of deceit was also reflected in
an account shared by Bushra as part of a dis-
cussion about religious clerics or scholars who
sometimes deceive followers in order to gain
power. She stated:
A lot of people take advantage of their
knowledge and…of the person in front
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 27
Although she felt that leaders within her pre-
migration context tended to be inaccessible, her
experiences following migration allowed her to
meet with and express her concerns to people in
positions of power. In a similar account, Lemma
explained her own view of leader inaccessibili-
ty: “Some people, when they get empowered or
they have power, money, whatever, sometime
that really blinds them from seeing the peo-
ple in front of them and they start to hurt the
people.” Acknowledging that leaders who lack
a clear understanding of their followers may
cause harm, Lemma further explained how she
works to protect herself from such leaders: “I
don’t go near them because I know they’re not
going to care. They’re going to crush me with-
out even knowing that I’m there.” In alignment
with the perspectives of other key informants,
Lemma explained how power may blind leaders
from seeing their own followers, sometimes re-
sulting in harm.
Another theme of unethical leadership in-
volved notions of theft. In the present study,
this concept refers to theft of abstract as well as
more tangible things. In her own words, Suha
explained how people steal from others and the
lasting impacts: “Not just [stealing] money (she
pauses), the idea, the love; stealing love, steal-
ing the idea from somebody. Steal his trust,
steal his…advice, steal his confidence in him-
self. A lot of people, they do that.” Suha’s per-
spective demonstrated how theft may extend to
one’s investment in a relationship (i.e., love),
ideas, and even self-confidence. She went on to
explain the impact of such losses: “They make
him feel bad. Feel really bad and want to kill
yourself…. Somebody else make you feel that
way, this is stealing.” Her words indicated how
this sort of behavior undermines others in dam-
aging ways, especially psychologically.
In a different account, Sama shared the sto-
ry of a man who faced legal consequences for
stealing from her family’s business:
Back home, [our] neighbor, they were
very, very poor. Him and his mom, his
brothers, they all work…But he was a
thief in the community. He stole from
[my] family’s business. He got cap-
tured right away. He spent two years in
conscience, that’s why they’re still poor, they’re
not in the government [roles].” Others echoed
this notion as well, suggesting that good or eth-
ical leaders rarely last in positions of power be-
cause they are forcibly removed from such roles.
In a similar vein, Deema shared an exam-
ple of egotism from her own views of leader-
ship within her home country: “They just think
about themselves and think how do I take this
and help [myself]? Because they’re hungry in-
side. [They] will never be satisfied.” Capturing
another common sentiment, Deema went on to
explain that leaders tend to evolve in this way
as a direct result of their community. She stat-
ed: “If a person who grew up in a communi-
ty, when people [are] not religious, [they are]
shouting, abusing one another, he’s going to do
[the same].” In this account, Deema demon-
strated how behaviors like egotism tend to be-
come perpetuated within communities. When
greed and abuse are all that one has ever wit-
nessed among leaders, their own leadership
practice will tend to follow this pattern. Both ex-
amples from Sama and Deema illustrated how
their pre-migration experiences with leadership
demonstrated egotism through selfish and un-
caring behaviors.
All but one of the key informants expressed
how their experiences with leaders in their
home countries were such that the separation
of power, between individuals with power and
individuals without it, made them fully inacces-
sible to the people of the country. Their per-
spective suggested that individuals with power
viewed themselves as separate from and unac-
countable to others. In contrast, Dahlia reflect-
ed on her own experiences with leaders in the
United States, which had been positive overall,
allowing her to meet local authorities such as
the governor, multiple mayors, the chief of po-
lice, and others. She explained:
Back home, when I hear about…even
the governor or the mayor of our town,
you can’t get ahold of, you can’t even
see [him]. He has so many bodyguards
and he has all these fancy cars, always
lavish homes.
For Dahlia, her experiences with leaders
in the United States were in complete contrast
with that of the leaders in her home country.
common perspective among members of this
What’s a leader without trust? (She
pauses.) Nothing. It’s like a frame with-
out a picture….Two things go togeth-
er. You have to have that trust. [If fol-
lowers] don’t trust you, you’re not a
leader. You might think you’re a leader
[but] you’re going to wake up to a very
rude awakening, a rude awakening be-
cause you’re going to say, “Where’s the
people around me? I lost their respect,
and I lost their trust, and I’m by my-
self. Who am I leading?” …Then, you
are not a leader.
Dahlia’s words convey the importance of trust,
or loss of trust, by highlighting that a leader
who lacks trust also lacks followers, the very
essence of what defines a leader. Her example
demonstrates the significance of unethical lead-
ership as a finding within the present study be-
cause the themes of corruption, deceit, ego-
tism, inaccessibility, and theft all contribute to
the loss of trust and, ultimately, the loss of faith
in one’s leader.
