There are many reasons why span of control may be a critical structural condition for ethical leadership. According to social learning theory, emulation and vicarious learning processes are mechanisms through which ethical leaders enhance ethical commitment and motivation among employees. However, if the span of control (the number of employees for each manager) is too wide, ethical leadership can be difficult to practice due to a less dense relationship between manager and employees. Using a mixed method design with survey data and qualitative interview data, we analyse the relationship between span of control and ethical leadership in Danish hospitals. Results from the study show no statistical association between span of control and clinical directors’ perceptions of their own ethical leadership. This can be understood based on the interview data, which illustrate how ethical learning processes in the hospitals unfold differently than assumed by social learning theory. The findings thus enhance our understanding of how ethical leadership takes place in complex and professionalised public organisations.
- Didde Cramer JensenAne-Kathrine Lundberg HansenLars Dahl PedersenLotte Bøgh Andersen