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Dissertation Abstract

Exploring the Moral Development and Moral Outcomes of Authentic Leaders

Richard Scott Franklin
April 2010

Developed in the aftermath of the corporate malfeasance and moral meltdowns of the early 2000s, authentic leadership (Luthans & Avolio, 2003) is conceptualized as a positive, optimistic, and fundamentally moral form of leadership. Comprised of four factors (i.e., self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency, and an internalized moral perspective) and proffered as the root construct of positive leadership, authentic leadership is considered inherently moral (Gardner, Avolio, & Walumbwa, 2005a). The moral component of authentic leadership has been the subject of considerable theoretical discussion; however, to date, few empirical research studies have explored authentic leadership morality. This study addresses this need in the following ways. First, a thorough review of historical literature concerning authentic leadership is presented and discussed. Second, a comprehensive theoretical framework for authentic leader morality is developed from a sociopsychological perspective. Based on the framework, nine research hypotheses were developed to explore the relations among the variables of authentic leadership, moral judgment, moral identity, moral affect, leader altruism, and leader integrity. A quantitative, nonexperimental research design was employed to test the hypothesized relations. Findings from the study support hypothesized correlations between authentic leadership and moral judgment, altruism, and integrity. Additionally, the study supports the moderating effect of moral judgment and moral identity upon the relation between authentic leadership and altruism. Findings from the study are discussed, including a focus upon the need to define the source and content of authentic leadership morality. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are also presented.