Ethical leadership

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Ethical leadership is leadership that is directed by respect for ethical beliefs and values and for the dignity and rights of others.[1]:22 It is thus related to concepts such as trust, honesty, consideration, charisma and fairness.[2]

Leaders know what they value. They also recognize the importance of ethical behavior. The best leaders exhibit both their values and their ethics in their leadership style and actions. Your leadership ethics and values should be visible because you live them in your actions every single day. A lack of trust is a problem in many workplaces. If leaders never identified their values in these workplaces, the mistrust is understandable. People don't know what they can expect. If leaders have identified and shared their values, living the values daily - visibly will create trust. To say one sentiment and to do another will damage trust - possibly forever.

Dr. Duane C. Tway calls trust a construct because it is constructed of these three components: “the capacity for trusting, the perception of competence, and the perception of intentions.” Workplace ethics take the same route. If the organization's leadership has a code of conduct and ethical expectations, they become an organization joke if the leaders fail to live up to their published code. Leaders that exhibit ethical behavior powerfully influence the actions of others.

Ethics is concerned with the kinds of values and morals an individual or a society finds desirable or appropriate. Furthermore, ethics is concerned with the virtuousness of individuals and their motives. A leader's choices are also influenced by their moral development.



  1. ^ Theresa Watts (2008). Business leaders' values and beliefs regarding decision making ethics. Morrisville, NC: ISBN 9781435747685.
  2. ^ Michael E. Brown, Linda K. Treviño, David A. Harrison (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 97 (2): 117-134. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2005.03.002 (subscription required)
  3. ^ Northouse, Peter G.(2016)Leadership Theory and Practice Seventh Edition Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.

Further reading[edit]

  • Reilly, E. C. (2006). The future entering: Reflections on and challenges to ethical leadership. Educational Leadership and Administration, 18, 163-173
  • McQueeny, E.(2006). Making Ethics Come Alive. Business Communication Quarterly, 69(2), 158-170
  • Wee, H. Corporate Ethics: Right makes might. Business Week Online
  • Stansbury, J.(2009). Reasoned Moral Agreement: Applying discourse ethics within organizations. Business Ethics Quarterly. 19(1), 33-56
  • Seidman, D. (2010), Bloomberg Business Week. Ethical Leadership: An Operating Manual. 10, 1-2