Ethical Leadership: Performance and Behavior


The subject of ethics covers a person’s moral judgment concerning what is wrong and right. Ethical approaches play a central role in the decision-making process of many organizations. Such decisions involve individuals or groups of people whose role is to come up with principles that are meant to serve the best interest of the organizations.

The way employees and leaders conduct themselves within an organization is also influenced largely by their consideration of what constitutes an ethical conduct. In an organizational setting, it is upon the employees and their leaders to determine what they consider morally upright. An organization that is founded on morals is bound to demonstrate exemplary performance. Hence, organizations have set certain minimum standards that constitute ethics.

Anyone who wishes to work for them has to accept working within the requirements. For success to be realized within a firm, it is crucial to come up with an agreement among leaders and employees on what should amount to moral principles. Besides, both sides should demonstrate comprehension of the importance of conducting oneself ethically.

This paper seeks to explore the topic of ethical leadership with an aim of finding out how it relates with organizational performance. Further, the paper investigates the relationship that exists between ethical leadership and the way employees conduct themselves.

Literature review

A wide body of literature that addresses the issue of ethical headship and its link with organizational performance is available. Researchers have published several materials mainly scholarly articles, periodicals, and a number of eBooks, which have reliable information concerning the subject under scrutiny. Conna (2014) is among such researchers. In his article, ‘Does Ethical Leadership Lead to Happy Workers?

A Study on the Impact of Ethical Leadership, Subjective Well-Being, and Life Happiness in the Chinese Culture’, Conna (2014) provides an in-depth analysis on his understanding of ethical leadership and ethics in general. Ethical leadership covers the understanding of people’s central values, will, and the determination to practice them in all aspects of their life. He believes that anyone who intends to become a leader must have the ability of making a positive difference in society.

Exemplary-performing organizations embrace a journey of integrity within their operations. According to Conna (2014), they demonstrate commitment to act towards achieving their organizational agenda. Employees expose or build a vision, which makes their organizations different.

They express their vision whenever an opportunity comes their way. Conna’s (2014) article brings about a clear understanding of ethical leadership in addition to how organizations can achieve it. The work is commendable since it represents a great proved and published research whose content makes it a valid source of information for this topic.

Chin-Chang and Chin-Shan (2014) provide their perspectives on the issue of ethical leadership and the relation that subsists between such leadership and the conduct and performance of employees. They suggest that leaders should abide by the set ethical standards, which guide them towards implementing strategies that are in line with their organization’s goals and objectives.

According to Chin-Chang and Chin-Shan (2014), organizations that uphold morals experience a low employee turnover because such organizations acknowledge workers’ contribution towards their (organizations) success. Besides, such companies motivate their employees through trainings, rewards, and promotions (Mayer, Aquino, Greenbaum, & Kuenzi, 2012).

The authors postulate that human beings have the tendency to emulate people who are ahead of them in terms of seniority, age, or achievement. As such, it will be difficult for employees to act in unrefined ways in the absence or presence of people whom they consider their role models.

Employees can test the values of leaders through the kind of service they offer to others. They believe that ethical leaders understand the value of their actions on their subordinates. Hence, employees tend to act in a way that will promote the firm’s values, thus helping to build their reputation, which in turn boost their performance. The relationship between ethical leadership and the way employees conduct themselves should be positive.

Organizations that uphold integrity involve employees in their decision-making process such that any plan that the organization wishes to implement does not interfere with employees’ peace of mind. Ignoring employees while making crucial organizational decisions leads to disastrous outcomes that in some cases may be hard for one to contemplate given the importance of a firm’s image to its employees.

The article offers valuable insight into the relationship between organizational leadership and employee behavior such as their performance and participation in organizational activities.

Marsh (2013) is one of the most significant philosophers who have contributed a lot to the subject of ethics. Marsh (2013) says that ethics is open to different interpretations by different people, depending on the context within with which they perceive it. For this reason, ethical leadership may be understood in the context of proficient, power-based, intellectual relativism, principle-based, and situational ethics among others.

According to Marsh (2013), based on these contexts, one can determine whether a given leadership is ethical or not. However, the article confirms that no single set of standards can be said to constitute ethical leadership. As such, it is vital for people to understand the context of the relevant leadership to be in a position of determining whether it is ethical or not.

