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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transformational leadership and the development of moral elevation and trust Perlmutter, Lisa Suzanne


Exposure to transformational leadership behaviours has been associated with a host of positive cognitive, affective, and behavioural follower outcomes (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Moral elevation is a positive uplifting emotion that is experienced after witnessing a person performing exemplary moral behaviour and often leads to observers engaging in prosocial behaviours (Haidt, 2000). Despite the increasing empirical support for the positive effects of moral elevation, no previous research studies have measured exemplar behaviours that result in moral elevation of observers in a leadership framework. The trust belief is created through a series of judgements that lead a person to believe that the trustee’s actions will reflect their own best interests (Dietz & Den Hartog, 2006). Previous research has found that transformational leadership behaviours were associated with higher levels of trust, however, no previous studies have measured the association between a person’s trust belief and the tendency to engage in prosocial behaviour. The overall purpose of this thesis was to test the effects of transformational leadership behaviours on observer levels of trust, moral elevation, and prosocial behaviours. Seventy-five female undergraduate university students (Mean age = 20.55, Mean year = 2.93) from the Vancouver, British Columbia, participated in this research. Prior to measuring prosocial behaviour (i.e., charitable donations), participants were instructed to read an article about an African leader and complete a questionnaire which measured perceived transformational leadership (of the leader in the article), trust in the leader, and feelings of moral elevation. Participants were randomly divided into two conditions, intervention (transformational leadership behaviours) and control (corrective-avoidant leadership behaviours). Results indicated that participants in the intervention condition rated the leader as displaying greater levels of transformational leadership when compared to participants in the control condition. In addition, participants in the intervention condition also reported higher levels of trust in the leader, and moral elevation. No difference was found between participants in the two experimental conditions in terms of their displays of prosocial behaviour. Overall, these results highlight the ability of transformational leadership behaviours to instil higher levels of trust and moral elevation in observers.

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