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In your entry, answer the questions below. Show each question followed by your answer.

Think about what might happen if you take moral ownership, that is, speak up (Hannah et al., 2011) about the moral problem that you have identified for your memo. In particular, Matt and Shahinpoor (2011) talk about consequences that employees may experience by saying something about a moral problem. What are the potential positive consequences?

What are the potential negative consequences?

Which positive or negative consequences are most likely to happen?

Which action as outlined by Kaptein (2010) do you think you would be most likely to take: inaction, confrontation, reporting to management, calling an ethics hotline, or external whistleblowing? Explain your choice, drawing from your scores for the various dimensions of the Corporate Ethical Virtues Model, among other things.

Source: The Academy of Management Review , October 2011, Vol. 36, No. 4 (October
2011), pp. 663-685
Published by: Academy of Management
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41318090
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The Academy of Management Review
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® Academy of Management Review
2011, Vol. 36, No. 4, 663-685.
West Point-United States Military Academy
University of Washington
University of Kansas
We set out to address a gap in the management literature by proposing a framework
specifying the component capacities organizational actors require to think and act
morally. We examine how moral maturation (i.e., moral identity, complexity, and
metacognitive ability) and moral conation (i.e., moral courage, efficacy, and ownership) enhance an individual’s moral cognition and propensity to take ethical action.
We offer propositions to guide future research and discuss the implications of the
proposed model for management theory and practice.
There is growing recognition that organizavelop the moral capacity of employees, the timtions are operating in increasingly more coming seems propitious to offer a theoretical
plex and often global environments that inherframework examining what constitutes the
ently impose difficult moral challenges on
moral capacity of individuals in the workplace
organization members (e.g., Donaldson, 2003;
and how that capacity drives the way individuGeorge, 2007; Hannah, Uhl-Bien, Avolio, & Caals respond to ethical challenges. Consevarretta, 2009a). This increased complexity is
quently, our primary motivation for writing this
due to a number of factors, including greater
article is to offer a comprehensive and testable
theoretical framework to serve as the basis for
scrutiny over individuals’ actions, more demands for transparency, the necessity for orga-guiding future research and practice concerning
nizations to work across competing governmen- the moral capacities needed to process a moral
tal and legal systems, expanded organizational challenge from recognition to action.
stakeholders with competing interests, and the We suggest below that there is a need for a
need to operate across different cultures that new and expanded theory of moral1 developconstitute diverse sets of values.
ment that better explains how individuals consider and act on moral dilemmas and temptaParalleling a rise in the complexity of organitions. Yet we realize our position will not be
zational challenges, popular belief suggests
that the scope and scale of greed and malfea- accepted without challenge, since some may besance in organizations are escalating (George, lieve the “gold standard” already exists in the
2007). In response to these trends, a growing well-known cognitive development models of
number of organizations and governments are Jean Piaget (1965/1932), Lawrence Kohlberg
establishing ethics offices and developing new (Kohlberg, 1981; Kohlberg & Candee, 1984), and
ethical policies and mandatory ethics training James Rest and colleagues (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999; see also Rest, 1986, 1994).
(Donaldson, 2003). As organizations strive to deWe build on these earlier theoretical frame-
works in our proposed model by starting our
We thank Professor Jean-Philippe Bonardi and three
anonymous reviewers for their guidance and numerous important recommendations to improve this manuscript. We
1 In this article we treat the terms moral and ethical as
also thank Professor James Campbell (Jim) Quick, who provided valuable input on an early version of the paper.
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discussion noting their
Second, strengths
previous theories have
pritions. We then proceed
marily on
of moral judgment a
oretical moral capacity
explaining the capacities
needed tocan
used to examine how individuals process and
carry those judgments through to intentions and
respond to moral problems, as well as by focus- actions. For example, while Kohlberg (1981) foing on how those capacities can be developed.
cused exclusively on explaining the core asFirst, in prior theory and research scholars
pects of moral judgment, Rest et al.#s fourhave focused on describing the processes
component model suggests that moral
whereby individuals handle moral incidents,
judgments must also be preceded by moral
but they have not adequately explained the un- awareness and followed by the formation of
derlying capacities individuals require to effec- intentions to act and then, ultimately, action
tively enact those processes. For example, Rest itself. Rest et al. conclude, however, that beand colleagues (1999) made extensive contribu- sides some “forays into studying Components
tions to the literature on moral psychology by 3 and 4,” little work has been done to explain
moral motivation or intentions and moral acdeveloping their four-component model. This
model identifies four “inner psychological pro- tion and that “we believe that the overall progcesses [that] together give rise to outwardly ob- ress in the larger enterprise of moral psycholservable behavior” (1999: 101) – moral sensitivogy can be viewed in terms of how well
ity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and
research progresses in all four inner psychomoral action. These four processes have served logical components leads to outwardly observable behavior” (1999: 102).
as an important organizing framework and
starting point for ethics research and practice.
Third, prior research has highlighted the imTo understand our intended theoretical contri-
portance of individual differences in ethical probution, however, it is important to make several
cessing, but that work has focused primarily on
distinctions between Rest et al.’s as well as oth-
a limited set of stable individual traits. Trevino
ers’ approach to examining ethical processes
and our approach to exploring ethical capacities. Rest et al. state that the moral sensitivity
process, for example, entails steps such as “in-
(1986), for example, proposed that locus of control, ego strength, and field dependence would
moderate the linkage between ethical cognition
and behavior. Although these are all important
terpreting the situation, role-taking how various
individual stable traits that can be used to poactions would affect the parties concerned,
tentially explain ethical processing in part, we
imagining cause-effect chains of events, and be-focus on malleable individual capacities that
ing aware that there is a moral problem when itcan be developed to enhance one’s ethical cog-
exists” (1999: 101). Research has shown that in-
nition and behavior/actions.
dividuals vary in their level of proficiency re- Fourth, a useful practical model of moral cagarding each of these four processes (e.g., Be-pacities must explain both moral cognition and
beau, 2002). Yet prior research has not
moral conation or the impetus to act. We define
sufficiently examined the individual capacities
moral conation as the capacity to generate rethat explain the variance across individuals sponsibility
enand motivation to take moral action
abling someone to effectively execute the steps
in the face of adversity and persevere through
or actions related to these four processes. Based
challenges . The theories of Kohlberg, Rest et al.,
on Rest et al/s description of moral sensitivity,
and others have focused largely on the cognitive
for example, we might ask, “What enables a
processing of moral dilemmas – those complex
person to execute the steps in interpreting a
intellectual choices between right versus wrong,
moral challenge and then estimating cause and or right versus right. Such models do not adeffect chains better than another?” At the pres- dress how individuals process moral temptaent time prior theory and research do not ade- tions (Monin, Pizarro, & Beer, 2007), where they
quately address this or similar questions. We
know what is best but one personal value contherefore set out here to identify the specific flicts with another. In this situation the individindividual capacities that help account for the
ual must have the adequate self-regulatory ca-
level of variation across individuals in terms of
pacity to resist one action in favor of another
how they process, formulate judgments action.
about,A person may be tempted, for example, to
and respond to moral challenges.
participate in unethical acts performed by his or
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her group to achieve
by Rest et al. (1999), that
accounts foracceptan
the capacities needed
for ethical awareness
and decision
the conation to
stand up and take action against those who
making, as well as the conation to follow
have done the wrong thing.2
through with action.
Fifth, more recent theories have been devel-
oped that attempt to explain those capacities
needed by moral actors at specific stages of
processing a moral issue, such as Reynolds’
(2008) theory of moral attentiveness. However, Measuring attitudes and judgments in genwhat is missing in the literature is a more inteeral (Ajzen, 1991), as well as ethical judgments
grated model of individual moral capacities that
in particular (Bebeau, 2002; Blasi, 1980; Trevino &
can fully explain how moral dilemmas are
Youngblood, 1990), has generated relatively
thought about and acted on across all four of weak relationships in predicting actual ethical
behavior. Despite this fact, Reynolds (2006) notes
Rest et al.’s processes. Supporting this need,
Rest and colleagues note that “although most
that ethics research has tended to focus predomresearchers would agree that there is much diinantly on ethical judgment models versus ethical behavior, which is a trend that is also eviversity of constructs, processes, phenomena,
and starting points for the psychology of morality, the greater challenge is to formulate how all
these different parts fit together” (1999: 6).
dent in recent literature reviews (O’Fallon &
Butterfield, 2005; Tenbrunsel & Smith-Crowe,
2008; Trevino, Weaver, & Reynolds, 2006). This
In sum, our principle goal is to provide retrend has persisted even though Rest et al. (1999:
searchers with a conceptual framework that in- 101) reported that the Defining Issues Test
cludes the breadth of moral capacities required (DIT) – the most commonly used measure of cognitive moral judgment capacity – typically only
by moral actors to think about and act on a
explains approximately 20 percent of the varimoral dilemma. Specifically, our proposed
model seeks to achieve the following objectives: ance in actual ethical behavior.
