RSS feed LinkedIn Watch us on Youtube

Activity title

Factors Impacting Ethical Leadership

Activity Reference



Human Factors and Medicine

Security Classification




Activity type


Start date


End date



Ethical leadership, Moral Philosophy


In recent years, significant research attention has been devoted to understanding the ethical behavior of leaders (i.e., the moral person) and how leaders’ expectations influence their followers’ ethical behavior (i.e., the moral manager) (Trevino, Hartman, & Brown, 2000; Brown, Trevino, & Harrison, 2005). Indeed, some researchers (Neubert, Carlson, Kacmar, Robert, & Chonko, 2009; Schminke, Ambrose, & Neubraum, 2005) suggest that the leader is the single most important determinant in shaping an organization's ethical climate, which has a significant impact on the ethical behaviour of organizational members and the operational effectiveness of the military unit in garrison and in a theatre of operations. Research has demonstrated that ethical leadership predicts leader effectiveness, interactional justice, followers’ job satisfaction and dedication (Brown et al., 2005). Interestingly, these predictions were over and above that accounted for by transformational leadership, suggesting that ethical leadership is indeed different from transformational leadership. Research with civilian and military samples have found that ethical leadership decreases employee misconduct (Mayer, Kuenzi, & Greenbaum, 2010), and organizational deviance (Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009), and increases organizational citizenship behaviour (Piccolo, Greenbaum, Den Hartog, & Folger, 2010), and ethical intentions and prosocial workplace behaviour (O’Keefe, Squires, & Messervay, 2017). Mayer and colleagues (2009) found that the behaviour of an ethical leader “trickles down” to their subordinates, highlighting the importance of modeling ethical behaviour by leaders. However, research on antecedents to ethical leadership is largely under developed. Although Brown and Trevino (2006) postulated a number of propositions that considered individual and contextual influences on ethical leadership, many of these have not yet been investigated. It would be difficult to find anyone willing to dispute the importance of ethical behaviour in the workplace. It is generally understood among leaders at all levels that activities should be above reproach, conflicts of interest are to be avoided, and decisions need to be driven by principles, values, and solid ethical reasoning. This is why most major corporations promulgate their organizational values and principles. Nevertheless, there is still considerable confusion about fundamental concepts about right and wrong. Brown and Trevino (2006, p. 595) state that, “Much has been written about ethics and leadership from a normative or philosophical perspective, suggesting what leaders should do. But, a more descriptive and predictive social scientific approach to ethics and leadership has remained underdeveloped and fragmented, leaving scholars and practitioners with few answers to even the most fundamental questions, such as “what is ethical leadership?” Many organizations institute ethical training programs and educational institutes tend to include lessons on ethics, especially at the graduate level. These programs typically teach about ethical philosophies and explore aspects like metaethics (the nature of ethics and moral reasoning), normative ethics (guidelines for determining moral reasoning) and applied ethics (using ethical principles to solve moral problems). However, despite the existence of these training and educational programs, numerous examples of leaders behaving unethically or immorally still exist. Consequently, the goal of this STO collaborative research programme is to facilitate ethical leadership development, and thus enable leaders to promote ethical behaviour amongst organizational members across all levels.


• Review multidisciplinary research to identify individual, situational and organizational antecedents to ethical leadership • Review training, educational and development precursors to ethical leadership amongst NATO Members nations • Develop a theoretical/exploratory model of antecedents to ethical leadership amongst military personnel • Explore avenues and arrange for data collection amongst partner nations to test the model • Test and refine the model of antecedents to ethical leadership • Identity and collate best practices in ethical leadership development for NATO nations


The topics may include, but are not limited to: • Theoretical, conceptual, and methodological research approaches for understanding antecedents to ethical leadership o Review theoretical concepts (e.g., moral philosophy, social psychology) related to ethical leadership o Identify potential individual (e.g., personality, values, moral reasoning) and organizational (e.g., ethical climate, organizational justice), and situational (e.g., moral intensity; specific norms/morals of host countries/cultures and how with one's own morals) antecedents to ethical leadership o Develop a model of antecedents to ethical leadership amongst military personnel o Develop methodology to collect multi-source (i.e., leader and followers) data across nation partners to test the newly-developed model of antecedents to ethical leadership • Training, educational and development precursors to ethical leadership. o Inclusion of realistic case studies o Development of practical educational exercises o Identification of appropriate theoretical frameworks o Inculcate an understanding of competing philosophical approaches to ethics (e.g., deontological, teleological, utilitarianism, consequentialism, relativism, virtue ethics) o Develop an understanding of how ethical principles can be applied o Explore how to engage effectively in ethical decision making

Contact Panel Office