The value of virtue in the upper echelons: A multisource examination of executive character strengths and performance

John J. Sosik, William A. Gentry, Jae Uk Chun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Previous research on upper echelon (i.e., top-level) executives has focused on how character flaws or lapses in ethical judgment lead to detrimental outcomes. Research is lacking that specifically examines whether character strengths that are reflected in the behaviors of top-level executives are related to positive outcomes. Therefore, this study examined behavioral manifestations of the character strengths of integrity, bravery, perspective, and social intelligence as influences on executive performance in the context of top-level executive leadership of for-profit and not-for profit organizations. Using matched-report data from 191 top-level, U.S. executives' direct reports and bosses and board members, this study found positive relationships between direct reports' ratings of executive integrity, bravery, and social intelligence and bosses' and board members' ratings of executive performance. These character strengths each accounted for variance in executive performance above and beyond direct reports' ratings of executives' developing and empowering behaviors and other control variables. Among the character strengths examined, integrity was found to have the most contribution in explaining variance in executive performance via relative weight analysis. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-382
Number of pages16
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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