(1) to provide an organizing structure for an ex- Kohlberg (1981, 1986) based his model of cogpanded set of constructs required to be devel- nitive moral development on the work of Piaget
oped in moral actors, while also explaining the (1965/1932) and proposed that moral developrelationships and processes linking these con- ment is a maturation process that unfolds across
the lifespan in six stages, whereby more comstructs; (2) to recognize both the processes moral
actors must use and the underlying capacities plex “mental operations” related to the logic of
they require to effectively enact those processes; morality are developed. Kohlberg originally atand (3) to use what we have learned from the
tempted to explain overall moral development
as stemming from cognitive development but, in
first two objectives to facilitate assessment and
response to critics (e.g., Gilligan, 1982), in later
development by offering measurable and malwork narrowed the boundaries of his developleable constructs for future research and practice in this area.
mental theory to only apply to moral judgments
dealing with justice issues.3
In developing the proposed model, we examined relevant frameworks from clinical, social,
In arguing for a “neo-Kohlbergian approach,”
Rest and colleagues (1999) suggested that beand developmental psychology and neurosciyond the limitations of solely focusing on jusence, as well as leadership, organizational behavior, and ethics. We assessed where each
tice, Kohlberg’s theory and scoring system was
too “macro-moral”
in that it addressed abstract
framework’s boundary ended in contributing
our understanding of moral capacity and where
another framework with compatible logic began. We believe that our contribution to moral/
3 Kohlberg states that “the research programme of myself
and my Harvard colleagues has moved from restricting the
ethical theory and practice involves advancing
study of morality to the study of moral development to rea broader “enterprise” approach, as called for
stricting it to the study of moral judgment … to restricting it
to the form or cognitive-structural stage of moral judgment
2 For parsimony we use “dilemma” from here on to represent all moral problems, predicaments, and temptations.
as embodied in judgments of justice”; he further states that
he does not imply that “these restrictions should guide all
fruitful moral psychology research” (Kohlberg, 1986: 499).
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666 Academy of Management Review October
stand upsocietal
and act in the face
of adversityof
while justic
aspects of society (e.g.f
another person of equal
capacity will relaversus the more commonly
fail to act morally
(Bandura, 1991). groups, an
tions between individuals,
we set out to extend
this prior
theorganizations. Rest et
al. (1999)
ries need to take these
ory andmore
research byrelevant,
first identifying personal
related to both
moral thought
and typically more capacities
conduct. Next, we examine how they operate as
Rest et al. (1999) also argued against determinants
the “hard that influence an individual’s
stages” associated with development recommended by Kohlberg, basing their model instead on the concept of cognitive schemas. The
Overview of the Model’s Core Components
authors noted that Kohlberg’s theory only adWe provide an overview of the components,
dressed component 2 (moral judgment) of their
four-component model. Yet despite this criticism presented in Figure 1, constituting moral matuof Kohlberg’s work, Rest and colleagues’ own
ration and conation, and in subsequent sections
work focused largely on component 2, develop- we provide more in-depth analysis of each coming and validating the DIT, which purports to
ponent. At the base of the model is a depiction of
measure levels of moral schema development
the four psychological processes as proposed by
Rest et al. (1999). Moral sensitivity includes prousing hypothetical moral judgment exercises.
Thus, while the models of Kohlberg and Rest et cesses related to being aware of a moral probal. foremost attempt to address one aspect
lem, interpreting the situation, and identifying
(schema development) of the cognitive capaci- various options to address the problem. Moral
ties that individuals need to recognize and
judgment concerns processes taken to deterjudge moral issues, they do not help explain the
mine what action is the most proper to pursue.
self-regulatory capacities that promote how anMoral motivation entails processes geared toindividual engages his or her full cognitive ca-ward gaining commitment to a given action and
pacities in a given moral dilemma. Nor do those
the weight assigned to specific moral values
models attempt to explain why one person willover other values. Finally, moral action involves
Framework for Moral Maturation and Moral Conation
i Experience, reflection, and feedback * •
i Moral maturation capacities i i Moral conation capacities ‘ ‘
‘ /^Moral’ /^^Moral’ j j /^Moral^’ y^^Moral ‘ /^MoralXj :
j ^complexity/ v^abilitv/ ‘identityy ‘ ‘ ‘ownership>y ^efficacy/ ycourage/j :
PI P2 P3 ‘P5 P6 P7 P8 j
P4 ‘
P5 ‘

j Moral cognition processes j j Moral conation processes ; :
sensitivity judgment j j * motivation action ■••••«£«•»
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defined moral conation
as the capacity
persistence in aliermoral
generate responsibility and motivation
and various temptations
and tochalle
action in the face of adversity and persethe appropriatemoral
through challenges
While some ofvere
read akin to developed capacities, Rest et al.
have defined them as psychological processes
related to sequencing or addressing a moral
Dynamics of the Model
dilemma. Indeed, the four components were first
Before proceeding, it is important to clarify
developed to categorize ethics theories and
serve as a “heuristic tool in conceptualizing the three aspects of our theoretical framework. First,
psychology of morality as a whole” (Rest et al., we propose that each capacity is necessary but
1999: 101). Yet while serving as a valuable heu- not sufficient for moral decision making and
ristic, we believe this framework suffers from
behavior. High levels of moral complexity, for
some important gaps. The moral motivation example, must be accompanied by sufficient
component, for example, denotes a psychologi- metacognitive ability to process complex moral
cal process where commitment to action is gen- knowledge, along with a moral identity guided
erated but does not specify what individual dif- by self-regulation and processing that achieves
a desired moral outcome.
ferences drive that process or the level of
commitment needed to behave in a moral manSecond, our propositions suggest that moral
maturation capacities will primarily drive moral
cognitive processes, while moral conation ca(1986, 1994) by articulating the moral capacities
will primarily drive moral motivational
displayed in the upper half of Figure 1 that can
processes. Yet we also consider in
serve to explain why individuals are more or
our discussion of the proposed model that these
less inclined and able to effectively execute
ner. We therefore seek to advance Rest’s work
capacities may also have some influence on
To organize our proposed model, we group other stages of Rest et al/s four-component
Rest et al.’s components of moral sensitivity andmodel of moral decision making. Most notably,
moral judgment into moral cognition processesas shown in Figure 1, we explicitly propose that
since they both entail the awareness and pro- moral identity is unique in that it will drive both
cessing of information pertaining to moral is- moral cognition and one’s motivation or
sues. Further, we group the moral motivation conation to act. For example, an individual who
and moral action components into what we termhas a very highly developed sense of moral
moral conation processes since they both entailidentity will more likely exhibit ethical behav-
those four processes.
the tendency for and the practice of moral be- iors that are more in line with his or her moral
identity, thus enhancing the individual’s moral
conation to act (e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002; Blasi,
Similarly, we use the category labels moral
1993; Weaver, 2006). However, we also note that
maturation and moral conation to group the six
the judgments made and actions taken may also
moral capacities of our model for ease of convary across different moral issues and domains,
ceptualization and description. We are not, howeven where the individual has a highly develever, proposing higher-order latent constructs.
oped moral identity.
Accordingly, we first define each capacity and
then offer individual propositions related toFinally, as suggested by the shaded dotted
line “Experience, reflection, and feedback” in
each of the six capacities in our model.
1, we propose that these six capacities
As shown in the upper portion of Figure 1, Figure
are all open to development, which goes beyond
suggest that the three constructs labeled moral
earlier literature primarily focusing on identifymaturation capacities are critical in driving
ing stable traits and attributes that may influmoral cognition processes. We define moral
ence moral judgments and actions. Consematuration as the capacity to elaborate and efquently, we provide in our discussion some
fectively attend to, store, retrieve , process, and
suggestions on how these capacimake meaning of morally relevant information
ties could best be measured and developed to
Next, we suggest that the three constructs labeled moral conation capacities are critical inhelp initiate and guide future research in this
driving moral motivational processes. We ear-
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domain, depending
on their to
level of
In order to provide
Greater complexity
in aour
given dodefine the six capacities
main is deal
of highly
we do not spend a great
richly might
connected mental
representations that
contextual factors that
these r
the individual can call on we
to allow him
or her to recogn
spective capacities. However,
process information
in greater
depth and with
that the context, including
more elaboration (Rafaeli-Mor & Steinberg, 2002;
culture, and climate of the organization
& Nogami, 1989). For example, Be(Trevino, 1986; Trevino & Youngblood, 1990), Streufert
other factors, such as leadership (Brown,
beau’s (2002) work in the dental profession suggests that dentists will have varying levels of
Trevino, & Harrison, 2005; Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009), are also imporcomplexity associated with dental ethics. Furtant elements that could significantly influence
ther, a dentist may have low levels of moral
individual moral processing, motivation, and
complexity in other domains, such as accountbehaviors. We highlight some of these contex- ing ethics or, more generally, biomedical ethics,
tual factors that should be included in future
lacking adequate knowledge in those areas of
research in the discussion section.
ethics to process and apply information to a
given dilemma with depth and elaboration.
Moral complexity is a critical moral capacity
because the distinctive dimensions individuals
Understanding what constitutes moral matuuse to organize and make meaning of the world
ration requires greater refinement, beyond Kohlstrongly influence how they make decisions and
berg’s (1981) specific stage model of cognitive
behave within a specific domain (Rafaeli-Mor &
moral development and Rest et al.’s three levels
Steinberg, 2002; Streufert & Nogami, 1989). All
of cognitive development (i.e., personal interest,
other things being equal, more cognitively commaintaining norms, and postconventional).plex
Restindividuals process information more thoret al. recognized the coarseness of their apoughly because they have more categories to
proach, noting, “We recognize that the cognitive discriminate among information received in
structures we talk about are somewhere be-
their environment and are more able to see com-
tween cognitive development stages and
social and connections among those catemonalities
schemas” (1999: 185). To refine Rest et al.’s
gories (Schroder et al., 1967; Streufert & Nogami,
stages we incorporate theories of cognitive 1989).
com- This led Hannah, Lester, and Vogelgesang
plexity (e.g., Streufert & Nogami, 1989), thereby
(2005) to propose that rich moral representations
decomposing individuals’ mental representawill help individuals achieve greater coherence
tions of moral knowledge into more refined as- when processing complex moral dilemmas.
pects of content and structure to help better ex- Greater moral complexity provides a larger and
plain what constitutes cognitive moral
more developed set of prototypes with which to
maturation (e.g., Street, Douglas, Geiger, &process
Mar- moral information, and these prototypes
tinko, 2001).
are drawn on during either controlled or automatic processing of ethical challenges/incidents
(see Reynolds, 2006; Sonenshein, 2007). ThereComplexity of Moral Representations
fore, the concept of moral complexity underpins
We know that individuals are more or less
what Werhane (1999) calls “moral imagination,”
complex in their mental representations
or of
thevarability to understand the various dimenious domains of knowledge based on their
sions of moral dilemmas and develop various
breadth of experience and learning across the moral “realities” to consider and with which to
life span (Bandura, 1991; Schroder, Driver, &
create imaginative solutions. This occurs beStreufert, 1967; Streufert & Nogami, 1989), includ- cause more cognitively complex individuals are
ing in different moral domains (Narvaez, 2010; better able to acquire and make sense of comSwanson & Hill, 1993). Here we use the term
peting information, while spending more time
domain to mean a specific area of ethics (e.g.,
interpreting a broader range of information to
accounting ethics, medical ethics, military ethhelp resolve dilemmas (e.g., Bower & Hilgard,
ics, or parenting ethics). Individuals can have
1981; Dollinger, 1984). Indeed, in their work with
adolescents, Swanson and Hill (1993) found that
more or less complex representations of each
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richer moral knowledge
complex knowledge (Margolis
& Phillips, 1999;
Shweder, 1991). In sum, the extent to which indireasoning. Narvaez (2010) suggests that more
complex moral actors will also have greater
viduals possess moral complexity in a given
“negative expertise” in that they will know what
actions not to take when facing a moral di-
domain will enhance their level of moral sensi-
tivity and ability to differentiate and integrate
(i.e., elaborate) moral information in that do-
Beyond enhancing the processing of moral
main, particularly since people tend to use the
judgments, moral complexity should also enhighest stages of cognitive development availhance moral sensitivity (i.e., stage 1 of Rest et able to them when processing moral dilemmas,
al.’s four-stage model). Reynolds notes that indi- if ample motivation exists (Trevino, 1992). This
viduals differ from one another in moral attenleads to our first proposition.
tiveness, which he proposes enables greater
Proposition 1: Higher (lower) levels of
sensitivity to moral issues, and he calls for fucomplexity
in a specific domain(s) of
ture research to determine the “origins of moral
will be associated
attentiveness” (2008: 1039). In response to Reynwith
levels of (a) moral
olds call, we suggest that moral complexity is a
sensitivity and (b) elaborative moral
central antecedent to moral attentiveness bejudgments in that domain(s).
cause individuals have a heightened propensity
to attend to information that is consistent with
their mental representations, while discounting
incongruent information (Dutton & Jackson,
Metacognitive Ability
1987). This suggests that the more distinct inter-
nal dimensions or prototypes people possess The
to next moral maturation capacity in our
perceive “moral cues,” the more likely and able is metacognitive ability. We include this
capacity to explain the variance in individual
they will be to perceive and attend to moral
ability to use moral complexity to enhance
indicators, when present.
Moral judgments are also inherently contex- moral cognition (Metcalfe & Shimamura, 1994;
Narvaez, 2010). We propose that moral complextualized. Groups, organizations, and societies
ity provides a deeper understanding of what
seek to function on a shared set of values (Victor
moral maturation, thus going be& Cullen, 1988), and yet those values vary, peryond the general conceptualizations of Kohlhaps extensively, across different collectives
(Margolis & Phillips, 1999; Shweder, 1991). Even berg’s or Rest et al.’s stages. A high level of
complexity is, however, like fuel without an enwhen individuals agree on sets of values or
moral standards, the meanings and applica-
tions of those standards are often contentious
gine to process that fuel. Street et al. (2001) argue
that individuals also need the capacity or “en-
to deeply process complex moral knowl(Sonenshein, 2007). Given this equivocality,
edge. As with other constructs in our proposed
do not offer prescriptions as to any specific
knowledge content comprising moral complex- model, we focus on metacognitive ability as a
developed capacity underlying such depth of
ity as being more or less “moral” – only that
(Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), and we suggreater complexity in a given moral domain(s)
to measure and develop
will drive more elaborate moral judgments conthis
cerning that domain. We define elaborate moral
Metacognitive ability is composed of monitorjudgment as the extent to which an individual
and regulating cognitive processes, thus
differentiates and integrates moral information .
both self-referential and executive conMoral complexity, therefore, incorporates rich
(Dunlosky & Metcalfe, 2009; Metknowledge content representative of the morality of a given culture or social group. With this in calfe & Shimamura, 1994), which are critical for
mind, we suggest that our proposed model can moral cognition. Metacognitive ability has been
shown to be related to yet distinct from general
be generalized across cultures and organizations yet needs to be further specified within intelligence or cognitive ability (see Dunlosky &
any given culture by incorporating the virtues,Metcalfe, 2009, and Veenman & Elshout, 1999).
norms, and mores of that culture to determine
what constitutes moral, immoral, or even amoral
Recent neuroscience research has shown that
these general and more specific cognitive abil-
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670 Academy of Management Review October
in the
use of moral capacity
when judging
ities each draw from
(e.g., Jausovec, 2008). issues (Thoma, Rest, & Davidson, 1991). This dis-
may also be particularly
useful in ex- refers
Overall intelligence tinction
or cognitive
plaining how individuals process ethical issues
to the general capacity to reason and solve
problems, which is distinct from the ability to that force them to address multiple competing
regulate and control cognition as these reason- values. For example, higher levels of metacoging processes unfold (Dunlosky & Metcalfe, 2009;nitive ability would enhance the monitoring and
Metcalfe & Shimamura, 1994). Indeed, research
control over what information is being used in
has shown that as an individual gains expertisemaking a judgment, assessments of that information’s accuracy, influences of emotions or
in a certain domain, the individual’s metacognicompeting values on judgment, and whether all
tive ability gets progressively more tailored to
possible aspects of a moral dilemma have been
processing information in that domain. Conseconsidered. This leads to our next proposition.
quently, over time, the direct influence of general intellectual ability diminishes as an indiProposition 2: Higher (lower) levels of
vidual acquires expertise in a domain, while the
moral metacognitive ability will be
impact of metacognition increases on how that
associated with higher (lower) levels
individual processes information (Veenman &
of (a) moral sensitivity and (b) elaboElshout, 1999). This suggests that at higher levrative moral judgments.
