Leadership: A Case Study on the Importance of Ethics and Trust


  • Sunday E. Igoni Wenzhou-Kean University
  • Eric L. Prentis Wenzhou-Kean University




Ethical Leadership, Corruption, Trust, Organizational Behavior, Nigerian Societal Corruption


This research is important because it empirically tests why ethical behavior by business and government leaders is essential for good management—which is to earn trust from customers and constituents—thus ensuring organizations are successful, for the greater good, over the long term, especially in the global marketplace. Law and morality are two standards by which business and government leaders are judged, but these norms fail whenever laws are not enforced and morality is disregarded. Five research questions on leadership are statistically tested, using a Likert-scale response measure questionnaire—based on “perceptions of societal corruption†and “trust levels,†using Bandura’s “aggressive behavior modification theory,†as the model for analysis. Nigeria is selected as the location of this case study on leadership ethics and trust, because Nigerian government officials have a long history of unethical and corrupt behavior. Descriptive statistics, along with chi-square quantitative research methods reveals “perceptions of societal corruption†in Nigeria are high and “trust levels†for government leaders are very low. Leaders in Nigeria are only as ethical as the code-of-conduct prevalent in their country—where cultural, economic and legal factors contribute to the nation’s corrupt society—which may cause Nigeria to become a failed state. To change the Nigerian culture of societal corruption—education is necessary—to instruct elected officials, civil servants, business leaders and Nigerian society, at large, on the importance of ethics and trust.Nigerian government and business leaders should institute an ethics policy—and implement five suggested reforms presented in this paper—which will help establish government leader’s ethical integrity and improve citizens’ trust and confidence in their government. Recommendations for future research on government and business leadership ethics and trust are offered.  

Author Biographies

Sunday E. Igoni, Wenzhou-Kean University

College of Business & Public ManagementLecturer 2

Eric L. Prentis, Wenzhou-Kean University

College of Business & Public ManagementAssistant Professor


Adjibolosoo, S. (2005). Economic underdevelopment in Africa: The validity of the corruption argument. Review of Human Factor Studies, 11(1), 90-112.

Afrobarometer. (2005). Nigerian survey questionnaire. Retrieved February 12, 2008, from http://www.afrobarometer.org/data.html

Agba, M. S. (2010). Combating corruption for sustainable development growth in Nigeria: Exploring the paradigm of divine option, International Business and management 1(1), 16-21.

Ayittey, G. B. (1992). Africa betrayed. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Chughtai, A., Byrne, M., Flood, B. (2015). Linking ethical leadership to employee well-being: The role of trust in supervisor. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(3), 653-663.

Daloz, J. (2005). Nigeria: Trust your patron, not the institutions. Comparative Sociology, 4(1-2), 155-172.

Delhey, J., Newton, K. (2003). Who trusts: The origins of social trust in seven societies. European Societies, 5(2), 93-137.

Falola, T. (1999). The history of Nigeria: The Greenwood histories of the modern nations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Falola, T., Ihonvbere, J. (1985). The rise and fall of Nigeria’s second republic, 1979-1984. Metuchen, NJ: Zed Books.

Ferguson, C. J. (2010). Genetic contributions to antisocial personality and behavior: A meta-analytic review from an evolutionary perspective. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150(2), 160-80.

French, H. W. (2004). A continent for the taking: The tragedy and hope of Africa. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Games, D. (2004). An oil giant reforms: The experience of South African companies doing business in Nigeria. Retrieved March 3, 20088, from http://www.polity. org.za/

Guest, R. (2004). The shackled continent: Power, corruption, and African lives. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.

Gutman, H. G. (1976). The Black family in slavery and freedom, 1750-1925. New York: Pantheon Books.

Igoni S.E., (2009). Perceptions of societal corruption and levels of trust in government: A case study of Benin City, Nigeria. PhD thesis. Walden University, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Ijomah, B. I. (2000). Nigeria’s transition from military to civilian rule: An overview. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 28, 293-310.

Jerome, A., Adjibolosoo, S., Busari, D. (2005). Addressing oil relate corruption in Africa. Is the push for transparency enough? [Special issue]. Review of Human Factor Studies, 11(1), 7-32.

Jordan, D. C. (1999). Drug politics: Dirty money and democracies. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Kulshreshtha, P. (2015). Ethical leadership and contemporary organizational ethics: Principles and cases. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 12(1), 94-97.

Leedy, P. (1985). Practical research: planning and design (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan

Liebenow, J. G. (1986). African politics: Crises and challenges. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Lussier, R. N. (2010). Human relations in organizations: Applications and skill building (8th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Matsheza, P. (2007). Corruption: Concepts and definition, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved from www.igac.net/ pdf/training presentations

Maxwell, A. E. (1961). Analysis qualitative data. London: Methuen.

Maxwell, J. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. London: Sage.

Mbaku, J. M. (2000). Bureaucratic and political corruption in Africa: The public choice perspective. Malabar, FL: Krieger.

Nafziger, E. W. (1969). The effect of the Nigerian extended family on entrepreneurial activity. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 18(1), 26-33.

Newman, A., Kiazad, K., Miao, Q., Cooper, B. (2014). Examining the cognitive and affective trust-based mechanisms underlying the relationship between ethical leadership and organisational citizenship: A case of the head leading the heart? Journal of Business Ethics, 123(1), 113-123.

Nye, J. (1967). Corruption and political development: A cost-benefit analysis. American Political Science Review, 61(2), 417-427.

Prentis, E. L., (1987). Operations management taxonomy. Journal of Operations Management, 7(1): 63-78.

Sharif, M. M., Scandura, T. A. (2014). Do perceptions of ethical conduct matter during organizational change? ethical leadership and employee involvement. Journal of Business Ethics, 124(2), 185-196.

Simon C.H. Chan, Wai-ming Mak. (2014). The impact of servant leadership and subordinates' organizational tenure on trust in leader and attitudes. Personnel Review, 43(2), 272-287.

Smith, D. J. (2001). Kinship and corruption in contemporary Nigeria. Journal of Anthropology, 66(3), 344-364.

Werlin, H. H. (2003). Poor nations, rich nations: A theory of governance. Public Administration Review, 63, 329-342.