Mirroring the Boss: Ethical Leadership, Emulation Intentions, and Salesperson Performance

Vishag Badrinarayanan, Indu Ramachandran, Sreedhar Madhavaram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Although a number of studies have demonstrated that perceived ethical leadership engenders beneficial follower outcomes, there is a dearth of research on ethical leadership in the sales context. This is surprising given that salespersons constantly face ethical challenges in their work environment and ethical leadership could provide them with appropriate guidelines for navigating such challenges successfully. Focusing on the salesperson’s perspective and responding to calls for investigating underlying processes responsible for the effects of ethical leadership, this study proposes that sales managers’ ethical leadership influences salespersons’ emulation intentions—i.e., their intentions to model or imitate the manager’s ethical behavior—which, in turn, influences both behavior and outcome performance. In addition, salespersons’ perceptions of the manager’s competence and gratitude toward the manager are examined as moderating mechanisms on the relationship between ethical leadership and salespersons’ emulation. Finally, three aspects of the ethical climate prevailing in the organization—ethical responsibility, peers’ unethical behavior, and unethical sales practices—are included as control variables. The proposed relationships are tested by using data from 290 business-to-business salespeople. Based on the findings, implications are offered for theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-912
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Emulation intentions
  • Ethical leadership
  • Sales leadership
  • Salesperson performance


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