els of development, moral cognitive functioning
will be guided less by some general moral intelligence and more by metacognitive ability
Moral Identity
that has been tailored to various areas of prior
Another limitation of Rest’s (1986, 1994) and
moral experiences – with that metacognitive
ability drawing on underlying complex moral
Kohlberg’s (1981) models is that they focus on
knowledge developed within specific domains
moral domain knowledge in determining what
(i.e., moral complexity).
constitutes cognitive moral development (justice
We suggest that by acquiring higher levels of concepts in the case of Kohlberg, as noted earlier). Yet research has shown that in addition to
moral metacognitive ability, individuals will
also enhance their moral sensitivity and moral knowledge of concepts of morality, individuals’
judgment. This is because complex moral dilem- knowledge about themselves as moral actors
mas require the capacity to select from, access, (i.e., moral identity) is also critical in driving
and modify moral knowledge and to apply elab- both moral cognition and moral conation (e.g.,
orative reasoning to the specific moral dilemma Aquino, Freeman, Reed, Lim, & Felps, 2009). This
being confronted in order for an individual to is because self-identity consists of the most accesachieve a sense of logical coherence. Metacogsible and elaborate knowledge structures individuals hold (Hannah, Woolfolk, & Lord, 2009b; Kihlnitive ability provides the executive control
functions over these processes, determining
strom, Beer, & Klein, 2003) and, thus, imposes a
what is attended to and recalled by an individ- strong influence on how individuals regulate
ual (Metcalfe & Shimamura, 1994), along with thought and control behavior (Carver & Scheier,
the selection and employment of mental proto-
1998; Lord & Brown, 2004). Therefore, identity can-
types (Reynolds, 2008; Sonenshein, 2007) used
not be separated from moral processing, particuduring ethical decision making. Prior research
larly since moral and immoral actions all influindicates that these metacognitive processes
ence one’s self-evaluations (e.g., “Am I a good
can become so tailored and habituated that they person?”) and sense of self-consistency (e.g.,
become automated and triggered by cues in the “What ethical action is most in line with my becontext (e.g., Gollwitzer & Schaal, 1998; Metcalfe liefs about myself?”).
& Shimamura, 1994). Where these metacognitive The self-regulatory functions provided by
abilities have become habituated, we expect to moral identity are critical in rounding out and
see a greater use of automatic moral processing more fully explaining what constitutes moral
of ethical dilemmas.
maturation. Moral complexity and metacogniSeparating moral complexity from an individtive ability combined provide a richer elaboraual’s ability to process that complexity viation
metaof moral knowledge, yet these processes
cognition helps explain individual differences
must be guided by self-regulatory standards
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global identity. This moral
approach has explicitly
& Brow
sumed that
(1) individualsLord
possess a unified
identiexample, highly complex individuals might
come up with ways to justify moral disengage(Carver
ment if such rich processing is not guided by or less central to individuals’ overall identity,
and (3) situations influence how accessible or
We are certainly not the first to propose salient
that this moral identity is at any point in time
(see Aquino et al., 2009).
moral identity is critical to moral processing
As we suggested above, we believe that there
and behavior (e.g., Aquino & Reed, 2002; Blasi,
important alternative ways of conceptualiz1993; Weaver, 2006). For example, Reynoldsare
Ceranic (2007) demonstrated that moral identity
ing moral identity that move beyond viewing it
as a unified concept, and we use self-complexis an important construct in helping to explain
ity theory to support our position (e.g., Hannah
the link between moral judgments and behavior.
et al., 2009b; Linville, 1987). Consequently, we
Here we suggest that prior work on moral idensuggest that moral identity is not a separate
tity can be expanded in three specific ways.
First, instead of conceptualizing moral identity intact identity, any more than “sociable” is a
in isolation, we integrate moral identity with separate identity. Instead, self-complexity theother interrelated capacities of moral matura- ory suggests that identity content (e.g., moral
tion and link moral identity to Rest et al.’s four-
or sociable) is instead structured across the
moral behavior varies across situations in the
as a team leader, but less so in one’s secondary
various subidentities that make up a person’s
component model.
multifaceted identity. These subidentities are
Second, we approach moral identity as composed of more than self-descriptive moral traits. largely based on social roles, such as parent
Aquino and Reed’s (2002) construct of moral or team leader, and are developed as actors
identity, for example, includes nine Kantian-like perform these roles over time (Markus & Wurf,
1987). This suggests that each social role will
moral traits, including caring, compassionate,
fair, friendly, generous, helpful, hardworking, be composed of different forms and levels of
honest, and kind. Identity, however, is thought to moral identity content. Specifically, we proinclude not only traits but other dynamic struc- pose that the content of moral identity consists
tures, including roles, goals and motivation, af- of self-knowledge components (e.g., “What do I
stand for?” or “What are my core beliefs?”) and
fect, and autobiographical narratives, along
with other components (Hill & Roberts, 2010; evaluative components (e.g., “Am I a moral
Lord, Hannah, & Jennings, 2011). We therefore person?” or “How well do I stand up for my
conceptualize moral identity as a more complex beliefs?”) and their associated sets of goals,
affect, self-regulatory plans, etc., whereas
Third, we propose that moral identity is
not a refers to how such content is organized
and categorized across the social roles
singular identity structure but is multifaceted
and represented across various identities (Han- one’s overall identity (Woolfolk et
al., 2004).
nah et al., 2009b). We therefore incorporate
complexity theory (e.g., Linville, 1987; Woolfolk, overall self-identity is thus elaborate
and differentiated, actually being more of an
Gara, Allen, & Beaver, 2004) with moral identity
of selves rather than a unified
theory to help explain the multifaceted nature
whole (Markus & Wurf, 1987). For example, one
moral identity. We believe that this third contrisee oneself as highly truthful in one’s role
bution is critical if we are to understand can
role ashas
a company media spokesperson. Moral
workplace, which is a question that largely
can thus be defined and measured as
been unanswered in the literature (Hardy &
Carlo, 2005).
more or less complex based on how rich and
Prior theories of moral identity have focuseddifferentiated it is as structured across individon the content associated with an individual’s
uals’ self-identities (Hannah et al., 2009b; Lord et
al., 2011).
For instance, in a self-complexity
self-concept (i.e., how people see themselves
study Woolfolk et al. (2004) demonstrated that
a moral being/actor) and have operationalized
ethics-related attributes, such as honest, selfish,
moral identity by asking participants to respond
scornful, admirable, bad, dependable, and disto the extent various traits apply to their overall
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measures to moral
will allow researchhonest, were represented
and less
ers to assess both differentiation
and integraextents across participants’
tion/unity, as well as the concomitant effects of
ties. Further, emerging research has demonstrated that individuals’ preferences and values each on the moral behaviors enacted.
Aspects of moral identity held with higher levchange when separate subidentities are primed
(LeBoeuf, Shafir, & Bayuk, 2010). For example, els of unity are especially critical in driving
Reicher and Levine (1994) showed that when a
moral cognition and conation, in that we know
that individuals have higher self-awareness for
scientist versus a student identity was primed,
individuals had more favorable attitudes tomore core and salient aspects of the self (Setterlund To& Niedenthal, 1993). Higher salience also
ward practices such as animal vivisection.
increases moral sensitivity and attentiveness
gether, this research suggests that a selfcomplexity approach will offer a more refinedand the rapid processing of moral dilemmas
that match patterns or prototypes familiar to an
understanding of the multifaceted moral identity, and thereby variance in moral thought andindividual (Reynolds, 2008). We also know from
behavior across situations and social roles.
research on self- verification (Swann, 1983) and
self-regulatory processes (e.g.,
Moral identity and the unity of the self.
Carver & Scheier, 1998; Lord & Brown, 2004) that
complex, differentiated moral identity, however,
does not suggest individuals are devoid ofpeople
core are motivated to behave in ways consistentAs
with salient core self-attributes. This sort of
values or consistency in their self-identity.
consistency allows them to maintain the integdiscussed earlier, individuals’ level of complexrity of their self-concept and, thus, creates
ity is represented both by their differentiation
and integration of knowledge – in this case
self- for self-congruent behavior (Verplanken & Holland, 2002). Consistent with this reknowledge. Taking this position helps to explain how one can differ as a moral actor across search, Stahlberg, Peterson, and Dauenheimer
(1999) demonstrated that in areas where people
various roles (i.e., differentiation) yet at the
same time understand one’s consistency or lack have high self-unity, they tend toward self-
thereof across those roles based on certain core
verifying motives to confirm their existing selfbeliefs in order to establish stability in “who
attributes (i.e., integration). Concerning integrathey are,” whereas in areas of lower unity, they
tion, greater moral identity complexity would
therefore be associated with what has been
are more likely to lean toward self-enhancing
called “self-unity,” defined as “the extent to
Because ethical dilemmas typically present
which self-beliefs (e.g. perceived personal attriindividuals with competing values and choices,
butes) are clearly and confidently defined, interthis combined research suggests that in areas
nally consistent, and stable” (Campbell et al.,
1996: 141).
where the self is less “invested” (i.e., low unity),
individuals may be more likely to swing to other
Using justice as an example, a person may
identify him/herself as being a fair individual values and perhaps away from taking moral
across a broad range of social roles. These roles action. This suggests that organizations may
could then “roll up” and contribute to a more want to develop high levels of unity across their
integrated or generalized aspect of self-identity members’ respective subidentities for those critical core organizational values where they want
as a just person (Hannah et al., 2009b; Hill &
Roberts, 2010). This same person, however, may to ensure that their members will make “the
be more differentiated across subidentities
right” decision when facing difficult choices.
based on other aspects of moral identity.
