Sample Research Paper on Ethics in Leadership

Ethics in Leadership


Ethics denotes the element of differentiating wrong from right (Brown, 2005). The ethical principles form the basis on which most individuals and businesses make decisions and act upon them. A sound code of ethics in leadership is vital in managing the human resources, especially due to the sensitivity of actions taken during operations to the overall organizational success. The moral principles tend to shape the conduct of persons entrusted various business sections towards making the soundest decisions against the prevailing challenges. For instance, sections with monetary gains tend to suffer more from unethical activities. However, this is not universal, but affects different people severally based on their morals, influence, and motivation. Leadership refers to the process of influencing others towards attaining a set goal (Cardy & Selvarajan, 2006). This means that leadership commences when a task is devolved and therefore one party leads others to work on it. In this case, the leader should be primarily accountable for a given task, the operations and the success or failure of the subordinate staff. Since leaders are followed and their decisions acted upon by subordinates, it would expensively cost an organization, if any unethical behavior gets into the operations. For instance, if the communication process fails, instructions do not promptly reach the team, thereby negating effective work completion. This paper discusses the ethics in leadership, which determine individual along with organizational success, besides ensuring minimal waste of resources and enhanced social development.


Ethical leadership is defined by personal values and beliefs that form the behavioral characteristics of an individual. These values along with beliefs might have been learned from parents or acquired through life experiences. In addition, experiences gone through in the workplace highly shape the conduct of persons to the extent allowed by the organizational culture. This means that challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities also determine the moral conduct demonstrated by leaders in their individual capacity. As a result, leaders may desist from acting unethically by relating the conditions affecting a certain situation to past similar situations, hence behaving in the best appropriate manner in solving a problem (Ciulla, 2004). On the same note, ethics in the workplace can be termed as the responsibility of everyone in the organization. This is because each party has their area of operations with certain decisions and powers bestowed upon them to promote professionalism and accountability. It is argued that the major ethical principles in leadership include utilitarianism, individual rights along with distributive justice. The utilitarian principle is described to account for the actions taken to maximize the utility such as profits. For this to be achieved, many decisions must be taken by the head of departments in order to boost growth in earnings. One such decision may involve employees’ lay-off with the aim of cutting down the organization’s recurrent expenditure.

The decisions made by leaders at one time or another might seek to fulfill personal goals. This conflicting interest is unethical and usually costs organization huge resources. In addition, distributive justice also finds its way in the ethical code. The principle concerns the allocation of resource in the social settings with minimal discriminating element. Therefore, in order to attain the best out of the resource allocation process, there must be fairness and sound judgment. On that note, ethical leadership can simply be termed as leading by knowing alongside acting rightfully (Cardy & Selvarajan, 2006). However, it becomes problematic to define what is right unless ethics comes in to govern decisions and attitudes. Therefore, good leadership does not only take account of competence and productivity, but also includes moral conduct and person’s transformation. Ethics in leadership have a long way to ensure organizational success. Leaders in their respective positions should stimulate change in subordinates’ attitude, values, and conduct to internalize their visions effectively. This is aimed at ensuring all departmental staffs operate in the pursuit of similar goals. However, this is negated by the fact that each member of staff posses self-beliefs that might be hard to manipulate. To outdo this problem, leaders progressively nurture employees to an organization’s culture relative to their values in order to attain the highest ethical preserve.

Ethical leaders are highly people-oriented and their decisions are made keeping the interests of others in mind. Thus, the social power conferred upon leaders should serve others rather than carry out self-interests. The decisions made by one, may motivate or discourage another person in the same setting. This may not directly affect the person who made the decision, but rather strikes the morale of another employee (Dessler & Tan, 2006). As a result, the overall organizational performance is suppressed, owing to personal judgments. To counter this, leaders should invest in motivating followers to set the interests of the group before personal needs. The motivation process calls for the leaders to engage the affected persons in a rational and emotional commitment that creates an equal playground for both parties in the pursuance of a common goal (Ciulla, 2004). Ethics in leadership differs from one setting to the other. This is caused by the presence of varying cultures, religions, and individualities in every scope of social environment with differing attitudes. The most ethical leadership is demonstrated in doing that which is inconvenient, unpopular, or even marginal, but with the long-term worthiness of an organization at heart. The aim is to formulate multidisciplinary solutions that address composite issues without affecting individual employee performances. To accomplish this, the leaders must consider the input others might have in their resolutions, especially because the human resource signifies the most valuable asset every organization should efficiently employ.