Conceptual Framework

The last three decades have seen pressure groups, regulatory bodies, organizations, and professional bodies try to address the issue of lack of business ethics. Following the major economic downturns, major corporate disintegration, huge business scandals, or swindles, many entities attempted to come up with strategies of combating such issues.

Such attempts included introducing the study of ethics into colleges and universities, developing some codes of conduct, and attempting to strengthen the principles of corporate governance (Colina & Markus, 2014). Another strategy involved making the affected entities more conscious towards corporate social responsibility.

More employees and leaders in various firms and other organizations continue to acknowledge the fact that while working in their respective capacity, they are have the responsibility of ensuring that they carry out their responsibilities with the highest degree of ethical standards (Sharrif & Scandura, 2014).

Companies that uphold ethics tend to create a transparent, fair, and efficient administration that strives to meet a given set of written and well-defined objectives that cover models of supremacy, social dependability, and codes of conduct (Othman & Rahman, 2014).

As such, it is evident that business ethics serve to link corporate social responsibility and corporate governance through the adoption and implementation of codes of ethics. Within the context of corporate organizations, ethical leadership serves to provide the appropriate management that can enable the respective companies to develop a link between their goals and approaches of achieving them (McCann & Sweet, 2014).

Without the linkage, there may be a tendency of slow growth on the part of the company. When a person joins a leadership position within an organization, he or she consents certain special responsibilities that form part of the business’ leadership that calls for adherence to the desired ethical standards within the organization. In the business context, ethical leadership practices certain verifiable concepts whose sole aim is to elaborate the proper role of the business entities in the society (Silke & Brodbeck, 2014).

In the current organizational settings, ethical leadership goes hand in hand with other factors that relate to the management of the organization. Ethical leadership leads to good employee conduct and a positive work environment, which increase organizational performance. Proper management implies proper headship, which in turn implies excellent organizational performance. The business has to remain sustainable for the organization to survive.

Ethical leadership creates the right atmosphere that helps employees to attain motivation that inculcates the right sense of responsibility among them (Brown & Trevino, 2014). Due to the importance of sustainability to the continuity of a company, it comes in immediately below ethical leadership in terms of priority. For ethical leadership to be witnessed, there must be evidence to prove it.

Since leadership influences almost every aspect of a given business entity, the culture that prevails within a given company will reflect the leadership that the business has put in place. For instance, employee moral conduct, the business’ concern to the environment, and personal values demonstrate the influence of ethics (Schaubroeck et al., 2012).

Managerial Implications

Managers play a key role in the success of many organizations. Management is responsible for the generation of organizational systems as well as the integration of operations to achieve exemplary performance. They not only plan, systematize, or direct a business entity or organization but also guide, control, and motivate other staff members to work towards the achievement of an organization’s goals and objectives (Neubert, Wu, & Roberts, 2013).

However, complexity and nature of a manager’s work will vary depending on the management level. The senior management develops the initial organizational design that involves setting goals and objectives while at the same time determining the kind of duties that various departments within the organization can perform (Rubin, Dierdorff & Brown, 2010). Managers may be required to play the role of leadership by virtue of their position in an organization.

Managers have a responsibility of ensuring that their subordinates portray an image that reflects its values to its clients and the society at large (Rowe, 2014). Hence, a good comprehension of the relationship that subsists between ethical leadership and employee conduct will prove worthwhile to managers since it will help them to manage their expectation with regard to the way the way they conduct their activities and/or interact with other employees (Schaubroeck et al., 2012).

Besides evaluating their own degree of implementation of the relevant ethical standards, managers need to develop an estimate of how the organization will perform. Managers are the key pillars in an organization. Employee working environment determines their concentration and devotion to work.

Consequently, the study of ethical leadership and employee conduct is significant to managers who are aware that dishonorable work settings translate into poor employee and organizational performance. Possession of such knowledge will prove vital when it comes to planning, leading, and managing employees.

Further, managers are in authoritative positions that grant them the power to determine the kind of policies to adopt in order to achieve the intended objectives (Hansen, Alge, Brown, Jackson & Dunford, 2013). With the right strategy and structures in place, they have an easier time pursuing the company’s goals. For them to stand a good chance in pursuing such goals they need information concerning the atmosphere that will be necessary if they are to make any meaningful progress (Steinbauer, Renn, Taylor, & Njoroge, 2014).

Consideration of the value of the relationship between employee behavior and ethical leadership will serve to promote the quality of output of the company. Managers will understand the specific needs of their subordinates and the steps that they can take to ensure that they do not collide with them on issues relating to the company’s value system.


This study has evaluated how the subject of ethical leadership has helped to bring light to some issues that relate to organizational performance, its conceptual framework, and employee conduct. Various authors on this topic offer perspectives that seem to deliver a common theme. This observation shows the common agreement that different studies have on the whole issue of ethical leadership. Companies around the world strive to portray a certain image to their customers and the society.

They have set ethical standards, which any person, whether a leader or an employee, has to adhere to as long as he or she is part of a company. However, leaders are expected to lead by example, given the fact that they exert a lot of influence on their followers or employees.

The information on ethical leadership and the nature of the relationship that exists between it and employee behavior is crucial to managers since it enables them to plan and/or put the necessary structures that will steer all departments towards the companies’ goals and objectives.

Reference List

Brown, M., & Trevino, L. (2014). Do Role Models Matter? An Investigation of Role Modeling as an Antecedent of Perceived Ethical Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(4), 587-598.

Chin-Chang, L., & Chin-Shan, L. (2014). The Effects of Ethical Leadership and Ethical Climate on Employee Ethical Behavior in the International Port Context. Journal of Business Ethics, 124(2), 209-223.

Colina, F., & Markus, H. (2014). New Insights into Ethical Leadership: A Qualitative Investigation of the Experiences of Executive Ethical Leaders. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(1), 23-43.

Conna, Y. (2014). Does Ethical Leadership Lead to Happy Workers? A Study on the Impact of Ethical Leadership, Subjective Well-Being, and Life Happiness in the Chinese Culture. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(3), 513-525.

Hansen, S., Alge, B., Brown, M., Jackson, C., & Dunford, B. (2013). Ethical Leadership: Assessing the Value of a Multifoci Social Exchange Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(3), 435-449.

Marsh, C. (2013). Business Executives’ Perceptions of Ethical Leadership and Its Development. Journal of Business Ethics, 114(3), 565-582.

Mayer, D., Aquino, K., Greenbaum, R., & Kuenzi, M. (2012). Who Displays Ethical Leadership, and Why Does it Matter? An Examination of Antecedents and Consequences of Ethical Leadership. Academy of Management Journal, 55(1), 155-171.

McCann, J., & Sweet, M. (2014). The Perceptions of Ethical and Sustainable Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 121(3), 373-383.

Neubert, M., Wu, C., & Roberts, J. (2013). The Influence of Ethical Leadership and Regulatory Focus on Employee Outcomes. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(2), 269-296.

Othman, Z., & Rahman, A. (2014). Attributes of Ethical Leadership in Leading Good Governance. International Journal of Business & Society, 15(2), 359-372.

Rowe, W. (2014). Some Antecedents and Consequences of Ethical Leadership: An Examination Using the Kings of Judah From 931 bc to 586 bc. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(4), 557-572.

Rubin, R., Dierdorff, E., & Brown, M. (2010). Do Ethical Leaders Get Ahead? Exploring Ethical Leadership and Promotability. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(2), 215-236.

Schaubroeck, J., Hannah, S., Avolio, B., Kozlowski, S., Lord, R.,…Trevino, L. (2012). Embedding Ethical Leadership within and across Organization Levels. Academy of Management Journal, 55(5), 1053-1078.

Sharrif, M., & Scandura, T. (2014). Do Perceptions of Ethical Conduct Matter During Organizational Change? Ethical Leadership and Employee Involvement. Journal of Business Ethics, 124(2), 185-196.

Silke, E., & Brodbeck, F. (2014). Ethical and Unethical Leadership: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Sectoral Analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(2), 343-359.

Steinbauer, R., Renn, R., Taylor, R., & Njoroge, P. (2014). Ethical Leadership and Followers’ Moral Judgment: The Role of Followers’ Perceived Accountability and Self-leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 120(3), 381-392.