Original Research

Integrity and derailment of senior leaders in the Southern African context

Pieter Koortzen, Rudolf M. Oosthuizen
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 45 | a1677 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v45i0.1677 | © 2019 Pieter Koortzen, Rudolf M. Oosthuizen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 April 2019 | Published: 21 October 2019

About the author(s)

Pieter Koortzen, Organisation Development, Investec Bank PLC, London, United Kingdom
Rudolf M. Oosthuizen, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, School of Management Sciences, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: In recruiting and developing senior leaders for the organisation, great emphasis is placed on the personality of these individuals and on the resulting manifestations of their behaviour in the work context.

Research purpose: The objective of this study was to explore the relationship between integrity and derailment to identify the dimensions of integrity that may reduce the risks of derailing in a group of senior leaders.

Motivation for the study: As organisations become more complex, a higher quality of leadership is demanded. The quality of leadership is often determined by, among other things, the level of leaders’ integrity and the manner in which they are able to manage their own derailment at work. In this study, integrity is defined as the conflict and balance between our instincts (i.e. vices) and our ability to reason (i.e. our virtues), while leadership derailment is defined as the way in which leaders behave under stress or when they overuse a particular strength. Both constructs are of particular concern when they manifest in the organisation’s pool of high-potential leaders, who are the organisation’s future successors. However, most derailment cases are predictable and can be managed effectively with proper intervention.

Research approach/design and method: A cross-sectional quantitative, correlational research design was followed. A non-probability purposive sample of 108 senior leaders in companies in Southern Africa participated in the study.

Main findings: The results enabled the researchers to assess the relationship between integrity and derailment in order to identify the dimensions of integrity that are associated with a lowered risk of derailing in a group of senior leaders. It is apparent from the results that several of the integrity dimensions measured in the current study acted as significant predictors of derailment. The results indicate that the Giotto scales predict five of the Hogan scales to a degree that could be regarded as practically significant and are associated with medium to large effect sizes). These are Excitable, Cautious, Leisurely, Bold and Colourful. The prediction of Cautious can be described as practically important, while the prediction of the remainder of the Hogan scales was practically non-significant.

Practical/managerial implications: From a practical point of view, the research findings allow leadership development practitioners, consultants and coaches to assist leaders in identifying the ways in which leaders will probably derail based on the results of the Giotto integrity test. Those involved in the development of leaders will also be able to develop the leaders’ level of integrity in order to reduce unnecessary derailment at work.

Contribution/value-add: The study findings contribute valuable information on the relationship between integrity and derailment and the dimensions of integrity, which may reduce the risks of derailment of senior leaders.


Integrity; Giotto integrity questionnaire; leadership derailment; Hogan Development Questionnaire; senior leaders; South Africa.


Total abstract views: 2874
Total article views: 3332

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.