Ethical leadership at work questionnaire (ELW): Development and
validation of a multidimensional measure
, Deanne N. Den Hartog
, Annebel H.B. De Hoogh
Utrecht University Ethics Institute, Heidelberglaan 8 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands
University of Amsterdam Business School, The Netherlands
University of Amsterdam, Work and Organizational Psychology, The Netherlands
article info abstract
This paper describes the development and validation of the multi-dimensional Ethical
Leadership at Work (ELW) questionnaire. Based on theory, interviews and a student sample,
we developed seven ethical leader behaviors (fairness, integrity, ethical guidance, people
orientation, power sharing, role clarification, and concern for sustainability). We then tested
the factor structure in two employee samples (first common-source, EFA; next multi-source,
CFA). To establish construct validity we related ethical leader behaviors to other leadership
styles and employee attitudes in Study 1. The expected pattern of relationships emerged, e.g.,
positive relationships with satisfaction and commitment, and negative ones with cynicism. The
results suggest that the ELW scales have sound psychometric properties and good construct
validity. In Study 2, using a multi-source sample, the ELW behaviors explained variance in trust,
OCB, and leader and follower effectiveness beyond a uni-dimensional measure of ethical
leadership. Ethical leadership was also related to OCB (supervisor-rated). Employees who rate
their leader higher on power sharing and fairness show more OCB. Taken together, the results
suggest that the ELW is a useful new multidimensional measurement tool that can help further
our understanding of the antecedents and consequences of ethical leadership.
© 2010 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Organizational citizenship behavior
Recent fraud scandals have put ethical leader behavior high on the priority list of organizations as ethical problems break down the
trust and reputation of both leaders and organizations (Mendonca, 2001; Waldman, Siegel, & Javidan, 2006). Ethical leadership is
expected to have positive effects on the attitudes and (ethical) conduct of employees and ultimately even on business unit or
organizational performance (Aronson, 2001; Brown, Treviño, & Harrison, 2005; Kanungo, 2001; Treviño, Brown, & Hartman, 2003).
Research on ethical leader behavior at all levels in the organization is increasing. Ethical leadership is often seen as a multi-
dimensional concept, yet with a few exceptions (e.g., De Hoogh & Den Hartog, 2008, 2009; Resick, Hanges, Dickson, & Mitchelson,
2006), previous studies have not measured multiple ethical leader behaviors. Rather, uni-dimensional measures tend to be used.
For instance, Brown et al. (2005) developed the 10-item Ethical Leadership Scale (ELS) that is currently often used to measure
ethical leader behavior. This scale combines different leader behaviors, including acting fairly and honestly, allowing followers'
voice, and rewarding ethical conduct in a single scale. Although such a short scale is useful for certain research purposes,
theoretically the underlying behaviors seem rather different and they may have different antecedents and consequences.
Combining such different behaviors into a single undifferentiated construct could make it harder to uncover the different
mechanisms through which ethical leadership develops and may be effective.
The Leadership Quarterly 22 (2011) 51–69
⁎ Corresponding author. Department of HRM-OB, University of Amsterdam Business School, Plantage Muidergracht 12, 1018 TV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel.: +31 20 525 5284.
E-mail address: K.Kalshoven@uu.nl (K. Kalshoven).
1048-9843/$ – see front matter © 2010 Published by Elsevier Inc.
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