Ethical Leadership


Article Summary

Two articles were considered for the purposes of this paper. This includes “The Importance of Ethics to Job Performance: An Empirical Investigation of Managers’ Perceptions by Ralph A. Mortensen, Jack E. Smith, and Gerald F. Cavanagh” and “Embedding Ethical Leadership Within And Across Organization Levels By John M. Schaubroeck, Sean T. Hannah, Bruce J. Avolio, Steve W. J. Kozlowski, Robert G. Lord, Linda K. Trevino, Nikolaos Dimotakis, and Ann C. Peng”

Mortensen, Smith, and Cavanagh (1989) wanted to establish the importance of ethics on job performance. Specifically, they were focused on the role played by ethics and ethical practices in improving the performance of managers. The perceptions of managers towards ethical practices or principles were also investigated. Precious researches have shown that successful companies and organizations have embraced ethical practices. Basically, they have shown that ethical practices enable organizations to enhance their performances in the market. However, the authors came to the realization that no study has concentrated on inquiring the ethics plays in enabling managers make their decisions on daily basis. With this being the case, Mortensen, Smith, and Cavanagh (1989) wanted to fill the information gap.

The authors came to the conclusion that ethics play an integral role in enabling managers to deal with their daily. It is evident from the article that managers are pressured by the demands of their distinct role and duties to embrace ethical practices. Essentially, they are forced to apply ethics to ensure they make fair and just decisions. Equally, there are times when they are forced to compromise on their ethical standards or what they believe in to make better decisions. Companies and organizations normally come up with codes of ethics that managers and employees apply to ensure they behave in an ethical manner. However, some of them have little or no impact on ethical actions. This can be attributed to the fact that they may not reflect on real life experiences or what a manager ought to do when dealing with customers or the environment (Mortensen, Smith, & Cavanagh, 1989).

The article shows clearly that managers acknowledge the fact that ethical judgments as well as behavior are important to their job. Such judgments are also frequent to their personal job demands. Some ethical principles or judgments are considered to be more important than others. Basically, managers place more emphasis on the most important codified ethics as they enable them to perform even better. Mortensen, Smith, and Cavanagh (1989) were also able to show differences in the supposed importance of ethics. Specifically, the differences arose depending on the size and scope of the organization.

Schaubroeck et al (2012) article examined how leaders are able to influence ethical behaviors across different levels. Fundamentally, the article determined the role played by top level managers in ensuring middle level and low level managers embrace ethical practices and pass the same to low level employees. Previous researches have focused on how managers’ behavior affects those immediately below them. This research focused on the effect top level managers has on other levels in an organization in terms of their willingness to embrace ethical behaviors and put them into practices. Schaubroeck et al (2012) completed the research by examining the behaviors among the U.S army officers who were serving their nation in Iraq. Three ranks levels and different units were used in completing the research.

The researchers were able to come up with the come to the conclusion that the behavior of top level leaders has a great impact on the behaviors of leaders in lower levels and the ultimate employee. This is implies that top leaders must be able to display ethical behaviors and actions to motivate low level leaders to emulate the same. This in turn also motivates employees to embrace the same behavior as this is the only they can suite in the organization in question. In the case of army leaders, ethical leadership practices results into low ranking officers behaving in a similar manner. Leaders may come up with ethical principles and guidelines that low level employees must follow. However, it is only through their commitment to the same that they can create an ethical culture and this starts with the top management or leadership. Ethical leadership leads to ethical culture. Top leaders mirror the culture to the next level of leadership which also mirrors the same to the next level until the practices reach the final employees. Basically, top leaders cannot expect low level leaders and employees o act ethical when they themselves are acting unethically (Schaubroeck et al, 2012).

Ethical practices lead to improved performances among individuals in an organization. This can be attributed to the fact that they increase justice and fairness in the organization in question. Equally, they lead to the development of trust among individuals involved, hence their willingness to work with one another to achieve high levels of performances. It is evident from the article that top leaders must understand norms, sanctions, and standards that will lead ethical behaviors across all levels in an organization. The standards must also be reflected on the expectation of the organization in question as well as the desires of leaders in different levels. Ultimately, leaders must also understand the proximal influence the ethical standards and norms will have on followers’ behaviors and cognitions.

The articles are related in the sense that they all seek to ascertain how ethics apply to leadership. They all seek to understand how ethics has been applied by leaders and the impact this will have on other individuals in an organization or company. Basically, it is evident in both cases that ethics and ethical principles play a major role in enabling leaders to make ethical decisions. It is also through their behaviors that they are able to influence others. The articles also show that leaders must embrace ethics to ensure improved performances. This means that they can be used by leaders in different organizations to ensure ethical practices that will also enable them to achieve improved performances. However, they are also distinct in nature. For example, one article emphasizes on top level leadership or management and how they can influence ethical behaviors among others leaders and employees. On the contrary, the other article focuses on all managers or leaders in general and their perception in relation to ethics and its roles in the accomplishment of their goals and objectives. All in all, information in both articles is complementing in nature. One can rely on both articles to ensure improved ethical practices or ethical behavior. They can apply the recommendations given in the paper to achieve better results in leadership.

