When are transgressing leaders punitively judged? An empirical test

J Appl Psychol. 2011 Mar;96(2):412-22. doi: 10.1037/a0021442.


Using Hollander's (1958) idiosyncrasy credit theory of leadership as the theoretical backdrop, we examined when and why organizational leaders escape punitive evaluation for their organizational transgressions. In a sample of 162 full-time employees, we found that leaders who were perceived to be more able and inspirationally motivating were less punitively evaluated by employees for leader transgressions. These effects were mediated by the leaders' LMX (leader-member exchange) with their employees. Moreover, the tendency of leaders with higher LMX to escape punitive evaluations for their transgressions was stronger when those leaders were more valued within the organization. Finally, employees who punitively evaluated their leaders were more likely to have turnover intentions and to psychologically withdraw from their organization. Theoretical and practical implications associated with relatively understudied leader-transgression dynamics are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Empirical Research*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Organizational Culture
  • Personnel Turnover
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires