While the import of quantitative methods in determining statistical

While the import of quantitative methods in

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While the import of quantitative methods in determining statistical relationships between the variables of human values and ethical leadership must be acknowledged, the need for a more interpretative approach to understanding the immeasurable aspects of ethical leadership, as repre- sented in the current study, is emerging. A number of researchers (Trevino et al. 2003 ; April et al. 2010 ; Resick et al. 2011 ) have approached the topic by means of qual- itative methods. Trevino et al. ( 2003 ) conducted inductive research by interviewing corporate ethics officers and senior executives to examine ‘‘the perceived content domain of executive ethical leadership’’ (p. 5), including values and behaviors. April et al. ( 2010 ) had middle managers, enrolled in MBA programs in South Africa and the Netherlands, self-report enablers (values), and stum- bling blocks to ethical action. Resick et al. ( 2011 ) used qualitative methods to identify attributes (values are included) and behaviors that managers from Asia, Amer- ica, and Europe ascribe to ethical and unethical leaders. Although their findings were consistent with the GLOBE (House et al. 2004 ) framework of values across culture, the Resick et al. ( 2011 ) did not design the study with the GLOBE framework in mind. The three above-mentioned qualitative studies explored particular phenomenon and did not attempt to correlate findings to particular models or frameworks, unlike the quantitative studies. These quali- tative studies differ from the quantitative studies in that they do not measure known variables; they explore per- ceptions of each study’s participants through open-ended questions. They do not generalize externally (Maxwell 2002 ), rather they explore multiple perspectives and meanings in an attempt to understand the complex phe- nomenon of ethical leadership within a particular, inter- nally generalizable, context (Maxwell 2002 ). The qualitative studies are not designed to measure variation; they are more concerned with ‘‘describing in detail what survey questionnaire results do not permit to be descri- bed—the assumptions, behaviors, and attitudes of a very special set [of participants] .’’ (Freidson 1975 , pp. 272–273). The study summarized in this paper utilized a qualitative approach to add to the growing knowledge base that clar- ifies and expands the concept of ethical leadership. How- ever, unlike the qualitative studies described above, this study investigated not only the phenomenon of ethical leadership, but also examined how ethical leadership develops. The context of the study was senior executives, in American businesses ranging from small entrepreneurial ventures to large multi-national corporations, who were perceived by others, and identified themselves as ethical leaders. The field of research on ethical leadership is young and the topic broad and complex (Trevino et al. 2003 ), providing ample territory for a constructivist theory- building approach (Creswell 2003 ). Further, due to the subjective nature of ethical leadership (Conger 1998 ) a qualitative exploration may prove more suitable than post-
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