Taken together, it becomes clear how these
themes contributed to the finding of unethical
leadership within the present study. Corruption
referred to taking bribes or otherwise using a
position of power to one’s advantage, frequent-
ly at the expense of others. Deceit not only in-
volved lying, but also of failure to keep one’s
word. Egotism represented a sense of self-im-
portance that was prioritized over the needs
of others. Inaccessibility represented separa-
tion from people both physically (e.g., being
surrounded by bodyguards) and symbolically
(e.g., inability to relate to the people), which
left followers feeling powerless and forgotten.
Similarly, theft represented the loss of both tan-
gible (e.g., goods) and intangible (e.g., love)
things. Ultimately, loss of trust is inevitable as
the excerpts demonstrated. When one feels vic-
timized by their leader, often in more than one
way, their trust in that leader is lost as a result
of those unethical leadership practices.
From this immersive ethnographic re-
search, the interviews with key informants, fo-
cus group sessions, and weekly observations re-
vealed important findings, including unethical
leadership and its themes of corruption, deceit,
Sama continued, explaining how, much to her
dismay, the man later became a revered leader
within her home country:
Now he has even his own satellite
channel. He has so many homes, cars,
people following him. … People forgot
his past that he was a thief. Now every-
body stands up for him and give him
a special treatment. What a sad thing.
Sama’s account echoed the experiences of oth-
er key informants about the act of stealing and
closely paralleled the theme of corruption, spe-
cifically, in that a thief may rise to power as an
unethical leader within a corrupt system. As il-
lustrated, both Suha and Sama provided exam-
ples that showed how theft is a characteristic of
unethical leadership by causing direct harm to
their followers.
Loss of Trust
Loss of trust was discussed at great length
with many of the women, both key informants
and other members of the community. All of the
key informants discussed instances in which
their trust was violated prior to migration and
many experienced additional violations since re-
settling in the United States. Regarding percep-
tions of leadership, violation of trust through
unethical leadership was a common point of
discussion. Lemma’s account reflected a com-
mon sentiment within this community:
It’s special when you put your trust in
somebody. You believe them 100% and
you don’t think…that person is going
to turn their back on you or are they go-
ing to mislead you or take advantage of
you and then you wake up to that…it’s
a harsh thing.
As Lemma’s account demonstrates, the impact
of unethical leadership behavior (e.g., deceit)
led to deterioration of trust with their followers,
often as a devastating realization. Moreover,
Lemma shared how it is difficult to rebuild trust
with a leader once it has been lost: “Because
people, once they, in our culture, once you lose
faith in somebody, it’s going to be very, very
hard to gain that faith back in them.” Lemma’s
words reflected an emergent notion, embedded
in culture, that trust is difficult to rebuild once
it is lost.
Further highlighting the significance of
trust in relation to leadership, Dahlia shared a
PercePtions of Unethical leadershiP and trUst 29
leadership, as defined in the present study, is of
particular importance for future research within
MENA populations.
Among MENA populations, the themes of
corruption, deceit, egotism, and inaccessibili-
ty appeared in similar constructs of unethical
leadership (Eisenbeiß & Brodbeck, 2014) and
negative leadership (Kabasakal et al., 2012) as
summarized in Table 3. The constructs of focus
on short-term success as identified by Eisen-
beiß and Brodbeck (2014) and of being auton-
omous as identified Kabasakal et al. (2012) did
not appear to closely align with the findings of
the present study and may be points for inves-
tigation involving MENA populations in the fu-
ture, particularly among women since gender
may impact these findings. Additionally, the
theme of theft was not found to align with ei-
ther Eisenbeiß and Brodbeck’s (2014) or Kaba-
sakal et al.’s (2012) unethical leadership mod-
els, suggesting that theft may be an important
construct for future investigation.
In addition, scholarship involving other
(non-MENA) populations suggests a relation-
ship between theft, or stealing, and unethical
leader behavior (e.g., O’Reilly III & Doerr, 2020;
Rotman et al., 2018), which helps to validate it
as a finding within the present study. The pres-
ence of theft as a construct within broader lit-
erature likely suggests that it has not been well
explored, to date, among MENA populations
and should be a focus for future research. As
the review of literature established, unethical
egotism, inaccessibility, theft, and loss of trust.
The present research findings contributed new
knowledge to the understanding of follow-
er perceptions about leadership within Middle
Eastern and North African communities, reveal-
ing unethical leadership within governmen-
tal and public roles. Importantly, the findings
of the present study demonstrate how unethi-
cal leader behavior resulted in the loss of fol-
lower trust, a finding which is relatively new
among MENA populations and, more specifi-
cally, among MENA women. Additionally, al-
though some of the constructs align with the
broader body of previous research, other find-
ings are unique to the present study, particular-
ly with regard to this population, and provide
direction for future research.