Communication is one component of leadership that determines the success of data usage. In order to promote sound decision making, there must be timely besides accurate information gathered and disseminated to the leaders (Brown, 2005). The leadership style chosen by each party should demonstrate full support of an organization’s goals. This includes the communication of complete and accurate information to the subordinates along with managers higher up the rank. Normally, when the ethical behavior in leadership is valued, employees tend to admire and respect the parties in such positions due to trust build during operations (Cardy & Selvarajan, 2006). Consequently, the said leaders have greater influence over the actions of the employees, their conduct and accordingly the success in the tasks entrusted. Organizations should implement values such as cooperation, honesty, and ambition, efficiency in operations, quality, and skill in addition to dedication. A high level of value adherence and competency in leadership warrants success as employees work to attain self-set goals in furtherance of overall organization targets. Although the staffs are motivated to pursue self-set goals, it is clear that ethics as depicted by leaders streamline the individual goals towards accomplishing a common goal.

Ensuring ethical practices are met throughout an organization setting is warranted by its leadership. The extent to which leaders apply the power they have towards attaining quality decisions is measured by the influence they induce others. This shows that leaders have an obligation to influence the actions of their followers in task completion through behavioral change (Ciulla, 2004). The effective leadership also extends to the processes where attitude and values change accordingly. This ethical behavior and change in attitudes has a role in fostering the internationalization of corporate vision, the leaders’ visions along with individual employee targets. Promoting integrity in ethical leadership induces a sense of trust, approval, and commonness. Additionally, the built sense of trust alongside personal character results in a stronger corporate state in terms of ethics, values, as well as decisions due to the quality of command held and exercised on subordinates. The management should efficiently address the issues raised in the running of an organization’s operations in order to enhance communication skills and take account of ideologies. Thus, leadership should consider the environment in which business operations are executed, the level of supervision, and the social activities involving staff members besides the communities they come from.

Every organization has own trusted culture in the pursuance of set goals. The adaptability culture focuses on outside environment characterized by innovation, creative thinking, flexibility, risks, and successful change. An organization that enforces a mission-based culture tends to make goal-oriented decisions, clearly formulated to enhance competition and boost profits. The clan culture tends to focus on the needs of employees, hence the strategies made to engage the performance and satisfaction required to maintain or boost productivity (Dessler & Tan, 2006). However, bureaucratic culture primarily focuses on the internal environment that does not encourage personal engagements, flexibility, and involvement. Although, bureaucracy ensures control is maximized, it does not encourage performance. Thus, every organization should be critical in the form of leadership exercised since the human resource is expensive and account for many other valuable organization’s resources. Ethics include trust that is rested upon the subordinates to perform their tasks in the interest of the organization. Fiduciary relations improve loyalty, commitment, besides enhancing organizational structure, thereby leading to better and sound judgments. A culture of trust enables leaders to promote justice, fairness, and success.


Ethics in leadership are featured in many forms. A high degree of compliance to set principles prevents unlawful conducts, thus promoting adherence to the code of ethics. The examples of unethical conducts include corporate fraud, greed, production of misleading services, developing inappropriate policies, disloyalty along with making self-centered decisions. These in addition to other inefficiencies jeopardize the operations and the success of an organization. This can be prevented by highlighting strategies that promote a common goal. As a result, conflicts of interests are minimized and all parties perform their tasks competently. Therefore, ethics in leadership pose a real threat to the success of organizations where non-compliance with the ethical code is eminent and irrepressible (Brown, 2005). To enhance performance, leaders should fight fear, greed, envy, and anger in the workplace. This, along with timely information and strategy formulations would boost decision-making skills that otherwise promote ethical leadership besides productivity. A sound code of ethics in leadership is vital in managing the human resources, especially due to the sensitivity of actions taken during operations to the overall success of an organization. The extent to which leaders apply the power bestowed upon them to promote ethical conduct among employees determine the organizations’ success or failure (Dessler & Tan, 2006).


Brown, M. T. (2005). Corporate integrity: Rethinking organizational ethics and leadership. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cardy, R. L., & Selvarajan, T. T. (2006). Competencies: Alternative frameworks for competitive advantage. Business Horizons, 49(3), 235-245.

Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Ethics and leadership effectiveness. The nature of leadership, 302-327.

Dessler, G., & Tan, C. H. (2006). Human resource management: An Asian perspective. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.