Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Member; Loren Margheim, PhD, Member; Stephen J. Conroy, PhD, Member


authentic leadership, corporate culture, dysfunctional auditor behavior, ethical organizational culture, Leadership studies


Recently, unprofessional behavior resulted in several high-profile financial scandals and business failures. Many blamed external auditors of these companies' financial statements for failing to detect and/or report errors and fraud that led to the failures. Leaders within major audit firms have been urged to foster more ethical firm environments as a means of inhibiting dysfunctional auditor behavior (DAB) such as premature sign-off, gathering insufficient audit evidence, and the underreporting of time spent conducting an audit. This advice is based on two assumptions: (1) auditor behavior is one element of audit quality and (2) the behavior of employees is influenced by corporate culture. Little empirical evidence exists, however, about audit firm cultures, and there has been even less research on how leadership and the culture of these firms impact audit quality. This study was designed to begin to fill this gap in the literature by examining subordinates' perceptions of leaders within the audit profession and the leaders' likely impact on firm culture and auditor behavior. Based on an analysis of surveys completed by 120 in-charge auditors (i.e., auditors with two-to-five years experience), the study suggests that most firm leaders exhibit high levels of the four constructs (transparency, ethical perspective, self-awareness, balanced processing) that comprise authentic leadership. Further, firm cultures were perceived by most participants to be highly ethical. These measures of authentic leadership and ethical organizational culture were found to be negatively correlated, at a statistically significant level, with in-charge auditors' perceptions of the frequency of DAB. Demographic data and measures of the participants' ethical orientation were also gathered. These variables were found to have little moderating effect on auditor behavior when regressed either as independent variables or as co-variants to measures of ethical firm culture. This study is important because it helps to explain factors impacting variance in dysfunctional auditor behavior. The findings from this research suggest that when subordinates perceive their leadership as authentic and view themselves as part of an ethical firm culture, there likely will be a decline in the frequency of dysfunctional auditor behavior.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies