Self-control requires resources. Repeated use of these resources depletes them leading to a state known as ego depletion. Decision-making is a major cause of ego depletion, implying that leaders, who have many decisions to make every day, are prone to self-control failure. However, the article argues that moral identity is one factor that can limit ego depletion; it is the illustration of moral values.
The article explains that the study involved measurements of moral identity and unethical leader behavior. The research investigated the prevalence of deviant behaviors among leaders at work. The hypothesis was that depletion of self-regulation would lead to unethical behaviors, particularly among the leaders with low moral identity. Testing of the hypothesis involved two studies with study 1 using a validated depletion task in a controlled laboratory setting to allow drawing of conclusions. Study 2 is a cross-sectional multisource study, relied on the leader’s personal rating of their depletion and moral identity and its purpose was to allow generalization of the findings to the setting of an organization where leaders function meaningfully on daily basis.
Study 1 involved seventy-eight undergraduate students from a Dutch university. They included 41 males and 37 females. Assigning of the two experimental conditions of self-regulatory depletion or no depletion was random. The article explains that study 1 involved two stages with participants responding to a bogus leadership ability questionnaire and moral identity measure through the internet for stage 1. Stage 2, a regulatory depletion task, took place in a laboratory, 24 hours after stage 1. Completion of the regulatory depletion task took two phases. In the first phase, the participants completed a task under the no depletion condition while in the second phase; they completed tasks under two different conditions; no depletion and high depletion.