Justice and ethical leadership

In our research efforts we also focus on the question of why people value justice so much and specifically focus on the issue of procedural fairness. Procedural fairness refers to the perceived fairness of the procedures enacted to allocate outcomes (Thibaut & Walker, 1975; Tyler, 1988) and has been shown to positively promote cooperative, trustworthy and prosocial behaviour in groups and organizations (De Cremer & Tyler, 2005). Authorities using fair procedures promote perceptions of organizational members in ways that the organization is evaluated as a neutral and ethical decision maker. In fact, according to Tyler, Dienhart, and Thomas (2008), the enactment of fair procedures signals to employees that the organization considers the value of morality as an important one. Furthermore, Tenbrunsel et al. (2003) note that organizations are able to create procedural justice climates, which should have the potential to affect employees’ perceptions and expectations that others in the organization act in moral and ethical ways.

Justice practices are important aspects of ethical leadership. Behavioral ethics suggests that leaders play a prominent role in determining whether fair climates are created and that ethical behaviour emerges in organizations. According to Brown, Treviño, and Harrison (2005) ethical leadership is defined as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement, and decision-making” (p. 120). This conceptualization of ethical leadership differs from existing leadership theories with ethical components in that it draws on social learning theory (Bandura, 1986) to explain the process by which leaders influence their followers to behave in an ethical manner—namely, by role modelling appropriate behaviour and also using reward and punishment systems to encourage desired behaviour (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2008). Mayer and colleagues (2008), for example, found that employee outcomes such as deviance and prosocial behaviour were influenced by top management ethical leadership, but that these effects were mediated by the ethical leadership of their supervisor.