Personal Opinion

The two articles are rich in information leaders and managers in the current world can rely on when making ethical decisions. The current world dictates that leaders embrace ethical practices to ensure high levels of performances among their followers. This is imperative considering the fact that such behaviors lead to the development of an environment of trust where employees are more than willing to work with their leaders to ensure the accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives. The actions of top leaders determine the actions of other leaders as well as their employees. This not only applies to ethical practices but also to other issues. For instance, organizations undergo change from time to time. The only way the rest of the organization can show great commitment to change is when top leaders are committed to the same. Basically, top leaders cannot expect leaders from low levels and employees to embrace change when they are not committed to the same. This communicates the message that the change is unnecessary or not important. The same case applies to ethical practices. Lack of commitment to the same among top leaders also communicates the message that ethical behaviors are unnecessary, hence low level of commitment. As a result, the organization in question may fail to ensure the development of an ethical culture. Basically, I agree with the conclusions of Schaubroeck et al (2012) article. Top leaders must take the lead when it comes to behaving in an ethical manner. This gives them the power to make a follow up to ensure others are behaving in an ethical manner. On the contrary, they cannot begin to question what they themselves do not believe in or stand for.

Different managers have different perceptions towards ethical behaviors and practices. There are those who are of the view that ethical behaviors are imperative in decision making while others are not of a similar view. However, a large percentage of managers have come to appreciate the importance of ethics and ethical practices in improving organizational performances. I totally agree with the suppositions and conclusions made by Mortensen, Smith, and Cavanagh (1989) in their article.  Essentially, ethical practices are important to managers’ jobs. It is through ethical judgments that leaders are able to avoid actions that may lead to low levels of motivation among employees such as treating some employees unfairly. Equally, ethical decisions enable managers to manage their organizations in the desired manner, hence avoid the probability of being branded poor performers. This in turn also increases their motivation to achieve their goals and objectives (Fluker, 2009). Equally, I also agree to the fact that some ethical standards are more applicable in some areas and less applicable in others. For instance, justice cannot be served at all times. There are times when some individuals may feel that they are being treated in unfair manner. What matters at this point is the fact that the manager in question ensures the better percentage of individuals agrees or finds their decisions to be just. There are also times when managers must be willing to compromise on what they stand for or what they believe in to make ethical decision. Basically, the fact that the decision does not conform to what they believe does not mean that it is unethical. The major goal here is to ensure the best ethical decision considering the circumstances in question.

The articles apply to my personal job. As an educator I am expected to embrace ethics and ethical practices when teaching other people. I deal with different diversity which makes it even more important that I embrace ethics. This is the only way I can ensure justice and fairness when educating others. People from diverse backgrounds think and act differently. For example, their interpretation in regards to what is ethical and unethical may be varied (Fluker, 2009). This implies that I may be forced from time to time to compromise on what I believe in to serve the needs of all learners. For instance, I cannot rely entirely on ethical principles I have learnt at home when educating people from different countries across the world. Basically, the article by Mortensen, Smith, and Cavanagh (1989) provides information on how I should lead people and how this will influence my performances and the performance of those I will be educating. In the same regard, it is reach in information on how I ought to go about dealing with different situation I may face when educating people.

Information from Schaubroeck et al (2012) article can also be used in ensuring I lead people in the desired manner. As an educator, I have other individuals who work below me as well as those who are in higher ranks above mine. The article provides information on how I can influence the behavior of those working below me. Equally, it is also rich in information on how the behaviors or ethical information embraced by those above me will influence my performances. Basically, I can use the same information to lead others in the desired manner. Specifically, I can use the information in determining the best actions and behaviors that will enable me to have a positive impact on other people. Equally, I can also use the same information to encourage my leaders or superiors to embrace ethical behaviors that will ultimately lead to improved performances.

The articles were chosen after a careful consideration on the effects they have on me as a leader.  I examined the effects the information provided in the articles have on a leader’s behavior. Specifically, I was looking at their influence on a leader’s ethical behavior. I also chose the articles after a consideration of the materials and strategies used by the researchers to prove their conclusions. It is evident that researchers in both articles relied on adequate sources of information to make their conclusions. They are carried out intensive research to come up inferences that can be relied upon by leaders. Basically, they did not just come up with conclusions based on assumptions considering the fact that they proved their hypothesis through research. Any leader can apply the information knowing that it is based on extensive research, hence conclusions are practical. The articles have also borrowed information from other researches carried out by other scholar. The information was used to build a strong foundation for the actual research. The researchers were also able to use the same information to explain a few terms to the reader to ensure proper understanding of the subject matter. Personally, the same information enabled to understand exactly what the researches intended to talk about or cover.


Fluker, W. E. (2009). Ethical leadership : the quest for character, civility, and communit. Minneapolis : Fortress Press.

Mortensen, R. A., Smith, J. E., & Cavanagh, G. F. (1989). The Importance of Ethics to Job Performance: An Empirical Investigation of Managers’ Perceptions. Journal of Business Ethics, 253-260.

Schaubroeck et al. (2012). Embedding Ethical Leadership Within And Across Organization Levels. Academy of Manogement Journal, 55(5), 1053-1078.

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