Sales Managers’ Ethical Leadership and Salesperson Outcomes: The Role of Emulation Intentions: An Abstract

Vishag Badrinarayanan, Indu Ramachandran, Sreedhar Madhavaram

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Ethical leadership, a leadership style that embodies the utilization of certain elements of both transformational and transactional approaches albeit with a moral dimension, has been proposed by leadership theorists to influence positive behavioral and performance outcomes among followers (e.g., Brown et al. 2005; Mayer et al. 2012). Within the sales literature, other than studies on the effect of sales managers’ ethical leadership on ethical context and work-related outcomes (e.g., DeConinck 2015; Schwepker 2015; Wu 2017), there has been little attention on the influence of sales managers’ ethical leadership on salespersons’ evaluations of sales managers, subsequent role-modeling behaviors, and resultant performance. Addressing this gap and responding to calls for investigating underlying processes responsible for the effects of ethical leadership (Mayer et al. 2012), 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, this study introduces salespersons’ perceptions of the manager’s competence and performance attribution to the manager 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. Results, based on analysis of data gathered from 290 business-to-business sales professionals, support the linkages between (a) ethical leadership and emulation, (b) emulation and outcome as well as behavioral performance, and (c) performance attribution and the ethical leadership-emulation relationship. However, the expected effect of managerial competence was not supported. Adding to research on effective leadership, this study shows that the demonstration and promotion of normatively appropriate behaviors by managers cultivate emulation intentions among subordinates, which in turn lead to positive performance outcomes. Although gratitude toward managers plays an important role, emulation appears to develop irrespective of the prevailing ethical climate in the organization. In future research, it would be illuminating to investigate topics such as the timeline for the development of emulation intentions and differences in the formation of emulation intentions across salespersons with different personalities, expertise, tenure, and demographic characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Marketing Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173


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