Sapsford et al. (2019) and Spierings (2017)
investigated damage to follower trust result-
ing from corruption throughout the Middle East
and North Africa. However, the specific themes
that, in their entirety, represent unethical lead-
ership within the present study, do not appear
to be characterized as a complete framework
based on previous research that has explored
loss of follower trust among MENA popula-
tions. Moreover, loss of trust does not appear as
a construct that is prominently discussed with-
in existing theories of unethical leadership that
include MENA populations (e.g., Eisenbeiß &
Brodbeck, 2014; Kabasakal et al., 2012). This
gap in the literature suggests that the finding
regarding loss of trust resulting from unethical
Table 3
Comparison of Unethical Leadership Themes with Previous Relevant Research
Themes Eisenbeiß and Brodbeck’s (2014) Cross-
Cultural Unethical Leadership Behaviors
Kabasakal et al.’s (2012) Negative
Leadership Behaviors Perceived in
MENA Culture
Corruption Manipulative and destructive Malevolent
Deceit Dishonest and corrupt Focused on saving face
Egotism Egotistic Self-centered
Inaccessibility Inhumane and unfair (some alignment) Autocratic
Theft Unobserved Unobserved
Loss of trust
characteristics Focused on short-term success Autonomous
regions to better understand findings about fol-
lower perceptions of leadership.
The findings presented suggest that percep-
tions of unethical leadership, especially with-
in the governmental domain, are pervasive
within the participants’ pre-migration context,
throughout the MENA region. These findings
align with current literature, citing widespread
corruption throughout this region (Sapsford et
al., 2019; Spierings, 2017). The loss of trust re-
sulting from unethical leadership was a major
contribution of the present study and has yet to
be fully explored within scholarship. Through
better understanding of unethical leadership
characteristics and follower outcomes, scholars
may better understand the consequences of un-
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... También se le asocia con comportamientos que reflejan esos valores: apoyo y ayuda a los subordinados que tienen problemas; distribución justa de recompensas y beneficios; sacrificios personales en beneficio de otros; y consistencia entre acciones y valores, por citar algunos (Brown et al., 2005;Yukl et al., 2011). En contraste, un liderazgo poco ético se manifiesta a través de la corrupción, el engaño, el egoísmo, la inflexibilidad y el robo, que llevan a la pérdida de confianza (Luethke, 2021). ...
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Los líderes éticos son ejemplo de conducta con el que los empleados se identifican y tratan de emular. El interés en este estilo de liderazgo creció fuertemente en la primera década del siglo, pero aun cuando se reconoce su importancia son escasos los estudios empíricos para comprender sus relaciones con otras variables. El propósito de este trabajo es indagar en la influencia del liderazgo ético sobre los conflictos, la confianza y la transferencia de conocimiento en el entorno de la industria maquiladora de exportación, sector industrial relevante para la economía fronteriza norte de México. Para ello, se utilizó un diseño de investigación cuantitativo, no experimental, transversal, descriptivo y correlacional, con una muestra no probabilística por conveniencia. La técnica estadística fue un modelo de ecuaciones estructurales pls. Los resultados indican que el liderazgo ético y la confianza inciden favorablemente sobre la transferencia de conocimiento, los conflictos no inciden sobre la transferencia de conocimiento, y el liderazgo ético no impacta en los conflictos. Estos hallazgos evidencian beneficios del liderazgo ético, en este caso asociados a la confianza y a la transferencia de conocimiento, y destacan que el liderazgo ético implica la justicia y la objetividad en el trato con los miembros del equipo de trabajo, incluso cuando ello pueda resultar difícil o complejo.
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This study focuses on follower resistance as a potential antecedent of destructive leader behavior and examines leader-related moderators and mediators to help explain the relationship between follower resistance and destructive leader behavior. Drawing from implicit followership theories, we propose that the relationship between follower resistance and destructive leader behavior is moderated by leaders’ Theory X schema. Furthermore, we build on affective events theory to hypothesize that follower resistance increases destructive leader behavior via leaders’ negative affect. We tested our hypotheses in a within-subjects online field experiment. Our study findings demonstrate that follower resistance increases destructive leader behavior and that this relationship is mediated through leaders’ negative affect and moderated by leaders’ Theory X schema. We discuss theoretical implications regarding the impact of (resistant) follower behavior on destructive leadership and offer methodological advances in terms of research design and analytical approaches to deal with endogeneity issues and derive causal inferences. Lastly, we derive practical implications for utilizing follower resistance.
