Moral anger as a dilemma? An investigation on how leader moral anger influences follower trust

Bo Shao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Leaders' expression of moral anger is considered important in curbing unethical behaviors and maintaining an ethical environment in organizations, but how it affects follower trust in leaders is unknown. The present research examines how leader anger expression in response to moral transgressions influences follower trust. I propose two paths through which leader moral anger affects follower trust: a character-based path whereby leader moral anger increases follower trust by elevating follower perceived leader integrity, and a relationship-based path whereby leader moral anger decreases follower trust by reducing follower perceived leader benevolence. I further propose that the balance of these mechanisms depends on follower moral orientation (i.e., justice orientation or care orientation). The results from two experimental studies did not provide support for the character-based path, but did provide tentative support for the relationship-based path between leader moral anger and follower affective trust. In addition, the results from the exploratory analyses indicated that leader moral anger had a negative direct effect on follower affective trust but not on follower overall trust. Theoretical and practical contributions are discussed and a revised model is proposed for the future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Benevolence
  • Integrity
  • Leader moral anger
  • Moral orientation
  • Trust

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