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IACM 2023

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The Devaluation of Honest Leaders: Causes and Solutions

Honesty is a fundamental human value. Yet, the world has witnessed indifference towards honesty over the past several years. We provide novel theorizing to explain this lack of regard for truth. We propose that intergroup conflict elicits a zero-sum mindset, causing people to prioritize social values in leaders that are linked with short-term in-group success – namely, parochial benevolence and competence. We suggest that leaders who prioritize these values over honesty, which is often perceived to be less beneficial in the short-run, are viewed positively. This devaluation of honesty is exacerbated when a leader’s dishonesty signals these social values. We explain how dishonesty relates to these social values and integrate recent findings in organizational behavior, moral psychology, political science, and sociology to highlight how intergroup conflict leads people to prioritize them over honesty. Finally, we suggest new strategies that individuals and organizations can implement to re-prioritize honesty.

Elizabeth Huppert
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
United States

Emma Levine
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
United States


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