How leaders recover (or not) from publicized sex scandals

Steven L. Grover*, Marcus C. Hasel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The leader integrity literature has described how professional behavior influences perceptions of integrity, yet behavior in leaders’ personal lives potentially affects those perceptions. The present paper examined how personal life behavior affects leaders. We assessed high profile political sex scandals to explore the research questions of how indiscretions in personal life affect leaders and how leaders recover from public revelations of sexual indiscretions. The results revealed that whether politicians survived the scandal depended on (a) the degree to which the indiscretion deviated from accepted norms, (b) the degree to which the behavior departed from the politician’s expressed values, (c) the leader’s political power (or value), and (d) whether the leader fully engaged in atonement under conditions when denying the allegations is not possible. These components were inter-related such that atonement was possible if the behavior was neither too extreme nor out of character and the leader had sufficient political power. The model was then tested with a sample of business executives engaged in sex scandals, finding support for its elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-194
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Leadership integrity
  • Reputation
  • Scandal
  • Sexual indiscretion
  • Trust recovery


Dive into the research topics of 'How leaders recover (or not) from publicized sex scandals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this