Moral reasoning and leadership style

Mary Jean Landkamer, Marquette University


A growing body of theory and research from the fields of leadership and cognitive moral development suggests that dimensions of leadership style and moral reasoning may be related social phenomena. Analogous paradigms appear within the literature from each field which support the proposition that personality facets may function as antecedents of certain attitudes. These attitudes can in turn serve as important predictors of behavior. This study addressed the first of the two constructions within the model, namely, the interrelationship of the personality facet of moral reasoning as assessed by the Defining Issues Test and attitudes associated with the act of leading as assessed by the Leadership Opinion Questionnaire. The sample for the study consisted of 173 graduate students in Business Administration who reported having leadership experience in formal work settings. Under investigation were the relationships among measures of moral reasoning, specifically, Principled thinking (P) and an overall developmental index (D), and two general attitudinal dimensions of leadership style, Consideration (C) and Structure (S) and/or nine theoretical aspects represented therein, including (1) Supportive, (2) Equalitarian, (3) Flexible/Receptive to Change, (4) Non-punitive, (5) System Maintaining, (6) Production Oriented, (7) Directive, (8) Flexible/Innovative, and (9) Autocratic/Punitive. Analytic techniques employed toward this end included zero order correlation, simple and multiple regression, principal component analysis, two common factor analyses and canonical correlation. Results. (1) The P score of the DIT was inversely related to the Structure dimension of leadership style across analytic methods. (2) Attempts to cross validate the relationships were unsuccessful. (3) The P score of the DIT was positively related to the Equalitarian aspect of Consideration and inversely related to Directive and Autocratic/Punitive aspects of Structure. Conclusions. The general proposition that maturity of moral thinking is related to attitudinal dimensions of leadership style among subjects with leadership experience was moderately supported. Thus, minimal progress was made toward empirical substantiation of the first construction of the paradigm linking personality facets with attitudes and attitudes with behavior.

Recommended Citation

Landkamer, Mary Jean, "Moral reasoning and leadership style" (1987). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8811062.