Transformational leadership and moral reasoning

Nick Turner, Julian Barling, Olga Epitropaki, Vicky Butcher, Caroline Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Terms such as moral and ethical leadership are used widely in theory, yet little systematic research has related a sociomoral dimension to leadership in organizations. This study investigated whether managers' moral reasoning (n=132) was associated with the transformational and transactional leadership behaviors they exhibited as perceived by their subordinates (n=407). Managers completed the Defining Issues Test (J. R. Rest, 1990), whereas their subordinates completed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (B. M. Bass & B. J. Avolio, 1995). Analysis of covariance indicated that managers scoring in the highest group of the moral-reasoning distribution exhibited more transformational leadership behaviors than leaders scoring in the lowest group. As expected, there was no relationship between moral-reasoning group and transactional leadership behaviors. Implications for leadership development are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2002


  • moral leadership
  • ethical leadership
  • sociomoral dimension
  • leadership
  • managers
  • moral reasoning
  • transformational leadership behaviors
  • transactional leadership behaviors
  • Defining Issues Test
  • subordinates
  • Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire
  • leadership development


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