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Moral Disengagement Through Displacement of Responsibility: The Role of Leadership Beliefs


Kim T. Hinrichs, Department of Management, California State University, Chico, College of Business, Chico, CA 95929. E-mail:


The present study examined the relationship between a person's leadership beliefs and the propensity to justify his or her unethical behavior by shifting responsibility to those people in leadership positions who ordered or condoned the behavior. Theoretical support for this relationship comes from the moral disengagement branch of social cognitive theory, which proposes that one cognitive mechanism people employ to justify unethical behavior involves displacing responsibility for their action onto someone else (Bandura, 1999b). The study's results revealed that leadership self-efficacy, affective and noncalculative motivation to lead, and shared orientation toward leadership were related to moral disengagement through the displacement of responsibility.