Theidentity and self-complexity. Aquino et
al. (2009) conceptualized individuals as possessconcept of unity thus provides an underlying
a single global moral identity more or less
basis for what Aquino et al. (2009) anding
central to their overall identity, and that various
have called the “centrality of moral identity.”
influence how accessible this moral
We suggest that unity is not a separate
is at any point in time. Building on this
as proposed by Aquino et al. but, rather,
is the
self-complexity approach is, we believe,
the extent to which select moral content
is a
repa more
refined approach that considers both
resented centrally across aspects of one’s
content and structure, proposing that inidentity, and therefore highly salient.
Impordividuals possess both integration (i.e., unity)
tantly, applying self-complexity and related
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defined as more or less complex, and (2) the
makeup of that identity will influence moral
cognition and conation through the activation of
framework, the influence of moral identity on various working selves across contexts. We now
suggest that (3) a more complex moral identity
moral cognition and conation would be based
on (1) what subset of an individual’s identity
will provide a broader base of moral content
(e.g., a social role) is activated in a given situa- that individuals may draw from. Based on the
tion and (2) what moral content that subset condiscussion of cognitive differentiation presented
earlier, more complex individuals can better taitains. Instead of asking, “How active is one’s
lor their working self across a broader range of
global moral identity?” as suggested by prior
situations (Hannah et al., 2009b; Lord et al., 2011;
research (e.g., Aquino et al., 2009), we ask,
“Which identity is activated and what is the Rafaeli-Mor & Steinberg, 2002). This aligns with
Yearley’s discussion of virtue ethics: “I do not
unique moral makeup of that identity?”
act benevolently in order to be benevolent or to
This approach may better explain crosssituational variability in moral thought and ac-be seen as benevolent by myself or others
tion through assessing the activation of specificact benevolently because the sit
a description of a situation tha
moral content in the working self-concept
(Markus & Wurf, 1987). Because the self-conceptnevolence” (1990: 14). In sum, individuals’ moral
is a vast and manifold structure, only a subset of content will vary in levels of complexity – that
identity is activated at any one point in time. is, differentiation and integration/unity across
This portion – the working self-concept – in- different social roles. The structure and content
cludes aspects of identity and associated cogni-of moral identity will therefore influence its activation and extent of influence in the working
tive, affective, and motivational components
self, and thereby drive moral cognition and
that are activated in a specific situation and
that drive thoughts and behaviors in that situa- conation. In summarizing this research on moral
tion (Lord et al., 2011). For example, the identity identity, we propose the following.
of “self as parent” may have highly salient and
Proposition 3: Higher (lower) overall
accessible content associated with role modellevels of moral identity complexity
ing and discipline, which guides a parent to
will be associated with higher (lower)
closely regulate his or her own behavior (e.g.,
levels of (a) moral sensitivity and (b)
control the use of profanity) and to quickly diselaborative moral judgments across
cipline a child for even the slight use of profansituations.
ity. Conversely, the individual’s identity as “self
Proposition 4: Higher (lower) levels of
as coworker” may include less emphasis on bemoral complexity in the activated
ing a moral disciplinarian. When the coworker
working self will be associated with
role is active during the workday, the individual
higher (lower) levels of (a) moral senmay be much less sensitive to moral issues related to coworker behavior. This difference in
sitivity and (b) elaborative moral judgments within that situation .
moral sensitivity may impact not only moral
and differentiation of moral content across the
self (see LeBoeuf et al., 2010; Reicher & Levine,
1994; Woolfolk et al., 2004). With this theoretical
judgments at work but also the motivation to act
Proposition 5: Dimensions of moral
once a judgment is reached. The net result is a
identity with higher (lower) levels of
coworker who might allow his or her own and
unity will be related to higher (lower)
other coworkers’ behavior to degenerate below
levels of (a) moral sensitivity ; (b) elaba level that would not be tolerated as a parent.
orative moral judgments , (c) moral
Consequently, examining both the content and
motivation, and (d) moral action constructure of moral identity can provide a deeper
cordant with those core dimensions .
understanding of moral thought and behavior
within and between the various roles that indi-
viduals maintain as part of their personal and
work identities.
As noted by Rest et al. (1999) and others (e.g.,
This discussion of moral identity and selfThoma et al., 1991), the processes of moral moticomplexity suggests that (1) the assemblage
(content and structure) of moral identity can be vation and moral action, and more so the capac-
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674 Academy of Management Review October
process through
an internally driven
ities that produce such
not bee
for moral
et al. (2003) propose that This
adequately developed
hold varying levels
of psychological
lack of attention is individuals
ownership for
various aspects
of their environdemonstrating relatively
ment, or what
they call
“targets.” They behavior
tween ethical judgments
(Bebeau, 2002; Blasi, 1980; Trevino & Youngpsychological ownership as “the state in which
blood, 1990). This gap points to the importance of individuals feel as though the target of ownerthe moral conation capacities depicted in Fig- ship or a piece of that target is theirs” (2003: 86).
ure 1. Advancing a model of moral capacity for While not yet applied to ethics, we put forth in
use in dynamic organizations where individualsour model a specific form of moral ownership we
face competing values will require identifying define as the extent to which members feel a
and developing the factors that underlie the sense of psychological responsibility over the
transference of moral judgments into action. We
ethical nature of their own actions, those of oth-
build the construct of moral conation drawing ers around them, their organization, or another
from literature on (1) human agency, psycholog-collective . This “other collective” could be a
ical ownership, and engagement (e.g., Bandura, group, a club, or even a society.
1991, 1999; May, Gilson, & Harter, 2004; Pierce, Like the other moral conation constructs, we
Kostova, & Dirks, 2003); (2) self- and means effisuggest moral ownership is state-like, varying
cacy (e.g., Bandura, 1997; Eden, 2001); and (3) across “targets” and contexts. Unlike general
courage (e.g., Gould, 2005; Kidder, 2003). We pro- beliefs about the extent to which individuals
pose that these three constructs are distinct yet can control the general events in their life, as
reflected in concepts like locus of control
support each other. Affirming our position, Osswald, Greitemeyer, Fischer, and Frey state that (Trevino, 1986), individuals will vary in the extent they want to or feel a sense of responsibility
“before a person can act with moral courage,
s/he has to perceive an incident as a situation of to take ethical action in a given situation and
moral courage, s/he has to take responsibility not others (Bandura, 1991, 1999).
Bandura’s (1991, 1999) theory of moral agency
[i.e., moral ownership] and has to feel competent
is helpful in identifying the underlying psycho[i.e., moral efficacy] to act” (2009: 98).
logical mechanisms that create (or reduce) a
sense of moral ownership across contexts. BanMoral Ownership
dura defines agency as the capacity to exercise
control over the nature and quality of one’s life.
