How High Integrity Leaders Encourage Diversity

Topic(s): diversity, fairness, leadership
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Supervisor Integrity Empowers Employees to Advocate for Diversity in Problematic Climates
Authors: T.G. Kundro, B.H. Neely Jr., C.P. Muir (Zapata)
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

Despite the rise in diversity efforts since 2020, many organizational initiatives have since stalled or failed. Further, research on the effectiveness of employee bias training is mixed, leaving organizations grappling with how to increase DEI initiatives. New research (Kundro et al., 2023) explored how leaders have a “top down” effect on creating an inclusive environment.


The authors conducted three studies with various methodologies. Study 1 utilized a sample of supervisors and employees working at a sanitation plant. They found that when diversity climate was poor (when an organization is not perceived to integrate minority employees effectively), leader integrity was related to employee diversity advocacy. They argue that this is because employees see the need to speak up when diversity climate is poor, and their efforts are critical.

Studies 2 and 3 utilized experimental designs. Participants read situations that involved either high or low integrity supervisors and either good or poor diversity climates, and in another study, participants generated diversity ideas under a fictitious supervisor. The researchers found that supervisor integrity increased employee empowerment, and in turn diversity advocacy. Again, this was especially strong when diversity climate was poorer. Employee empowerment was the critical mechanism here, as the authors ruled out alternative explanations for increased diversity advocacy such as psychological safety.


The authors emphasize that leaders can be targeted to increase diversity advocacy, especially when organizations have a poor diversity climate. They suggest that integrity should be a key attribute that organizations should select, promote, and reward leaders for, especially given its benefits for empowering employees. The authors emphasize that the onus of diversity advocacy should shift from being on employees themselves; instead, organizations should take the “top down” approach by focusing on what leaders can do.


Kundro, T. G., Neely, B. H., Jr., & Muir (Zapata), C. P. (2023). Supervisor integrity empowers employees to advocate for diversity in problematic climates. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

Image credit: istockphoto/Alexey Yaremenko