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Ethical and authentic leadership styles can help to attract a diverse workforce, but which one is better depends on the leader’s identity, research from NEOMA Business School reveals.

Urszula Łagowska, Assistant Professor of Management at NEOMA, co-authored a study, which examined when racial minority applicants are less likely to expect prejudice in their future job due to their ethnicity, depending on whether leaders display ethical or authentic behaviour.

Ethical leadership draws on moral values from community norms to create perception of similarity between all members of a group, which can lessen discrimination concerns in intergroup contexts. In contrast, authentic leadership is focused on a leader’s internal compass, indicating the value of a distinctive sense of self and following one’s intuition, which can affirm a candidate’s identity when the leader shares the same identity group as them.

Prof. Łagowska and colleagues find that racial minority applicants respond better to authentic leadership when they are of the same racial background as the leader but respond better to ethical leadership when they belong to different racial groups.

“Most firms want to build a diverse, talented workforce. But when employees feel they might be impacted by negative stereotypes at work, they are more likely to withdraw their application and seek positions elsewhere. Our findings offer a path forward for leaders of less diverse organisations looking to reassure job candidates from racial minority backgrounds,” says Prof. Łagowska.

The findings are based on four experiments conducted with Black residents of favelas (low-income neighbourhoods) around Rio de Janeiro. The article documenting these findings has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Psychology.


For more information, a copy of the research, or to hear from Prof. Łagowska, contact Jamie Hose at BlueSky Education on or call +44 (0)1582 790 706.

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