Perceptions on the antecedents of unethical leadership in the financial services industry

Manjunath, P. ORCID: 0000-0001-5654-489X, 2018. Perceptions on the antecedents of unethical leadership in the financial services industry. In: An International Symposium on Business Ethics, Athens, Greece, 7-10 May 2018.

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The surge of corporate scandals has led to an increased scientific interest in understanding the dynamics of unethical leadership (Sanders et al., 2016). Multiple recent theoretical papers across publications have called for future research to explain the emergence of the phenomenon of unethical leadership (e.g. Brown and Mitchell, 2010; Unal et al, 2012). These calls collectively note that existing unethical leadership research has predominantly examined the role of executive leaders' traits and behaviours in promoting followers' transgressions. In doing so, a number of critics (Hoogervorst, 2011; Eisenbeiz and Brodbeck, 2013; and Brown and Trevino, 2013) point out that the business ethics literature could benefit from studies that systematically explain why leaders themselves engage in unethical leadership in the first place. While studies examining the antecedents to the "dark" side i.e. socially undesirable (Mills and Boardley, 2016) side of leadership have been initiated, a major challenge with these existing studies is that they are fragmented across a variety of constructs such as abusive, toxic and destructive leadership which Tepper (2007) argues has led to a poorly integrated literature will proliferation of terms. Much work remains in the specific field of unethical leadership (Brown and Mitchell, 2012; Eisenbeiz and Brodbeck, 2013); this paper will contribute to the unethical leadership and business ethics literature by articulating employee perceptions surrounding the preceding influences that elicit the process of unethical leadership within the financial services industry in Europe.

Participants across top, middle and non-managerial levels from 7 firms in Germany, England and Switzerland across 3 sectors i.e. investment banking, insurance and financial service providers were interviewed for this study. Semi structured interviews were conducted and a line by line coding was performed via NVivo. An initial analysis reveals 7 broad themes i.e., lead time of financial products, extent of leaders' religious beliefs, grey areas while dealing with ethical dilemmas, leaders' inherent values, superficial in-house compliance tests/audits, the volatile nature of the very financial services sector and remission of smaller transgressions leading to habituated unethicalleading at the meso and macro levels.

Based on empirical data collected across the financial services industry, this paper will present perspectives on unethical leadership scholarship and contribute theoretically by addressing a) Brown et al's argument that a majority of theoretical research has focussed on outcomes of unethical leadership rather than the antecedents of such leadership b) by empirically studying internal and external influences mediating processes of unethical leadership, widening Brown and Mitchell's (2010) theoretical and leader- centric study on the antecedents of unethical leadership. Results from the study could help practitioners develop an understanding of how and why unethical leadership emerges in financial services industries. Without understanding this emergence, it is difficult to create interventions that improve ethical organizational life, both on an individual and collective level.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Manjunath, P.
Date: May 2018
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 22 May 2018 16:02
Last Modified: 22 May 2018 16:02

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