Kohlberg and Candee (1984) proposed that a
sense of responsibility must first be formed be- As the central organizing principle of social cogfore people will initiate dedicated moral action. nitive theory, agency reflects individuals’ enJones and Ryan’s (1997, 1998) moral approbation gagement in their experiences. Bandura argues
model suggests that individuals attribute their that interactions occur between the person (e.g.,
level of responsibility for taking moral action us-
cognition, identity, and affect), his/her behavior,
ing their various referent groups as standards. and his/her environment. Through these interacThis attribution is based on assessments of the
tions, people can be producers as well as products of their environments. However, Bandura
severity of the consequences, moral certainty,
(1991, 1999) suggests that individuals may use
degree of complicity, and extent of pressure
“moral disengagement” techniques, such as diffrom organizational factors. Individuals will
fusing responsibility to or attributing blame to
then act if their level of anticipated approbation
others, or discounting the extent of harm assofrom their referent group exceeds their desired
ciated with their behavior, in order to psycholevel of approbation. This suggests that, unlike
the influence of stable traits, such as locus of
logically disengage from their actions and
thereby maintain a positive self-image. Tenbruncontrol on moral processing (Trevino, 1986),
sel as
and Messick (2004) make a similar argument,
moral approbation will vary across situations
noting that individuals may employ strategies
one’s reference group and other factors change.
of self-deception during the omission of ethical
To represent this sense of ownership, we proorwe
commission of unethical acts so as to deceive
pose a construct of moral ownership, which,
themselves into believing that their ethical prinsuggest, will create unique causations or conciples are still being upheld. We suggest that
tingencies in this psychological approbation
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dent but
still remain inactiveownership
because of a lack
of confidence, thus lowering moral conation. For
Bandura (1991) suggests that people vary
an individual may feel that he or she
should confront someone who has behaved unhow much they practice four aspects of agency:
(1) intentionality – the extent to which acts
but then not feel capable of doing so
agency are done intentionally, (2) forethought
Moral efficacy has been recognized
the extent to which agents anticipate likely
as conan important factor in potentially addressing
sequences of actions and select courses ofthis
ac- gap in whether individuals will act ethition that produce desired outcomes and avoid
cally (Hannah et al., 2005; May, Chan, Hodges, &
detrimental ones, (3) self-reactiveness – the level
Avolio, 2003). We define moral efficacy as an
of ability to self-motivate and self-regulate to individual’s belief in his or her capabilities to
achieve goals, and (4) self-reflectiveness – the organize and mobilize the motivation , cognitive
level of ability to reflect on the adequacy of
resources, means , and courses of action needed
one’s thoughts and actions. While these theoret- to attain moral performance , within a given
ical processes have not been adequately studmoral domain , while persisting in the face of
ied empirically, they do provide a basis for un- moral adversity. This definition draws on comderstanding the underlying psychological
ponents of both means efficacy (Eden, 2001) and
processes that may drive moral ownership asself-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), which are both
we have defined it in this article. We suggest malleable and open to development.
that moral ownership represents individuals’ Bandura and Eden both argue that self- (Bansense of responsibility for and impetus to stand
dura) and means (Eden) efficacy are contextual-
these tendencies.
up and act to influence morality in their current
ized and, thus, domain specific, which is what
environment. A lack of moral ownership would
distinguishes these constructs from the global
likely predict various negative outcomes, such
and decontextualized construct of general effias a failure to act when moral action is needed,
cacy (Chen, Gully, & Eden, 2001). In this case a
or more subtle forms of poor organizational citdomain merely represents a defined area for
izenship, such as social loafing.
which individuals may have greater or lesser
In sum, moral ownership will prompt conation
levels of confidence, such as leader efficacy
to act since those with higher levels of owner(Hannah, Avolio, Luthans, & Harms, 2008). Moral
ship are simply less able to turn a blind eye.
efficacy specifies the domain of moral action,
This is consistent with the findings of Janoffwhich may be quite distinct from a person’s efBulman, Sheikh, and Hepp (2009), who showed
ficacy for other domains, such as leading others
that some individuals demonstrate a proscripor public speaking.
tive morality (avoid doing bad) while others
Metaanalytical research has demonstrated
have a prescriptive focus (seek to do good). In a
influential role of self-efficacy in driving husimilar line of research, Ryan and Riordan (2000)
intentions and behaviors (see Stajkovic &
showed that some people seek to avoid blame
1998). Applicable to one’s capacity for
while others seek to earn praise through taking
social and empathetic efficacy
moral action. Moral ownership may help expromote prosocial behavior, as evidenced by
plain these motivational profiles, since we
would expect high levels of ownership to spon-higher levels of helpfulness, cooperation, and
sharing (Bandura, 1991). Further, based on findsor prescriptive motivation and action. This
ings that perceived behavioral control (a form of
leads to our next proposition.
efficacy beliefs) helps to explain the intentionProposition 6: Higher (lower) levels of
behavior linkage, we propose that moral effimoral ownership will be associated
cacy will similarly create conation to act ethiwith higher (lower) levels of (a) moral
cally in line with intentions (Ajzen, 1991). This is
motivation and (b) moral action .
consistent with Tre vino’s (1986) suggestion that
ego strength is a critical link between ethical
judgments and action. While ego strength is a
Moral Efficacy
stable individual-difference construct relative to
One can make a sound moral judgment and
feel ownership to act to address a moral inci-
the more malleable construct of self-efficacy, it
provides a similar self-regulatory function in
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promoting conviction to one’s actions (Rest,
Based on the work of Bandura (1997), we suggest that moral efficacy is composed of both
magnitude (the level of difficulty one expects to
successfully perform in a given moral situation)
and strength (the extent of certainty one has in
one’s ability to perform to that level of difficulty).
Further, we link moral efficacy to earlier discus-
sions of self-complexity and the activation of a
tailored moral working-self. This is because
self-efficacy is not simply an assessment of
one’s skills but, rather, of what one can do with
(e.g., peer/leader support or whistle-blower reporting systems and protection). Because organizations offer varying levels of promotion and
support for ethical behavior (Victor & Cullen,
1988), we propose that moral efficacy will be
maximized when both self and means components are high. The effects of moral efficacy on
moral conation lead to our next proposition.
Proposition 7: Higher (lower) levels of
moral efficacy will be associated with
higher (lower) levels of (a) moral motivation and (b) moral action.
those skills in a given situation (Bandura, 1997),
thereby influencing moral action in that andMoral Courage
only that situation. This suggests individuals
The final capacity underlying moral conation
hold varying levels of moral efficacy across difdepicted in Figure 1 is moral courage. Hannah,
ferent aspects of their self-identity (e.g., efficacy
Avolio, and Walumbwa define moral courage in
as a leader to discuss ethical issues with their
the workplace as
group as opposed to a peer), creating some vari1) a malleable character strength, that 2) provides
ability in choices and behavior.
the requisite conation needed to commit to perLinking moral efficacy to self-concept unity,
sonal moral principles, 3) under conditions where
discussed earlier, we propose that throughthe
reactor is aware of the objective danger inpeated successful experiences regarding moral
volved in supporting those principles, 4) that enables the willing endurance of that danger, 5) in
action, moral efficacy can be generalized across
order to act ethically or resist pressure to act
we believe that moral efficacy, built through a unethically as required to maintain those principles (2011: 560).
a broader set of moral contexts over time. Thus,
wide span of rich personal mastery and modelOvercoming threat and perhaps fear for the
ing/vicarious experiences, would continuously
generalize across a widening expanse of moralsake of morals, virtue, or a higher purpose is
tasks and contexts (Bandura, 1997).
inherent in definitions of courage (Gould, 2005;
Eden made an important distinction between Kidder, 2003). Otherwise, action to overcome a
perceived threat can be considered self-serving
one’s internal (self-efficacy) and external
(means efficacy) sources of efficacy beliefs. Add-or foolhardy.
ing to our discussion above, means efficacy rep- Moral courage has been proposed as a critical
factor in promoting ethical behavior in organiresents individuals’ beliefs in the quality and
utility of the individuals, tools, methods, and zation members (Verschoor, 2003), and in an iniprocedures available for task performance in a tial field test Hannah et al. (2011) linked moral
given context. Research has shown that the ef- courage to externally rated ethical and prosocial behaviors. Describing moral courage,
fects of means efficacy can be isolated from
those of self-efficacy (Eden & Sulimani, 2002). Sekerka, Bagozzi, and Charnigo state that
“strength of will is needed to face and resolve
These external resources can include implements (e.g., equipment and computers), other ethical challenges and to confront barriers that
persons (e.g., coworkers, followers, and supervi-may inhibit the ability to proceed toward right
sors), or bureaucratic means for accomplishing action,” and, therefore, moral courage is “a qualwork (e.g., policies, procedures, and processes).ity or attribute necessary for ethical behavior in
We suggest that both sources of efficacy are organizational settings” (2009: 566). Research
necessary to fully explain moral conation. Spe-has differentiated moral courage from other
cifically, individuals must believe they not onlyforms of courage, such as physical or social
courage (Rate, Clarke, Lindsay, & Sternberg,
have the personal capability to address a spe2007; Woodard & Pury, 2007). Yet, as noted by
cific moral issue (e.g., to disclose unethical acHannah and Avolio (2010), empirical work on
counting practices) but that supporting means
moral courage is nascent and has not been adare available to allow them to act successfully
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equately integrated
other asp
higher (lower)
(a) moral motivation
and (b) as
moral action
psychology, such
have prop
ure 1, nor integrated with the pro
et al.’s four-component
Providing this integration is imp
shown in Figwe propose that
methods, and
conation are mutually supporting.
