Just becoming a leader is enough to exacerbate some people’s unethical tendencies. But power does not corrupt everyone. Our research suggests that key personality characteristics predict unethical leadership behavior.
We collected personality data and supervisor ratings of ethical behavior (e.g., integrity, accountability) on 3,500 leaders across 30 organizations we had worked with. The organizations included in our study were largely multinational, represented several industries, and varied in size from medium to large. We combined data across these 30 independent studies to examine the relationship between personality and ethical leadership across a range of different settings and situations. We found that characteristics related to certain traits have stronger relationships with unethical behavior.
So, what should today’s leaders do to build trust with their teams and the public? Here are a few tips, based on our findings:
- Be humble; not charismatic. It is natural that we are attracted to people whom we perceive to be inspiring, fun, and engaging. It makes sense that you need a little charisma or pizzazz to stand out from others and get noticed. Charisma can also be useful for engaging and inspiring others towards the organizational mission. However, too much of this may be a bad thing in the eyes of your team members. Unchecked charisma will lead to a reputation of self-absorption and self-promotion. When team members get the sense that you are focused on your own concerns and ideas, they feel unsupported. The team may start to worry that you will no longer do what is best for the team or organization and that you will instead do what is best for your own agenda.
- Be steady and dependable; it will get you further. While you may have been noticed and promoted based on your charisma, being reliable, rule-following, and responsible is more important for your team. As a leader, you [More]