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Whereas the study of leadership has generally focused on how leaders influence the behavior of their followers, this article focuses on how and when the behaviors of followers can influence leaders' behavior. Specifically, we use moral licensing theory to examine the possibility that positive follower behavior could lead to unethical behavior by leaders. Across a pilot study, 2 experiments, and 1 field study, our findings suggest that when their followers perform organizational citizenship behaviors, leaders are more likely to grant themselves moral credit to behave unethically. Moreover, we find that leaders are especially likely to gain moral credit as a result of followers' good deeds when leader narcissism is high or when they identify with their followers. Together, these studies provide evidence that good behavior on the part of followers may psychologically free leaders to engage in subsequent unethical behavior, thereby contributing to our understanding of how followers can influence leader behavior and how vicarious moral licensing operates in organizational contexts. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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To date, the vast majority of existing research on unethical leadership has focused on top leaders’ actions and behaviors as the primary catalyst for the permeation of unethical behaviors in organizations. In this chapter, we shift the focus to middle and junior managers and argue that they too have an active role in contributing to the permeation of top-level unethical leadership. More specifically, we adopt a meaning-making lens to investigate how junior and middle-level managers perceive and interpret top-level unethical leadership and how such meaning-making affects their (un)ethical legitimacy. Understanding the role played by lower-level managers becomes vitally important to develop a more holistic picture of the permeation of unethical leadership. Findings from 30 in-depth interviews with top, middle, and junior managers reveal variables such as survival, group membership, and strain as buttressing meaning-making by lower-level managers. Findings also revealed two contrasting aspects, that is, “interactions” within organizational members as well as “silence” by top-level managers playing into individuals’ information processing and attribution capacities during ethical dilemmas. Real cases experienced by participants pertaining to the flow of unethical leadership illustrate how the central bearings play out in managerial practice.
This article is one of the few empirical studies exploring the “dark side” of ethical leadership. Using Oplatka’s Irresponsible Leadership as an unethical leadership framework, the qualitative study explores how teachers conceptualize and experience unethical administrative leadership at their respective schools in the United States. This study found that amongst the unethical practices reported, they coalesced into six themes: absenteeism, indiscreet information sharing, disregard for the dignity of persons, abuses of power, displays of favoritism, and prioritizing personal gain.
The personality of leaders has been shown to have important effects on their followers. Recently, organizational researchers have become increasingly concerned with the potentially destructive consequences of narcissistic leadership. Evidence indicates that grandiose narcissists both aspire to and frequently achieve leadership roles in organizations. However, because narcissists are principally motivated to pursue their own interests, have lower ethical standards, and are willing to transgress social norms, they can put the institutions they lead at risk. We report three studies showing that individuals who are more narcissistic are more willing to lie, cheat, and steal than those who are less narcissistic. We discuss the implications of these results for organizations.
The articles of this special issue explore the problems of public policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (including Turkey, excluding Iran) as well as why the role of public policy is relatively limited in achieving the overall development in the region. Although many countries in the region experienced political upheavals (Arab Spring) to improve the quality of governance, the situation has only symbolically changed since then. The articles presented in this special issue have portrayed the relationship between society and public policy from their contextual perspectives. The editors anticipate that these articles will contribute to the advancement of literature on public policy and administration in the MENA region.
This study provides a unique perspective in the field of cross-cultural management by exploring the relationship between “cultural dissonance”—the gap between cultural values and actual practice—and effective leadership attributes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Incorporating cultural dissonance into implicit leadership theory, the study uses measurements of dissonance on nine cultural dimensions to identify particular leadership preferences in seven MENA countries. The overall findings suggest that societies prefer leaders who counterbalance cultural dissonance by allowing space for negotiations by members of society to reduce disparities between cultural values—“the way things should be”—and actual practices—“the way things are.” The greater the disparity between cultural values and practices, the greater the citizens' desire that leaders act as agents of change by creating space for negotiation.
Academic and corporate interest in ethical leadership, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and firm performance has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. In fact, many research papers and journal special issues have been focused on these three domains. In this context, this paper conducts a systematic review on the concepts of ethical leadership and CSR, and their impact on firm performance. One hundred fourteen papers published over a period of 58 years (1958-2016) were selected and analyzed according to descriptive and content perspectives to propose a conceptual framework and define a future research agenda. In fact, the main results allow us to derive six main propositions representing possible areas of investigation to direct research on the topic. More in details, the body of literature highlights that financial factors are the main barriers affecting the adoption of CSR practices. On the contrary, internal and external environment was found to represent a critical success factor in the adoption of CSR practices. Finally, the results highlight that personal values have impact on ethical leadership that in turn has direct positive impact on CSR as well as direct and indirect impact on firm performance.