may feel responsibility to act (i.e.
ownership) and believe that they
can generate new
lines of research
to predict
pacity to do so (i.e.,
ethical courage
thoughts and behaviors in
have insufficient
they face and to act. Moral owners
and courage, thus,
each necess
Implications forare
sufficient. Supporting this positio
As stated earlier, Rest et al. (1999) reported
al. (2009) have noted that feelings
that moral judgment as measured by the DIT
ity and competence are required to support
typically only explains about 20 percent of the
moral courage. Similarly, in their model of gen- variance in actual ethical behavior. These aueral courage (not necessarily moral courage),
thors note the need to develop models that betHannah, Sweeney, and Lester (2010) propose
ter explain the entire ethical process and that
that both self- and means efficacy are required
although “there is much diversity of constructs,
to reinforce one to act with courage. This is in
processes, phenomena, and starting points for
part because courage is often relative to expe- the psychology of morality, the greater chalrienced fear, and negative emotions such as fear lenge is to formulate how all these different
occur when individuals assess that a given
parts fit together” (1999: 6). We have made one
threat exceeds their perceived ability to face attempt to circumscribe such an integrated
that threat (Beck, Emery, & Greenberg, 1985).
framework, identifying developed capacities reMoral efficacy would thus bolster perceived calated to each of Rest’s (1986) four stages. Imporpability, and hence moral courage, all workingtant to promoting future research, we demontogether to produce higher levels of moral
strate how each component in our model can be
operationalized and measured.
Finally, consistent with the concept of differBenefits of a complexity approach. A primary
entiation and integration/unity presented
of our model is the incorporation of
lier, individuals will possess greater or lesser
theories of cognitive complexity and selfamounts of courage across identity subdimencomplexity throughout the model. While Kohlberg’s interview process and Rest’s ethical disions. For example, a person may have more
moral courage in his or her role as a leader than lemma exercises are meant to denote general
as a follower. He or she will then demonstrate
levels of development in logic or moral schemas,
greater moral courage when the leader role
is these techniques are abstract, focus only
moral judgment, and do not recognize the
active (e.g., confronting a follower) than on
role of identity and accompanying
the follower role is active (e.g., confronting important
his or
self-regulatory functions in explaining an indiher own senior leader). Thus, moral courage,
vidual’s moral capacity to take action.
like moral efficacy, is contextualized and doBelow we show how complexity can be meamain specific. Yet Shepela et al. (1999) have sugsured
gested that moral courage related to certain
val-more directly than by Kohlberg’s or Rest’s
techniques through schema mapping, Q-sort
ues can be core to a person (what we have
tasks, self-complexity matrices, and other techdefined as high unity) and therefore especially
Employing such techniques will refine
powerful in prompting moral courage across niques.
our measurements and understanding of what
broader set of domains. This leads to our final
constitutes moral complexity. Further, a selfproposition.
complexity approach will allow researchers to
Proposition 8: Higher (lower) levels of extend beyond current “global” measures of
moral courage will be associated with moral identity, moral efficacy, and moral cour-
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deeper understanding of individuals’ moral
age and, instead, to compartmentalize measures to explore how higher or lower levels of maturation, we must measure moral identity
these constructs are represented across differ- and complexity along with associated metaent aspects of self-identity. Such an approach cognitive abilities whenever possible within
should increase the predictive validity of mea- domains, and then test their effects when insures, as well as explore within-person variance dividuals are confronted with moral dilemmas
across situations as individuals’ working selves within and between those domains. Rest et
al.’s scenarios, such as the “Heinz” dilemma
are activated or suppressed (Markus & Wurf,
1987). Further, these techniques will allow re- (regarding whether the target individual
searchers to mathematically express the level of should steal a drug his wife needs from a
inclusion of various moral attributes across selfpharmacist), address the broad, abstract reaidentities and, therefore, the level of unity each
soning of cases most would never face, versus
the more common concrete and complex situparticipant has related to attributes of interest
ations individuals face in organizational life.
to researchers (e.g., a certain set of moral valFurther, the DIT purports to measure cognitive
ues). These measures of unity can thus be used
development (CMD) levels by having parto predict self-concordant ethical behaviors.
Contribution of moral conation. We believe
ticipants read scenarios and then rate and rank
our framing of the moral conation constructsvarious
offers standardized decision criteria based on
importance of those criteria in making a
new insights into the transference of moral the
decision. Each of those criteria is designated as
ments, through intentions, into action. Discusinterest, maintaining order, or postconsions of moral courage date to antiquity, personal
and it
reasoning levels. Thus, the more imis the most theoretically developed of the ventional
portance an individual ascribes to items associmoral conation capacities. Yet the study of
ated with postconventional reasoning, the
moral courage in organizational contexts has
been limited (Hannah & Avolio, 2010; Sekerka et
higher that individual will score on postconvenal., 2009). Further, we are not aware of any prior tional CMD. One weakness of this system is that
work on the construct of moral ownership in the the DIT ostensibly is a recognition task, where
literature and have noted only limited theoreti- participants can read and select items representcal development regarding moral efficacy (e.g., ing decision criteria that they may never have
even thought of on their own if not prompted by
Hannah et al., 2005; May et al., 2003).
Prior theorizing of moral efficacy has also failed the responses given in the measure.
We believe levels of moral cognitive complexto incorporate how contextual factors influence
an individual’s level of moral efficacy to act. To ity can be determined through more direct methaddress this gap, we have included means effi- ods by using schema mapping (also known as
cacy in our construct definition. Finally, we have cognitive or causal mapping) techniques to asintegrated the moral conation constructs and sess individuals’ concepts of morality (i.e.,
knowledge content), as well as the structure
argued that moral ownership, efficacy, and
courage each provide necessary yet not suffi- with which they store that content. Schema mapcient contributions to moral conation and, thus,
ping has been used successfully to assess other
areas of individuals’ knowledge structures in
should be studied and developed together.
organizational research (e.g., Eden, Ackermann,
& Cropper, 1992; Markoczy & Goldberg, 1995).
Operationalizing Moral Maturation
This technique has also been used to map ethical
One criticism of Kohlberg’s stages of devel-schemas of journalists (Lind, Rarick, & Swensonopment has been the requirement for inter-Lepper, 1997).
views and the subjectivity associated with in- Based on the work of Schroder et al. (1967),
complexity integration and differentiation can
terpretations and coding of participant
also be measured using thematic apperception
responses. Furthermore, both Kohlberg’s interview and Rest et al.’s (1999) written scenario
tests, such as picture story exercises (BakerBrown et al., 1992; Tetlock, Peterson, & Berry,
response technique in the DIT utilize stan1993), where open-ended responses are exterdardized ethical dilemmas that neglect the
contextualized nature of moral knowledge we nally rated for levels of complexity by trained
coders. These techniques, however, would need
presented earlier. If we are to develop a
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to be modified to focus on moral content. Fur-
conation lend themselves more readily to survey
methodology and self- and other reports. Hanthat may enable researchers to assess complexnah and Avolio (2010) recently developed a new
ity through brain mapping techniques. For multidimensional
exmeasure representing the
ample, a measure called “coherence” deterthree components of moral conation, based on
mines how differentiated the human brain is
prior work on psychological ownership (Van
either at rest or while processing tasks and
& Pierce, 2004), self-efficacy (Bandura,
be one metric that can be used to assess how
1997), and moral courage (Gould, 2005; Kidder,
individuals process moral tasks (see Thatcher,
2003). They tested this three-factor measure and
North, & Biver, 2008).
found across two studies that moral ownership,
Adopting a self-complexity approach to
examefficacy, and moral courage are discrimining moral identity will also require ainant
fundaconstructs yet share variance in that they
mentally different approach to measurement
form a higher-order construct. Their initial
than the current single-survey techniques
modelcomtesting supports our theorizing that the
monly used. Moral self-complexity can
be asof moral conation are each necessessed by having participants produce the
sary varyet not sufficient. Sekerka et al. (2009) also
ious key roles of their identity (e.g., “self
an initial validation of an organizational moral courage measure.
