This research investigates the empirical assumptions behind the claim that leaders exaggerate the importance of their group’s goals more so than non-leaders and that they may use these beliefs to justify deviating from generally accepted moral requirements when doing so is necessary for goal achievement. We tested these biased thought processes across three studies. The results from these three studies established the more-important-than-average effect, both for real and illusory groups. Participants claimed that their group goals are more important than the goals of others, and this effect was stronger for leaders than for non-leading group members. In Study 3, we demonstrated the justification bias and connected this bias to beliefs about the importance of group goals. Participants indicated that they would be more justified than others in engaging in unethical behaviors to attain their group’s goals; leaders reported being more justified in such deviations than non-leaders; and the more highly leaders evaluated their group’s goals, the greater justification bias they reported.

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© 2010 SAGE Journals. Article first published online: NOV 2010. DOI:
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Full Citation: Hoyt, Crystal L., Price, Terry L., and Emrick, Alyson E. (2010). Leadership and the more-important-than-average effect: Overestimation of group goals and the justification of unethical behavior. Leadership, Vol 6(4), Nov 2010, 391-407. doi: 10.1177/1742715010379309