Can We Predict Ethical Leadership?

Is it possible to keep bad people from getting into power?

Posted Aug 03, 2018

Compelling new findings on ethical leadership were presented at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) annual conference held in Chicago during April. I enjoyed my discussant role at the symposium titled “Identifying and Developing Ethical Leaders: Challenges and Solutions.”

Some of the research discussed was aided by an innovative personality assessment tool, the DRiV™, that was launched late last year by Leadership Worth Following (LWF), a Dallas-based leadership consulting firm. I serve on LWF’s Science Advisory Board.

At SIOP, I helped facilitate the discussion about how companies can identify and develop ethical leaders, soliciting input from the three presenting research teams and audience.

One factor discussed was using measures of personality, motives, and values to predict ethical decisions. Behavioral scientists from the University of Oklahoma found the DRiV significantly predicted whether individuals were likely to make ethical (or unethical) decisions. Specifically, they found that individuals who scored highly on certain drivers – Equality, Inclusion, Purpose, Persistence, and Wisdom – were significantly more likely to make ethical decisions.

Predicting ethical behavior is notoriously hard. After all, who would admit to having made serious ethical mistakes?  This exciting research shows that the DRiV may offer organizations and leaders new insight into employees’ motivations and values, and who is more or less likely to make the tough – but right – ethical call.

(This article was also posted on the LWF blog.)

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