Ethical Leadership

Posted: 14 Apr 2015

See all articles by Deanne N. Den Hartog

Deanne N. Den Hartog

University of Amsterdam Business School; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE); Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM)

Date Written: April 2015


High-profile cases of leaders’ ethical failure in different settings and sectors have led to increased attention to ethical leadership in organizations. In this review, I discuss the rapidly developing field of ethical leadership from an organizational behavior/psychology perspective, taking a behavioral and perceptual angle. After addressing the background of ethical leadership in this field, I discuss how ethical leadership has been defined, which behaviors and characteristics contribute to a leader being seen as ethical by followers, and how ethical leadership relates to other leadership styles. I also contrast ethical with unethical leader behaviors. Next, I address what the research to date tells us about the effects of perceived ethical leader behavior, the mechanisms through which this form of leadership affects followers, and what the role of the context is. Finally, I summarize the challenges the field currently faces, outline several future research directions, and discuss some practical implications of the work to date.

Suggested Citation

Den Hartog, Deanne N., Ethical Leadership (April 2015). Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Vol. 2, Issue 1, pp. 409-434, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Deanne N. Den Hartog (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam Business School ( email )

Roetersstraat 18
Amsterdam, 1018WB

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA

Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM)

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam

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