leader” or “self as coworker”) in free-response
on the tenets of self-complexity theory
formats, or by using roles as designated Based
by the
researcher, and then by sorting ethicalpresented
attri- earlier, moral ownership, courage,
butes of interest to the researcher (e.g., values
and efficacy
will be represented in varied forms
traits) as to whether, and the extent to which,
and levels across one’s self-identity. Therefore,
we suggest that researchers assess these coneach attribute applies to each role using the
Q-sort technique of Linville (1987) or the survey structs of moral conation across different asformat used by Woolfolk et al. (2004). Regardless pects of participants’ self-identity. This can be
of the technique used, data can then be format- done by presenting respondents with separate
ted into a matrix (self-aspects or roles X attri- scales (e.g., moral courage) for each of their various relevant social roles, preferably separating
butes). Once compiled, the h-statistic (Scott,
1969) can then be used to analyze the complexity each survey administration across time to re-
ther, there are recent advances in neuroscience
of the matrix.
duce carryover effects. For example, survey item
The h-statistic represents an index of the num- stems for a moral efficacy measure might ask,
ber of independent dimensions underlying any”When leading my top management team I
set of attribute ratings. Such matrices can also can. . . ” and, on a second version, “When workilluminate what moral attributes are repreing with my peers I can
sented across a breadth of social roles, denoting various roles can then be collapsed into a matrix to assess dispersion of moral efficacy across
what we discussed above as constituting selfconcept unity. Finally, measurement methods roles, allowing researchers to investigate the
for metacognitive ability also exist in the edu- effects of moral efficacy across contexts based
cation literature that could be modified to ason individuals’ efficacy magnitude and strength
with each context. The differentiasess participants’ knowledge and regulation
efficacy across the self-identity can
moral cognition (Baker & Cerro, 2000; Dunlosky
& Metcalfe, 2009).
also be assessed using the h-statistic based on
matrix, as described previously. Similar
In sum, having the ability to measure this
components allows researchers not only methods
to test can be used for assessing each moral
our proposed theory but also to measure
maturation over time. In combination, we hope
to advance both the science and practice assoImplications for Practice
ciated with moral capacity development.
We believe that we have offered a set of con-
Operationalizing Moral Conation
Unlike the more complicated constructs of
moral maturation, the constructs of moral
structs associated with moral maturation and
moral conation that addresses the capacities
needed across all stages of ethical processing,
from the stage of sensitivity through to action.
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“Which of your core beliefs are at stake?” “How
These capacities are both malleable and measurable and can thus be used for selection pur- central are those values to you?” and/or “How
poses and to implement and assess moral deare your emotions influencing your thoughts
and behaviors right now?” Further, teaching
velopment interventions over time in those
organizations seeking to enhance the moral ca- skills to methodically review moral issues
pacity of their members.4 We briefly introduce through multiple perspectives – for example, desome methods for developing each capacity in ontological (rules, duties, or norms), teleological
Figure 1 simply to highlight the model’s utility (utilitarian, consequence, or goal-based), or valand to encourage future research on moral ca- ues-based reasoning – would force individuals
to access and “exercise” various moral schepacity development.
Developing moral maturation capacity. Moral mata, enhancing their level of moral complexity
complexity can foremost be developed through and metacognitive moral processing ability.
social learning, including rich personal mastery
Finally, moral identity can be particularly deor vicarious experiences in specific domains.
veloped through exposure to moral role models
Other authors have similarly noted the power of that provide an ideal to strive for, and it serves
social learning in ethical decision making based to motivate and guide others’ development (Lord
on moral approbation, where individuals learn
& Brown, 2004; Mayer et al., 2009). Research has
the response consequences of ethical actions
also shown that dialogue with others at higher
Qones & Ryan, 1998). The development of moral levels of CMD promotes moral development by
maturation occurs as exposure to moral experi- offering the individual new perspectives with
ences and conflicts triggers the development ofwhich to think about ethical issues (Dukerich,
Nichols, Elm, & Volrath, 1990).
new associations between concepts held in an
individual’s mental representations, thereby enDeveloping moral conation capacity. Based on
the work of Bandura (1991, 1999), we believe that
hancing the individual’s level of complexity
(Street et al., 2001; Walker, 1983; Young & Wasser- organizations can heighten moral ownership by
man, 2005). In a training setting moral complexity (1) placing issues in humanistic terms, (2) discan be developed through moral discourse, in- couraging euphemisms and sanitizing lancluding (1) teaching cognitive moral reasoning guage (e.g., “collateral damage”), (3) encouragskills (e.g., logic, role-taking, or justice concepts), ing responsibility, (4) making salient the
(2) instructing and facilitating group reasoning injurious effects of potential actions, and (5) limthrough exercises and case analysis, and (3) dis- iting attribution of blame to or dehumanization
cussing ethics in practical applied areas an indi- of victims. This is consistent with previous ethvidual may face (e.g., dentistry, journalism, medi- ics research specifying the important role of
cine; Bebeau, 2002; Hartwell, 1995). For example, a highlighting the consequences of one’s behavreview of twenty-three ethics programs reported iors to increase moral engagement (e.g., Ferrell
by Rest and Thoma (1986) showed that those using
& Gresham, 1985; Hunt & Vitell, 1986). This is
group moral dilemma discussions had an average also consistent with Jones’s (1991) theory of
.41 effect size in raising levels of cognitive moral moral intensity, which has shown that people
development versus .09 for those without moral become more morally engaged by raising the
perceived “intensity” associated with an ethical
dilemma (cf. Butterfield, Trevino, & Weaver,
We believe that moral metacognitive ability
can be developed through teaching techniques
2000; Watley & May, 2004). Similarly, Jones and
to process moral dilemmas through deeper selfRyan (1998) have proposed that organizations
reflection (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Setterlund
can&reinforce ethical behavior by raising the
Niedenthal, 1993) and practicing executive perceived
conseverity of consequences, moral certrol over moral processing (Metcalfe & Shimatainty, degree of complicity, and pressure to
mura, 1994). Example executive control “drills”
could include guiding questions, such as
Organizational reward and control systems
may also enhance moral ownership (Trevino,
Brown, & Pincus-Hartman, 2003). These systems
4 We recognize that some organizations may be ambivacan signal what is valued in organizations, and
lent about or even condone their members’ unethical acts or
research has shown that although individuals
that they do not otherwise want to invest the time and
resources in developing members’ moral capacity.
may initially comply with norms for strategic
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to the effectsover
of a leader’s efficacy
in bolstering
collective leadership efficacy
of his or can
cause identity the
et al., 2008). Since knowledge can
dividual’s sense
action (e.g., Tice, 1992). If not pro
with moral action,
combined through
social interaction as needed
to enhance
processing (Kozlowski & Ilgen,
tems may create
even moral complexity
might be concepwith unethical 2006),
& Ry
tualized and measured as a multilevel conThrough social learning where successful
moral performance is achieved, individuals
Repeatedly throughout this article we have
will not only build greater moral complexity but
also the confidence to enact similar approaches noted that aspects of moral maturation and
to address future ethical challenges (Bandura, moral conation should be tailored to specific
1997). Ethical role models can also reinforce ob-
contexts. This is because different contexts,
servers’ efficacy, as well as the collective effi- such as national or organizational cultures,
cacy of the group, to act morally over time (Ban- have different social mores (Margolis & Phillips,
1999; Shweder, 1991), and culture influences ethdura, 2002). This may be one mechanism
explaining how ethical leadership can diffuseical
to processing (see Kish-Gephart, Harrison, &
2010; Tenbrunsel & Smith-Crowe, 2008).
others throughout an organization (Mayer etTrevino,
2009). Hannah et al. (201 1) demonstrate that leadWe believe our model can be tailored to specific
cultures (e.g., by measuring complexity based
ers who are seen as being authentic can bolster
on particular cultural mores). Yet our proposed
followers’ moral courage and subsequent ethimodel is not context neutral. Researchers should
cal and prosocial behaviors. They theorize that
assess how cultural contingencies and conauthentic leaders serve as moral exemplars and
straints influence the predictions associated
also establish transparent climates that encourwith our model (see Trevino et al., 2006).
age followers to openly espouse their values
and to act in line with those values coura-
geously. Further, training programs have recently shown some success in developing moral CONCLUSION
courage through teaching behavior routines
We propose that rates of unethical behavior
(i.e., scripts) individuals can use when facing
can be decreased and virtuous behavior in orthreats (e.g., Jonas, Boos, & Brandstatter, 2007;
ganizations increased through the development
Osswald et al., 2009). Finally, Walker and Henof moral capacity – what we have conceptualning (2004) suggest that moral exemplars can
ized as moral maturation and moral conation. In
have a contagion effect on others such that obproposing the current model, we hope we have
servers come to believe they, too, have the courprovided a clearer line of sight to the capacities
age to successfully meet similar threats.
underlying moral development and have provided propositions and measurement apBoundaries and Future Research
proaches to promote future research.
For the sake of parsimony, we have focused on
the individual level in developing our model in
order to detail the component processes that
underlie individual moral maturation and moral
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